Planting and Planning for Pollinators

Most gardeners know that encouraging pollinators is good for their growing plants, but not everyone knows that increased diversity of pollinators can mean more vegetables to harvest.

One of the best ways to ensure that your garden thrives every year is by taking the time to plan before you plant.

While deciding which varieties of peppers to grow is an important choice, choosing which plants to encourage native pollinators can be just as vital to creating a flourishing garden.

Factors to Consider

Seasonality–When deciding what to plant to nurture native pollinators in your garden, considering when various plants will bloom is of the utmost importance. Bees and other native pollinators need sources of nectar and/or pollen during the time that they are foraging and creating nests. To provide these sources of fuel, be sure to select plants that will bloom throughout the growing season.

Gateway Greening’s Strategy: In our Demonstration Garden, there is a wide variety of native flowers. When first planted, these plants were designed to bloom throughout the growing season, but more aggressive fall flowering plants have crowded out the spring flowering. Luckily, there are other parts of the Demonstration Garden that have only spring flowering

Native Yarrow thrives near the fence of the Demonstration Garden.

plants, ensuring that pollinators always have resources to utilize.

Plant Placement–To maximize the benefit that native plants offer in your garden, placement can be an important consideration. When plants are grouped in large patches, instead of being by themselves, they can offer more resources to pollinators.

Bordering your edible plants with native flowering plants can also improve pollination of your edible plants as well as provide pollinators with even more resources to thrive, leading to more vegetables being produced.

Gateway Greening’s Strategy: In both the native pollinator area and wildlife garden in the Demonstration Garden, native plants are grouped in large patches. Gateway Greening tries to plant native plants directly into the ground in order to save space in raised beds, especially since native plants thrive in Missouri’s clay-filled soil. Otherwise unused space is also used strategically in other parts of the garden such as the small area next to the roadside fence, where ornamental plantings bloom throughout the season.

Pollinators love the purple blooms of chives.

Plant Varieties to Consider

Native Yarrow–Though some consider it to be a weed, yarrow is a native, flowering perennial that attracts butterflies with its white flowers and long bloom time.

Anise Hyssop–This herbaceous perennial is attractive to a variety of native pollinators. Its fragrant, purple blossoms stick around from June to September, making it a beautiful and edible addition to any garden.

Chives–Another edible that attracts native pollinators, chives bloom in the late spring and early summer to ensure that pollinators stick around all season.

Garlic Chives–Though similar to chives, garlic chives bloom in the late summer and early fall, which can be a time when other plants are not flowering.

Aster–In addition to having large, purple flowers, aster is notable for its late bloom time, which stretches into October.

Witch Hazel–Though you might know it from the first aid aisle, witch hazel is unique for both its interesting blooms and very early bloom time, which can begin as early as January.

Native Passionflower (Maypop)–Related to the tropical passion fruit, this unusual flower has a long bloom time and is much loved by bumblebees.

Other great choices to encourage native pollinators in your garden include perennial edibles that flower such as selvatica, oregano, thyme, chives, garlic chives, lemon balm, and mint.

Gateway Greening’s Strategy: Last year, garlic chives, chives, and thyme were planted at the ends of raised beds that contained vegetables. These pollinator attracting perennials are edible and flower beautifully.

Though many of these native plants make St. Louis gardens more efficient, they also can add beauty to their surroundings. Many of them produce gorgeous, colorful blooms that can

Witch Hazel has unique blooms.

light up a neighborhood.

To see all the strategies that Gateway Greening utilizes to encourage pollinators, come take a tour of the Demonstration Garden on Saturday, March 17, 10am – 11am or just stop by at 3841 Bell Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays. Check out even more opportunities to visit the space here.

For more information on which native plants thrive in Missouri, check out these resources!

Four Herbs to Grow When You’re Tired of Parsley

Tulsi in the Demonstration Garden.

Matt Even, Outreach Coordinator of Gateway Greening, loves trying to grow new and exciting plants at the Demonstration Garden. He wants to use the space and lack of pressure to produce food that growing plants at the Demonstration Garden gives to try innovative things that might flourish or fail. During Spring 2017, he planted uncommon herbs to test what is possible to grow in the St. Louis region.

Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Tulsi is an herb that is native to India and grows best in tropic and subtropic climates. In its native habitat it is a perennial, but it can be grown as an annual in Northern regions, such as St. Louis. Tulsi is largely grown for its medicinal properties, culinary attributes, and uses in Hindu religious ceremonies. Many people drink it in a tea, which is high in antioxidants and said to support the immune system. Matt said that the Tulsi is the Demonstration Garden is doing quite well and that he will probably plant it next year. It’s definitely a good choice for St. Louis gardens.

For more information on how to grow Tulsi, click here.      



Sweetgrass is also an herb used in ceremonial and religious contexts. It is native to North America and Europe and is especially significant for many Native American tribes as a result of its use as incense. Sweetgrass is a perennial herb that can produce extraordinary yields when cared for correctly. It is traditionally harvested, dried, and then braided, which is the form it is usually found in stores. The plant has a vanilla-like aroma that is especially strong when burned. Like Tulsi, the sweetgrass that was planted in the Demonstration Garden has grown very well and would be very appropriate for St. Louis gardens.

For more information on how to grow sweetgrass, click here.

Angelica dried up during the hot days of August.


Angelica has been commonly used as a flavoring agent in many types of liquors, such as gin and vermouth. It is native to Europe and prefers cool climates as it is a heat-sensitive plant. The angelica in the Gateway Greening Demonstration Garden has not done as well as it could have because of the hot summers that St. Louis typically experiences. Unlike many herbs, Angelica actually prefers moist soil, which is something to keep in mind if the plant makes its way to your garden. It is definitely a plant that requires extra attention in the St. Louis region. Unless you have the time to devote to caring for Angelica, it should not be your top choice for planting.

For more information on how to grow angelica, click here.



A perennial edible that has a flavor between celery and parsley, Lovage is a tried and true choice for St. Louis region gardens. It also has the unique benefit of needing little attention and being one of the first plants to come up in the spring. In its native Europe, it has long been used to flavor food and beverages. Lovage was historically grown for its medicinal properties as it was said to help with stomach pains and fevers.

For more information on how to grow lovage, click here.


Though the growing season is not yet over, Matt Even is already excited to see what he can grow next year. He said that next year he wants to try to grow plants such as lemongrass, Spanish tarragon, epazote, and lemon verbena. Matt said that he thinks the best thing about growing less common plants is the excitement of trying something new and seeing whether it works or not.

From the herbs he planted this year, he would recommend that St. Louis gardeners try growing lovage or sweetgrass, as both have thrived in the Demonstration Garden this spring and summer.

Interested in seeing these plants in person? Come to the Gateway Greening Demonstration Garden on Saturday mornings to check them out!