Once a year, a committee of Extension specialists, industry professionals, Master Gardeners, and homeowners meet to select the four best performing landscape plants that support pollinators and have attractive features to beautify the garden.
They choose plants in the following categories: spring flowering, summer flowering, fall flowering, and native. The goal is to increase the availability of these plants in nurseries and garden centers and educate the consumer on the importance of landscape plants on pollinator populations. Four excellent plants are the choice for 2021 Georgia Pollinator Plants of the Year.
For the spring bloomer, false rosemary (Conradina canescens) is the choice. The plant is an evergreen woody shrub that can grow several feet in height. They have a resemblance to common rosemary with a few differences. It grows from the upright stem that branches from a main woody one.
It has needle-like leaves with are green with a sliver to a grey hue that emits a minty fragrance when crushed and is used as a cooking spice. The plant has purple to white-colored flowers with an upper and lower lip. The lower one has three lobes with dark purple spots. Honeybees are particularly attracted to it. False rosemary requires full sun and well-drained soil and tolerates prolonged dry conditions and the summer heat.
The sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) is the summer blooming pollinator plant of the year. The plant can grow over five feet in height and spreads into clumping mounds. It tolerates wet soils and grows in swamps and wetlands. It produces small fragrant white flowers in clusters on long spikes on the ends of branches. In the fall, the shrub has brown, dry seed capsules. The sweet pepperbush grows in both full sun and shade. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and numerous species of bees favor this plant.
Downy goldenrod (Solidago petiolaris) is the choice for the fall bloomer. The perennial grows up to two feet tall. It produces yellow flowers in long clusters in a plume-like other species of goldenrod. The plant blooms in mid to late fall when nectar supplies are dwindling. Deer rarely trouble it. Downey goldenrod prefers sun to partial shade with well-drained soil. Bees, wasps, and many species of butterflies and moths favor it.
The 2021 native pollinator plant is the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). The plant can grow up to a foot tall. It has hairy stems and lance-shaped leaves that are narrow with a lance shape. The flowers are orange to yellow, blooming in the early summer months, and are frequently found growing along the sides of roads. It has a long tuberous root. Butterfly weed is a milkweed species but does not produce the milky sap when the branches are broken as others do. The seed pods have a spindle shape and release seeds covered with a silky material. Many butterflies, most notable the monarch butterfly, favor it, thus giving the plant its name.
Pollinators play an essential role in the natural world. Preserving them and promoting their presence is vital in maintaining biological diversity. Consider planting some in your garden. To learn more about these plants, go to https://botgarden.uga.edu/conservation-science/pollinator-plant-program/. You can even nominate plants for next year.