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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native annuals for pollinators in King County, Washington

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Thursday - February 06, 2014

From: Auburn, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Wildlife Gardens
Title: Native annuals for pollinators in King County, Washington
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in King County, Washington State, and I have a plot in a community garden. Rather than plant food, I'd like to attract pollinators. I need to use native annuals rather than perennials as the city takes a rototiller to the plots each year. Many of the sites and papers I've read assume that I have a home garden, and many pollinator sites list non-native annuals. I want to use what naturally grows here. My plot is 10x20' and I'd love to see pollinators of all sorts having a good time in it. :-) I have an indoor red-worm composting bin going - I probably have 25 pounds of compost read to be sifted. Will it be a problem if I mix it into the soil before I plant? Very many thanks!

ANSWER:

You can find several useful lists on our Recommended Species page. 

  • First, you can choose Washington from the map or from the pull-down menu above the map to get a list of Washington Recommended native species that are commercially available for landscaping in the state.   By using the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option in the side menu, you can limit the list to annual species under the Lifespan option.  From that list here are some good choices for pollinators:

Cleome serrulata (Rocky mountain beeplant)

Collinsia grandiflora (Blue lips)  Here are photos and more information from Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest.

Gilia capitata (Blue gilia)

Layia glandulosa (White tidytips)

Lupinus bicolor (Miniature lupine)

  • Next, there are four lists of native plants on the Recommended Species page for pollinators :  1.  Butterflies and Moths of North America.  2.  Special Value to Native Bees. 3.  Special Value to Bumble Bees.   4.  Special Value to Honey Bees.   On any of these lists you will need to use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option in the side menu and choose "Washington" from the Select State or Province slot and "Annual"  from the Lifespan option.  Here are a few from the Butterflies and Moths of North America list.

Camissonia contorta (Plains evening-primrose)

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan)

Viola nephrophylla (Northern bog violet)

  • There is one more list that you might conside—the Pacific Northwest region list from the Garden Writers Foundation.  Again, you would need to limit the list to Washington and to annuals.  There will be overlap between the different lists.   Here a couple from this list:

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)

Eriophyllum lanatum (Common woolly sunflower)

For all the species you find on the lists be sure to check the GROWING CONDITIONS section on the species page to see if the requirements are compatible with your planting site.

Adding compost to the soil would be an excellent idea.   Congratulations for doing such a good job creating it! 

Finally, there is an excellent resource right there in King County—the Native Plant Guide on the King County webpage.  Their recommendations are mostly perennials, but they do have lots of information about native plants for your county.

You should have some very happy pollinators in your garden!

 

From the Image Gallery


Rocky mountain beeplant
Cleome serrulata

Blue gilia
Gilia capitata

White tidytips
Layia glandulosa

Miniature lupine
Lupinus bicolor

Plains evening-primrose
Camissonia contorta

Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Northern bog violet
Viola nephrophylla

California poppy
Eschscholzia californica

Common woolly sunflower
Eriophyllum lanatum

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