Coneflower

PumpkinSky/Wikimedia Commons

The native purple coneflower is a favorite among Missouri pollinators.

After a long winter combating piles of snow and beyond frigid temperatures, spend some time outside testing your green thumb with these Missouri native plants that will attract our state’s pollinators.

Spring means the beginning of the planting season, which can be overwhelming. Thoughts can quickly spiral into a thousand ways you can plan your garden. This year, Vox recommends trying out some Missouri native flowers.

Not only are these plants beautiful, but they also attract pollinators, which are insects and animals that carry pollen from one plant to another. They are a vital part of any living ecosystem, and more than 150 food crops in the U.S. alone are dependent on pollinators’ efforts, including nearly all fruit and grain crops.

In Missouri, pollinators include bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and more.

Jennifer Schutter, a field specialist in horticulture for MU Extension in Adair County, says the main thing people can do before starting their garden is to prepare through research. With over 20 years of horticulture knowledge under her belt, Schutter recommends that people try to keep their garden blooming from spring to fall. “You can start small, with maybe one or two spring plants, a few summer bloomers — the summer ones are always easier,” she says. “And then incorporate some for fall.”

Another thing she likes to remind people is that you should have a water feature somewhere in your garden, even if it’s as simple as a saucer filled with water. Both birds and insects need water, but bees are in special need of it. “Bees have to have water to make honey,” she says. If they don’t have water, they can’t make honey efficiently.”

Thinking of trying your green thumb at planting native pollinators? Make your garden hum to life with these three plants.

Wild Bergamot

Shenandoah National Park/Wikimedia Commons

Wild bergamot nectar is a favorite of hummingbirds.

Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

This mid-summer bloomer will attract all sorts of pollinators with its sweet scent.

Care: These flowers prefer dry to medium-wet soil, and, like most other natives, grow in full sun to part shade.

What they’ll look like: They will grow about 2 to 4-feet tall, while spreading out 2 to 3 feet. The blooms are a pinky-lavender color, with little tubes where pollinators can get to the nectar.

Who they’ll attract: Bees and hummingbirds, especially the ruby-throated hummingbird.

Why you should plant them: Beautiful blooms won’t be the only thing you’ll enjoy on this plant — the long aromatic leaves can actually be used to brew tea.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

This tall showy flower is best noticed by its spiky cone in the center and bright petals.

Care: These low-maintenance perennials will give some desired height to your garden. They're a fan of well-draining and dry to medium-wet soil. Coneflowers do best in full sun (about six hours) but can stand part shade, which has a minimum of three hours of light.

What they’ll look like: Coneflowers have an orangey-red cone in the middle with pale purple petals. They can grow between 2 and 5 feet tall, while spreading out between 1.5 to 2 feet.

Who they’ll attract: Bees, butterflies and beetles.

Why you should plant them: After the flowers are finished blooming, the seeds in the center cone become a tasty meal for birds, especially the goldfinch.

Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Joe Pye Weed

Liz West/Wikimedia Commons

Joe Pye weed is an easy-grower and will attract plenty of butterflies.

Another tall plant, the Joe Pye weed will be best if you’re looking for some serious height in your garden.

Care: These flowers are low-maintenance, but prefer moist soil that doesn’t dry out. Like coneflowers, they’ll be happy in full sun to part shade.

What they’ll look like: Joe Pye weed is marked by long stems with clusters of 5-7 flowers on the end, which are a pretty shade of mauve-pink. They’ll get to be between 5 and 7-feet tall and will need 2 to 4-feet of space to spread.

Who they’ll attract: Butterflies

Why you should plant them: In the winter, the flowers dry out and give way to seed heads, which can be used in indoor flower arrangements.

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