Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
In recent decades there has been increased interest in butterfly and hummingbird gardens. Now there are a number of books on the subject. Create a pollinator-friendly garden with cacti and succulents. A number of these plants are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Most also attract all sorts of beneficial insects, particularly native bees, such as bumblebees, and honeybees.
Cacti and succulent gardens are good places for these visitors. These gardens usually have various other features that are helpful to butterflies and other insects. Take stones and rocks, for example. These give insects a place to bask in the sun, and absorb the warmth they need for their normal activities.
Whether you create a true rock garden with cacti and succulents or use rocks, stones, and boulders for the borders around a bed of cacti and succulents, the effect is the same as far as the insects are concerned. When the garden has a southern exposure, the stones will absorb lots of heat from the sun during the day.
For this type of nectar garden, it is hard to beat the stonecrop or sedums, especially the every-popular Autumn Joy sedum. Hummingbirds and bees are very fond of the sedums.
Some of the other suitable sedums for nectar gardens are the Purple Emperor, the Stardust, and Vera Jameson sedums. These are popular among hummingbirds and butterflies. By the time the Autumn Joy quits blooming here in western North Carolina, it is time for the hummingbirds to begin their migration southward.
The flowers of the native yuccas, which are often called Spanish bayonet, attract a range of different pollinators. The small, bell-like blooms last for a very long time.
The prickly pears are a favorite flower among a number of pollinators. They’re welcomed by different kinds of bumblebees, wild bees, and honeybees. There are hardy species of prickly pears for about every region of the country.
The hardy perennial spurges are ideal for pollinator gardens. Suitable species include the cushion spurge, myrtle spurge, and others. These have long-lasting flowers.
There are a number of other succulents that are recommended for pollinator gardens in warm climates, particularly in the Southwest. Some of the suitable tender species that attract pollinators are the red yucca, which is also called red hesperole. The century plants or agaves are another good choice. Many kinds of aloes are also tender, and provide nectar and pollen for pollinators.
There is one annual succulent that deserves a place in pollinator gardens. This is the moss rose or portulaca. Blooming all summer into the fall, these flowers are very attractive to pollinators.