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Grow with KARE: How a flower's shape attracts different pollinators

Each shape is suited to different pollinators like honey bees, bumble bees, hummingbirds or butterflies.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn — When it comes to attracting pollinators to your garden, we always say to make sure you have something blooming all season long and that natives are better than cultivars.

But also consider incorporating different shaped flowers into your garden beds. Each shape is suited to different pollinators like honey bees, bumble bees, hummingbirds or butterflies. 

It’s probably most widely known that hummingbirds, with their long bills, hover over tubular shaped flowers that provide lots of nectar. Cardinal flower, columbine, bee balm and salvia are great choices.  

But butterflies need a landing pad to perch on while they feed. Think cone flowers, zinnias and black eyed susans. They also love flowers that grow in umbels or big clusters like lilacs, allium, joe pye weed milkweed, button bush, yarrow and sedum. 

Bumblebees are uniquely suited to pollinate some flowers that others cannot. These flowers are often lipped to provide a landing platform. The big bodies of bumblebees are strong enough to wriggle inside tightly closed flowers to find hidden nectar like turtlehead and bottle gentian. Baptisia, monkshood and virginia bluebells are all good choices.  

Honey bees love bowl shaped, single flowers. This shape provides easy access to honey bees, and bumble bees too. Think fruit trees, borage, spiderwort, wild roses, wild geranium asters and crocus. 

Of course these are just a few suggestions and only a few of the many pollinators. Plus many flowers listed for one are also an amazing choice for others.  

Have fun and watch the wildlife come!