Spring, summer and fall, it’s easy to select the best plants to draw pollinators to your yard. Just look for the Georgia Pollinator Plants of the Year label at Georgia nurseries and at the State Botanical Garden gift shop.
The plants are nominated by gardeners, horticulturists, entomologists, ecologists and green industry professionals throughout Georgia, and selected by a committee. The committee announces the plants a year in advance to give growers time to increase the stock of the plants for the public.
The pollinator plant program began in 2020 and has been successful among State Botanical garden supporters, said Heather Alley, the garden’s conservation horticulturist.
“They have been excited about the program and have purchased the selected plants,” Alley said. “We’ve seen high demand for the plants at our spring and fall plant sales.”
The program was designed to encourage the use of high-impact plants that support pollinators in private and commercial gardens. It is funded in part by the Vaughn-Jordan Foundation.
The 2022 plants, in the four categories of the program are:
Spring bloomer – Carolina lupine
About: Carolina lupine is a 4-foot-tall perennial wildflower in the pea family. In spring, this plant has tall spikes of eye-catching canary yellow flowers.
Growing conditions: Prefers full to part sun in well-drained garden soil with average to high moisture.
Conservation value: Supports many native bees and other pollinators.
Summer bloomer – Mountain mints
Pycnanthemum species: Pycnanthemum incanum, P. flexuosum, P. muticum, P. tenuifolium, P. virginianum
About: Each of the selected mountain mints are 3- to 4- feet-tall, with long-lasting white summer blooms that attract many different pollinators.
Conservation value: Supports many native bees, wasps and butterflies.
Fall bloomer – Blue mist
About: Blue mist is a perennial wildflower in the sunflower family that grows 3- to 4-feet-tall with bright blue flowers from late summer into fall.
Growing conditions: Prefers full to part sun in well-drained to average garden soil with high to low moisture.
Conservation value: Supports many native bees, including leafcutter bees and butterflies.
Georgia native – Coral honeysuckle
About: Coral honeysuckle is a perennial blooming vine with woody twining stems that bloom with tubular red and yellow flowers throughout much of the year.
Conservation value: Supports bumble bees, small bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. The leaves support the larval stage of clearwing moths and azure butterflies. Finches, thrushes and robins feed on the fruits in winter.
All of the 2022 pollinator plants of the year are native to Georgia, suited to Georgia’s climate and soils, and are attractive garden plants.
“The Georgia Pollinator Plants of the Year program is a great way for Georgians to introduce pollinator plants into their home gardens,” said Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the UGA State Botanical Garden of Georgia. “This year’s selected plants are beautiful, and the support they provide pollinators is critical.”
Pollinator conservation has become increasingly popular over the last five years, and people want to help support pollinators, Alley said. But it can be difficult to know what to do.
“It’s hard to know what plants to choose when there are so many options,” she said. “This program helps Georgia gardeners make fantastic plant choices.”
Drew Watkins is a managing partner of Frank A. Smith Nurseries in Stone Mountain, Ga., and serves on the Georgia Pollinator Plants of the Year selection committee. The nursery primarily sells to the wholesale industry and grows all the selected pollinator plants.
Watkins, a UGA graduate, said the nursery has been producing the pollinator plants since the program started, and they can’t keep them in stock. He said landscapers and designers planting perennial borders want pollinator plants as part of their design.
“The program benefits Georgians by sparking an interest in learning about the value and critical importance of pollination,” Watkins says. “Most of our food crops are dependent on pollination.”
The selected plants provide pollinator services, which are essential to our environment. Pollinators are necessary to produce over 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species, according to the Xerces Society.
The State Botanical Garden, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, sells the pollinator plants of the year at its spring and fall plant sales, in the garden’s gift shop and works with growers and retailers in Georgia to produce and market the plants.
For more information about the pollinator plants of the year program and to find a directory of native plant nurseries, visit https://t.uga.edu/649.