Pollinator-Friendly Herbs

Reader Contribution by Karin Eller
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There are many articles about pollinator friendly flowers, but what about herbs? Herbs have many uses medicinal, culinary and even ornamental. They can be grown in containers, draping over walls and planted in drought tolerant landscapes and in the shade. Herbs are excellent choice for planting on hillsides to keep weeds smothered. Unfortunately, they are not usually considered to be part of the flower garden or landscape for our pollinating friends. With the many new varieties and old favorites available there is an herb out there for any use to beautify your garden.

Monarda or Bee Balm is a full sun perennial that most gardeners are familiar with. The bright red flowers of this plant are iconic. Though with recent introductions, there is a myriad of colors available. There are varieties such as ‘Lilac Lollipop’, with soft lilac colored blooms to ‘Coral Reef’ that has a mellowed orange hue. These new introductions can grow to approximately 24” in height depending on the variety, enjoying the same conditions as the parent plant. Deadheading will keep this plant producing blooms thought the growing season.

Hyssop is a very hardy, ancient herb mentioned in the Bible, “Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,” verse 7 Psalm 51. It is a shrubby perennial that grows to 20 inches tall. This perennial is not really particular about soil and prefers full sun to partial shade. The lovely little blue flowers are a pollinator favorite.

Sage is a wonderful addition to the pollinator garden. There are so many scents, leaf variations and flower colors to this plant. Sage is a plant that prefers full sun and a basic soil. Two of my favorite’s sages are ‘Honey Melon’ and ‘White’. ‘Honey Melon’ is annual, bushy plant that has small red flowers that continuously blooms throughout the summer months. It has a pleasant tropical scent. It is used for culinary purposes. ‘White’ sage has attractive soft, white foliage with white flowers. Not only will the bees appreciate this plant, but so will the nocturnal pollinators.

Rosemary is a culinary plant that has numerous varieties from the prostrate ‘Irene’ to the culinary, woody stemmed ‘Barbeque’. Unfortunately, living in zone five, I did consider rosemary to be an annual. Happily, all that has changed with the introduction of cold hardy varieties such as ‘Arp’, ‘Hill Hardy’ and ‘Salem’. Rosemary requires full sun, average soil and not a lot of water. Rosemary is a good choice for a container plant.

Winter Savory is a wonderful, perennial, pollinator friendly plant that is complementary to the garden as well as the palate. Hardy zones 5 through 11, it requires full sun and well drained soil. This plant will be covered in white flowers, attracting all the beneficial pollinators while repelling unwanted pests. It has a nice flavor in cooking, and can be used as a salt substitute.

Thyme is another herb with many varieties to choose from. Thyme is a great plant for rock gardens, ground cover or difficult drought tolerant situations. Depending on the variety the flower color can range from white to magenta. The variegation and textures of the leaves can complement the flowers in your garden. The scents can vary as well- lemon, caraway and orange.

Borage is an annual herb easily grown from seed. Once established it will seed itself. It is long blooming plant, which makes it a wonderful food source for the bees when other flowering plants have become scarce. It grows in full sun to part shade and likes a fertile, well drained soil. Borage flowers are blue or white and are edible.

When growing herbs for medicinal or culinary uses please do your research. Just because it is oregano, it does not mean that it is for human consumption. Need more information on the plants mentioned in this blog? Like us on Facebook.

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