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Flashy new pollinator plants for your sunny gardens

Penstemon ‘Carillo Red’ attracts hummingbirds and other pollinators.1 / 2
Gaura ‘Sparkle White’ is an All America Selection and Fleuroselect award-winning flower.2 / 2

By Terry Yockey

Last month I described five outstanding new 2014 plant varieties that will do well in partial to full shade, and this month I will give you five more new varieties to try this season.

All of these new plant introductions thrive in full sun, but I chose to feature them because they will also attract beneficial pollinators to your garden.

I’m sure you have already heard how dire the situation is for bees and butterflies. Unfortunately, the experts still haven’t given us a definitive answer as to what specifically is causing the decline of either pollinator.

One theory for the loss of bees is the widespread use of neonicotinoid systemic pesticides. Because systemics become part of the plant physiology, many experts theorize that this class of insecticides contaminates the pollen and nectar and acts as a neurotoxin to feeding bees. They believe that an affected bee then becomes stressed and disoriented making it much more susceptible to disease, mites and other destructive environmental forces.

Of course, suspending the use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides in your yard and gardens is a great way to begin helping your local pollinator population, but there are also other ways you can help.

Many experts recommend planting native plants because they supply copious amounts of pollen and nectar to the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and also valuable habitat. I’m all for native plants and grow many myself, but I am also aware that some gardeners prefer a little more pizzazz from their plantings.

Since life is all about compromise, perhaps this season you might consider planting a few native wildflowers and also a few of the new flashy varieties that I have described below. That way you can have your cake and eat it too.

Plants with pizzazz

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Sparkle White’ is a must-have for me this year. I planted another variety of Gaura last season and it was my favorite plant by far, so I can’t wait to see what this new Gaura does in my flower gardens this summer.

’Sparkle White’ is an All America Selections or AAS winner and also a Fleuroselect gold medal winner and, like all Gaura, it blooms all season long and is very heat tolerant.

Long, slender stems topped by dainty white and blush-pink blossoms float 12 to 24 inches above the foliage adding color, movement and texture to your flower beds. It is also bee-friendly. (Kieft-Pro Seeds)

Zahara Sunburst Zinnia is a Fleuroselect gold medal winner. It not only attracts butterflies and bees, but also makes great cut flowers for your indoor bouquets.

This 12-to-18-inch-tall zinnia produces masses of cheerful yellow and scarlet-orange blooms with no two flowers looking exactly the same. The unique scarlet star pattern gets more pronounced as the flower matures. Disease resistant, heat and drought tolerant. (Ball Horticultural)

Penstemon ‘Arabesque Red’ F1 is an All America Selection 2014 Regional Winner. This is the first penstemon to become an AAS winner in almost 80 years of trialing.

The hummingbird, bee and butterfly favorite has large red and white bicolor tubular blooms that appear all season long. It does need to be deadheaded to ensure continued bloom. Growing 12 to 24 inches tall, this an excellent choice for the middle of your full sun flower beds. (Syngenta Flowers)

Penstemon x mexicali ‘Carillo Red’ is another outstanding new penstemon introduction this year. It is also an awardwinner receiving a Fleuroselect gold medal and scoring well on its floriferousness and also on the strong red color of the blossoms. It grows 8 to 10 inches tall and 12 inches wide and has an upright mounding habit. Attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. (Kieft Seed)

Lophospermum ‘Lofos Compact’ is an excellent choice for hanging pots or in the garden climbing one to two feet up a small trellis or obelisk. The blossoms drop off when finished so it stays tidy without dead heading.

It comes in pink, rose and white varieties, but I suspect that it is the rose color that is the most attractive to hummingbirds. (Suntory Flowers)

Lavandula angustifolia ‘SuperBlue’ is a new English lavender that might even be reliably hardy here in Minnesota. If you have tried other lavender varieties and they haven’t made it through our nasty winters, you might want to give this one a try.

It isn’t quite as showy as the other varieties, but you can’t beat lavender for fragrance, drought resistance and it is a huge favorite of bees. (Darwin Perennials)

Pollinator resources:

Plants for Pollinators,

Xerces Society,