Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

Creating a Pollinator Garden

When you look at a flower, how often do you consider the importance of these unsung heroes? Pollinators help produce beautiful landscapes and the bounty of fruits, nuts and vegetables we all enjoy.

Bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, birds and bats help plants reproduce by carrying pollen from one flower to another.

Right now, honey bee and other pollinator populations are being threatened by a number of factors including disease, mites, and loss of habitat and food sources.

Three-fourths of the world's flowering plants depend on pollinators, and those pollinators need your help!

  • Have you seen bees and other pollinators in your own neighborhood?
  • Are there flowering plants in your garden, park, school or community? 
  • Did you know that many pollinators are essential for the production of most of the fruits and vegetables you eat every day?

If you answered no to any of the questions above, click here to see how you can help!

Things to Consider for your Garden:


  1. A variety of plants will be ideal for providing diverse sources of nectar and pollen. Choose at least 20 different plant types, or fewer if the types of plants are highly attractive to pollinators. Don't forget that night-blooming flowers will support moths and bats.
  2. Help pollinators find and use your garden by planting in clumps, rather than just single plants. Think about "landing zones."
  3. Include plants native to your region. Natives are adapted to your local climate, soil and native pollinators. If you want to see some locals, plant some natives!
  4. Overlap flowering times between seasons and use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall.Pollinators are in a constant search for new resources. Choosing plants with overlapping flowering times from February to October will allow bees and pollinators to continually forage in your garden.
  5. Consider plant climate zones. Plant for success! A plant's native climate range is important in determining if it will be attractive to bees visiting your garden (and if your plant will grow well in your garden or not!).
  6. Design a garden that has structure. The arrangement of plants in your garden will influence your ability to observe and enjoy pollinators. Plant the tallest plants in the back with the smaller ones in the front.
  7. Plant in the sun. Bees prefer to visit flowers in the sun, so avoid planting your pollinator-attracting plants in the shadier parts of your garden.
  8. Reduce or eliminate pesticide use in your landscape, or incorporate plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control. If you use pesticides, use them sparingly and responsibly. Pesticides can kill bad insects as well as beneficial insects like bees, ladybugs and other predators of garden pests.
  9. Don't' forget about nesting bees! Not all bees have a hive. Make sure to leave some areas for bees to build their nests (either in bare ground or in prefabricated cavities in wood). It's ok to leave part of your garden un-mulched for ground-nesting insects to discover. 
  10. Leave dead tree trunks and branches in your landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles. By leaving dead trees, or at least an occasional dead limb, you provide essential nesting sites for native bees, but make sure these are not a safety hazard for people walking below. You can also build a bee condo by drilling holes of varying diameter about 3 to 5 inches deep in a piece of scrap lumber mounted to a post or under eaves.
  11. Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, bowl, or birdbath with half-submerged stones for perches. 
  12. Create a damp salt lick for butterflies and bees. Use a dripping hose, drip irrigation line, or place your birdbath on bare soil to create a damp area. Mix a small bit of salt or wood ashes into the mud. 
  13. Provide a hummingbird feeder and add to nectar resources. To make artificial nectar, use four parts water to one part table sugar. Never use artificial sweeteners, honey, or fruit juices. Place something red on the feeder. Clean your feeder with hot soapy water at least twice a week to keep it free of mold.

The content for this blog was taken from the UC ANR Pollen Nation website.

Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 8:12 AM


Support the immature forms of the pollinators too. Plant natives that provide larval food for the butterflies that you want. Welcome the holes that the caterpillars make in your plants. Many insects are specialists. You might need to do a little research to include those plants in your pollinator garden.

Posted by Marti Rutherford on June 18, 2015 at 5:08 PM

Thank you for such an informative article. And just in time for the Million Pollinator Garden project sponsored by National Pollinator Garden Network.

Posted by Cathy Konyn on July 2, 2015 at 7:48 AM

Thank you for publishing this article, what a great resource. I used it as an outline to illustrate the importance of habitat to my edible garden students.

Posted by Eleu Navarro on July 15, 2015 at 10:45 PM

Thank you for publishing this article, what a great resource. I used it as an outline to illustrate the importance of habitat to my edible garden students.

Posted by Eleu Navarro on July 15, 2015 at 10:46 PM

Marcy, thanks for this great resource which I used to help prepare for a public workshop on pollinator-friendly garden design.

Posted by Jeff Dal Cerro on October 13, 2016 at 7:14 PM

Bats are the saver in every term! there are over 1,100 different species of bats that consume huge amounts of insects, including mosquitoes. Some bats can consume as much as 1,000 insects in an hour. Certain other bats also pollinate plants, which is another crucial part of our ecosystem cycle. Even bat droppings, also called guano, is used as a natural fertilizer. Guano works every bit as good as cow patties for fertilizer.

Posted by David Tuttle on July 23, 2018 at 7:04 AM

Thanks for this article. Perhaps you could update it and add advice to let leaves stay on the ground overwinter around your plants for insects who live in them until they change form in the spring. I wouldn't be surprised if many moth and butterfly larva and pupa end up in the landfills instead of as adult insects in our garden.

Posted by Linda Sims on June 14, 2019 at 8:26 PM

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