When it comes to pollinators, the American Southwest is one of the most species diverse habitats in the world, with native species of bees, butterflies, moths, bats, and hummingbirds all busy pollinating our plants. This massive diversity makes sense – because much of the region has plants that bloom in every month of the year.
Pollinators in the Southwest
We have a plethora of pretty pollinators here!
We are the flyway for many species of hummingbirds, and many live in parts of Arizona and New Mexico all year long.
Butterflies – last count rain forests had us beat for diversity, but just barely.
Native bees – Southwest wins! We are the most bee diverse place on earth. Some of these bees are barely 1/16 inch long, and most native bees can’t even sting. (Makes sense – no hive and honey to protect.) Let’s help these native bees continue to thrive in our unique region by planting native perennials.
Perennial plants are non-woody plants that live for a long time, like iris, as compared to woody roses. Technically agaves could be viewed as perennials, but let’s just not go there! Besides, agaves bloom once and die and we want to invite pollinators every day!
5 reasons for Perennials
I can give you five major reasons perennials should have a place in every Southwest yard.
Reason #1 – Perennials are, in general, much shorter than trees and shrubs, thus they add a lower layer of visual interest to your yard.
Reason #2 – Perennials bloom with colorful flowers, but best of all, they bloom for months. Thus they add long-term color to your yard.
Reason #3 – Perennials placed under trees and shrubs help shade the soil and reduce evaporation. They use water from the top foot of the soil, encouraging tree and shrub roots to grow two or three feet deep for water, and incidentally anchoring the trees better against wind storms.
Reason #4 – Ease of care. Flowering shrubs require periodic rejuvenation pruning, leading to bulky plant waste that must be dealt with. Perennials are non-woody, thus require little – if any – pruning.
Reason #5 – You may plant them for the pollinators – but you sure can enjoy them too! Most perennials provide long-lasting cut flowers for enjoyment indoors. The javelina tromping around in the yard broke some aloe flower stalks off my plants so I brought them inside. Three weeks later the stalks were still blooming!
Plant what makes you happy! If you have a color scheme for your yard, use perennials that bloom with those colors. Place your perennial plantings in large sweeps of color. It makes it easier for pollinators with their tiny bee or butterfly brains to find the plants.
Many of the daytime pollinators find their flowers with vision. If you want fragrant flowers, consider a “Moon Garden.” This is one that fills with blooms and fragrance after the sun goes down in the summer – which is when you want to use the garden anyway!
More about Moon Gardens currently in the Gardening With Soule Membership Club. The gates to join the club open three times a year and then close again so the new members can get a special welcome and more. Sign up for my newsletter to stay informed. Or – stay tuned – post on this site as I rebuild.
There are so many wonderful low-water, no-muss, low-fuss pollinator-attracting perennials that you can plant today – yes, even as the heat of summer comes along. Just remember that such newly planted pampered nursery babies are going to need extra water at first, because they have been watered daily in the nursery. Once they grow roots out into the garden soil, you can taper off watering to once a week.
Thanks for reading!
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