Programs for Residents

Tips to create a pollinator-friendly garden

You can help pollinators by creating foraging and nesting opportunities in your garden. Here's some tips to attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

Plant native: Choose native shrubs, trees and perennial flowers rich in pollen and nectar. Locally grown and pesticide free are best.

Mass plantings: Planting multiples of the same plant together in large groupings makes it easier for pollinators to find and collect pollen.

Choose single blooms: Double or triple bloom flowering varieties with lots of petals can block access to pollen and nectar.

Continuous bloom: Pollinators need a continuous source of pollen and nectar; so choose a variety of plants that will bloom from spring to fall.

Plant host plants: Butterflies lay their eggs on specific plants. Monarch butterflies, for example, will only lay their eggs on milkweed, the sole food source for their larva.

Provide water: A bird bath or shallow dish of water with half-submerged rocks will help bees and butterflies quench their thirst.

Provide sun: Butterflies like to bask in the sun, so place a few flat rocks in sunny, sheltered locations.

Keep it natural: Converting a lawn or garden to concrete, gravel, mulch or artificial turf reduces valuable food and nesting sites.

Bare ground: Many native bees build nests in soil, so leave some bare patches and limit your use of mulch.

Leave dead stems: Some bees hibernate and lay eggs in hollow stems. If you do cut, leave the bottom 8 inches or bundle the stems and place them in your garden.

Leave the leaves: Leave the leaves where they fall or rake them into your garden to provide overwintering habitat for butterflies.

Prune and deadhead: Remove dead flower heads to encourage new growth and extend the flowering season.

Reduce mowing: To avoid disturbing ground nesting bees, mow your lawn less often and set the blade at the highest level possible.

Avoid pesticides: Avoid plants/seeds treated with systemic insecticides, such as neonicotinoids. And don't spray pesticides. Toronto's Pesticide Bylaw bans the cosmetic use of pesticides.