Pollinator Gardening

A butterfly on milkweed in a pollinator garden Pollinator Gardens Provide Food and Habitat for Bees, Butterflies and More

Municipal landscaping traditionally involves maintaining vegetation on medians and along roadways, pruning trees in rights-of-way and planting trees and shrubs at city-owned buildings and city-built project sites. 

But City of Charlotte Landscape Management has quietly ventured into something new: pollinator gardens. It all started in 2017 when a city staff member at Old City Hall approached Landscape Management about installing a natural area containing specific nectar and pollen-producing plants that attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. 

Since then, Landscape Management has installed numerous pollinator gardens throughout the city and inspired other departments -- such as CATS and Aviation -- to do the same. These gardens are popping up everywhere, from the Third Ward neighborhood and Elmwood Cemetery to LYNX Blue Line stations. 

"Pollinator gardens don't look as manicured or formal as traditional landscaped areas, but they serve an important purpose by restoring habitat for pollinators that are threatened by habitat loss, non-native species, climate change and various pesticides used in traditional landscapes," said Vicky Aguilar, Assistant City Arborist. "The communities where we have installed them are very supportive. We're going to install as many as we can. The more we do, the better we get at it."

"These gardens are a welcome addition to Landscape Management's portfolio, and they help toward meeting the city's sustainability goals," said Erin Oliverio, division manager for Landscape Management. "We want to encourage as many departments as we can to include them in their landscaping operations."

Tips to Plant Your Own Pollinator Garden

The best time to plant your pollinator garden is in the fall, but early spring is OK as long the plants have enough time to get established before summer heat arrives. 

Best Pollinator Plants for Beginners

  • Echinacea (coneflower)

  • Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan)

  • Coreopsis

  • Monarda (bee balm)

  • Asclepias (butterfly weed and milkweed)

  • Liatris

The North Carolina Butterfly Highway Program sells seed packets that contain up to seven native pollinators.