The University of Georgia’s State Botanical Garden of Georgia (SBGG) in Athens has a Georgia Pollinator Plants of the Year program that annually recognizes four top performing landscape plants that support pollinators and grow a garden beautifully. The pollinator plants selected and promoted are based on three of Georgia’s gardening seasons: Spring Bloomer, Summer Bloomer, and Fall Bloomer and a Georgia Native. The seasonal selections may or may not be native plants.
According to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia website, plants for consideration in the Pollinator Plants of the Year program come from favorite pollinator plants nominations from gardeners across the state of Georgia. The selection committee then selects plants for this promotional program based on each plant’s horticultural value, ease of propagation, and ecological significance.
Nominations are solicited from gardeners throughout Georgia and are then determined by a selection committee. For 2021, The Georgia Pollinator Plant selection committee has chosen the following plants for promotion:
Spring Bloomer: Conradina (Conradina canescens), common name Beach Rosemary, False Rosemary, or Wild Rosemary. Wild Rosemary is an evergreen woody shrub in the mint family native to FL, AL, and MS and grows in the sandy coastal plains. The needle-like leaves have a mint fragrance when crushed, and from March through November, it is covered in small 2-lipped, fragrant flowers in blue, lavender, or white that support pollinators. Plants look great trailing down a container, have a great architectural growth habit, and blooms profusely in spring. Grow this shrub in very well-drained sandy soils in full sun. It is a very drought tolerant and adaptable plant. Use as a low hedge or in a pollinator garden: many native bees and other pollinators like this Rosemary.
Summer Bloomer: Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia). According to a North Carolina State Extension website, Sweet Pepperbush is a small, deciduous, and densely branched shrub. Clethra alnifolia, or Sweet Pepperbush, is a deciduous shrub that may grow to 5 to 10 feet and often spreads into mounded clumps. It is native to eastern North America, from Maine south to Florida and west to Texas in the wild. It is usually found in swamps, damp thickets, and sandy woods. Panicles of white flowers provide an intoxicating fragrance in the summer when most other plants have stopped blooming. They then give way to persistent seed heads in the fall. This shrub prefers moist sites and performs exceptionally in poorly drained soils. Sweet Pepperbush thrives in full sun or shade and supports many native bees and other pollinators. Birds and other animals feed on the seeds in fall and winter. The SBGG notes that Sweet Pepperbush is an excellent plant for rain gardens.
Fall Bloomer: Downy Goldenrod (Solidago petiolaris). This plant is one of the shorter goldenrods, standing at 1-3’ tall. From August to October, the flowers bloom in dense, spike-like clusters creating a yellow plume. This Goldenrod is drought-tolerant and prefers full sun. Avoid overwatering. It is easy to propagate from seeds. Collect seeds in late fall when the tufted seeds pull off the stem easily. It serves in the garden as an excellent plant for supporting pollinators: bees, wasps, and at least 112 species of butterflies and moths. Downy Goldenrod is considered a great fall bloomer, is relatively deer resistant, and behaves well in the garden — unlike many other goldenrods.
Georgia Native: Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Butterfly Weed is an herbaceous perennial wildflower that reaches 1-2’ tall. This plant has highly branched stems with lance-shaped leaves. Butterfly weed is drought-tolerant and prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It is easy to propagate from seed or root cuttings. Butterfly weed is vital plant to have in the home landscape because it is a larval host plant for Monarch Butterfly and Milkweed Tussock Moth and a nectar source for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It produces striking and long-lived orange flowers; few plants have such a bright orange color.
For more information on The Georgia Pollinator Plants Program, check out the State Botanical Garden of Georgia website at www.botgarden.uga.edu. Contact the State Botanical Garden of Georgia directly to nominate your favorite pollinator plant for consideration.