While honeybees are the most obvious pollinators in most gardens, there are many insects - along with larger animals such as birds and even bats - which also act as pollinators. To check out a bat-pollinated plant, see the sausage tree (Kigelia africana). There’s a specimen in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, but you’re not likely to find one in your local garden centre! The tree’s large, pendulous red flowers form long, sausage-like fruit after pollination by bats.

Left: A honeybee gathers pollen from a cluster of plum blossoms. Right: A native blue-banded bee feeds on a purple flower.


Pollinator-friendly plants

To keep your garden buzzing with pollinators such as native bees and hoverflies, grow a wide range of nectar-rich plants. It's important to make sure there’s always something in flower throughout the year. This can be achieved by including long-flowering plants such as grevilleas and daisies along with seasonal flowers such as annuals and perennials. Plants that pollinators like to visit don’t need to be difficult to grow. Some of the best options are named for butterflies such as gaura and buddleja – both called butterfly plants. Also include hebe, lavender, salvia, red hot pokers (‘Winter Cheer’ is a top winter-flowering option for pollinators), calendula, marigold, bacopa (always buzzing with bees), sedum, alyssum, seaside and other daisies and verbena. Herbs that flower such as borage, basil, thyme and coriander also attract lots of pollinators.

When making your choice, look for flowers that are open, flat and easy for insects to land on to access nectar and pollen. Plants that have clusters of flowers also make themselves a one-stop shop for foragers.

To attract birds, include larger plants such as grevillea and bottlebrush, which are robust plants that can support the weight of a visiting honeyeater! Another native plant much loved by pollinators is the kangaroo paw – grow the large forms with tall, strong flower stems.

Left: A monarch butterfly flutters around a patch of pink flowers. Right: A rainbow lorikeet in a tree with spindly yellow blooms.


Pollinator-friendly planting and gardening tips

As well as having a range of plants to have flowers year-round, include plants of different sizes. This will help ensure that your garden provides habitat for many different creatures. Include flowering trees, shrubs and groundcovers for flowers at all levels of the garden. Flying foxes and birds, for example, feast on nectar in trees, but insect pollinators work closer to the ground. Some suggestions include flowering blossom trees (such as cherry and pear), buddleja, grevillea, callistemon, citrus, banksia, melaleuca and eucalyptus.

As well as providing nectar, pollinators also need access to fresh water and shelter. Always offer fresh water sources in your garden. These are especially important in hot weather and when the weather is dry. Cater for insects by adding small rocks or sticks in the water bowl so that pollinators can access the water safely. Regularly clean and replenish water bowls.

The garden also needs to be a safe place for insect visitors, so be judicious with your use of chemical pesticides. Choose pollinator-friendly options, apply during times such as late in the day when pollinators are less active and only apply what you need, where you need it – avoiding overspray.