Dipping apples in honey. It’s a well-loved Rosh Hashanah tradition representing the wish for a sweet new year. While you’re dipping this Jewish new year, you might want to say a Shehechiyanu blessing for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Without them, we wouldn’t have honey, apples and many other fruits and vegetables. Pollinators also are responsible for the production of clover and alfalfa, the nutritional staples of cattle and other grazing animals who provide us with meat and dairy products.

In fact, three out of four plants and 70 percent of crop species depend on bees for pollination. Approximately one-third of the human diet depends directly or indirectly on insect pollination. Pollinators increase beneficial insect populations including ladybugs, mantids, parasitic wasps and spiders, who reduce the need for harmful insecticides. In the United States, pollination produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually.

In this month’s column, we show how to create a nectar- and pollen-rich habitat that’s welcoming to honey bees and their pollinating pals.


Three out of four plants and 70 percent of crop species depend on bees for pollination. (Photo by Vince Lupo)

What to Plant

To attract pollinators, select plants that are native to the Piedmont geographical region. Here are some suggestions:

  • Perennials: Anise hyssop, threadleaf coreopsis, Joe Pye Weed, Asters and Echinacea (Cone flower), Cardinal Flower
  • Annuals: Zinnia, Cosmos, Tithonia (Mexican Sun Flower), Nasturtium and Cardinal Vine
  • Shrubs: Caryopteris (Blue Spirea), Ilex glabra (Inkberry) Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet)
  • Small trees: Chionanthus virginicus (White Fringe Tree) and Amelanchier Canadensis (Serviceberry)
  • Perennial herbs planted in containers or in a garden bed: lavender, thyme, germander, santolina, oregano
  • Annual herbs: basil, parsley (biennial), cilantro.

Bryan Bender (left) of the Central Maryland Beekeeper’s Association and master gardener Rebecca Brown (Photo by Vince Lupo)

 Planting a Pollinator-Friendly Garden

  • Add plants to existing annual, perennial and shrub borders or to an extension of the garden bed
  • Plant a hedgerow (a barrier created by plants where pollinators can live, and connect to other wildlife in the ecosystem) Caryopteris (Blue Spirea), Ilex glabra (Inkberry) Clethra alnifolia ( Summersweet) make attractive and excellent hedgerows
  • Allow clover and dandelions to grow on the lawn
  • Plant them in planters and window boxes
  • Plant them in drifts or groupings of three to seven plants
  • Provide leafcutter and mason bee houses to encourage nesting and increase pollination
  • Plant native grasses such as Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) for shelter
  • Add milkweed, the host plant for the Monarch Butterfly, and parsley, the host plant for the Black Swallowtail
  • Provide a water source for thirsty bees, butterflies and birds

Rebecca Brown began her career as a horticulturist over 25 years ago and studied at the New York Botanical Gardens. She has been a University of Maryland Extension Baltimore County master gardener for three years and is a backyard beekeeper.

Norman Cohen is a retired chemist. He has been gardening for 38 years and has been a University of Maryland Extension Baltimore County master gardener for nine years. Cohen also provides gardening education to the public at local farmers markets.


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