Choose plants, especially native flowering ones.
Have you walked on a trail somewhere near here below 4000 feet? Almost every plant you see can grow in your yard. A yard with a diverse plant community, including many native flowering species, will have multiple beneficial effects. Native flowering trees such as velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina), foothill palo verde (Cercidium microphyllum), and desert ironwood (Olneya tesota) thrive with little or no watering, provide shade and cooling effects, and store carbon. Similarly for understory shrubs such as brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), and pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla). Accent plants such as Penstemon (Penstemon parryi), ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), and Parry’s agave (Agave parryi) add color and character. All the native and near native cacti species are flowering plants that attract pollinators. Common locals include saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea) and fishhook barrels (Ferocactus wislizeni).
The above are good examples of native plants that grow well here without special care, but they aren’t normally planted specifically to attract pollinators. Although bees, especially honeybees are what comes to mind first when pollinators are mentioned, there are many creatures that help species of flowering plants exchange pollen. One of the Tucson Bee Collaborative’s member institutions, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, has initiated a pollinator conservation program, which has involved creating dozens of pollinator gardens across the Tucson metro area. Here are two good pollinator overview presentations by Laurin Pause of University of Arizona Cooperative Extension and Kim Pergram of the Desert Botanical Garden. Tohono Chul also has a good guide. If you want to grow your own pollinator garden, here are some list of plant possibilities–
- Selecting Plants for Pollinators from the Arizona Native Plant Society’s website
- Eight Plants Perfect for Your Pollinator Garden from Boyce Thompson Arboretum
- Plants for Enhancing Pollinator Habitat in Arizona from the US Department of Agriculture
Here’s Joan Fox’s pollinator garden with bee photos, and her story.