Simple Steps. Big Impact.


Fall Bulb Prep and Planting for Early Pollinators

As part of deepening our understanding of the interconnectedness of everything, Advanced Master Gardener, Darlene Arnett gives us tips for how to plan, prep, and plant your fall bulbs with nature – bees and butterflies that emerge early in the spring  – in mind!

Want the full scoop?  Watch this 26 minute video – or skip to 18:40 to jump to the section on beneficial plants for early emerging pollinators.

Here’s the text starting at 18:40:

Plant Bulbs for Bees and Butterflies

 Bees need the protein-rich nectar and pollen from flower bulbs, especially the early-bloomers.

 Bulbs provide some of the first food after a long winter.

 Bees and other pollinators are essential to helping to support the world’s food supply.

 Choose unhybridized species because they retain the pollen and nectar that bees need.

 By planting the right bulbs, home gardeners can attract pollinators to their gardens in early spring and throughout summer.

 Plant large areas of bulbs to create smaller distance for them to travel for pollen. For instance, plant bulbs like crocus, in large swaths on the lawn to create a naturalistic setting, and a bee playground.

These common bulbs offer pollinators a variety of food in early and late spring.

Bluebells in woods
Bluebells in woods

Anemone blanda
Foxtail Lily
Fritillaria (meleagris)
Glory of the Snow
Peonies (single)
Star of Bethlehem
Tulipa sylvestris (heirloom)
Winter Aconite



Bulbs for Pollinators

 Bees are attracted to blue and purple flowers as well as yellow and orange.

 Choose unhybridized species because they retain the pollen and nectar.

 The combination of Snowdrops, Grape Hyacinth, Chequered lily, Winter Buttercup, Glory of the Snow and Crocus will be effective in offering bees a variety of food in early spring.

Native Bulbs for Native Insects

Eastern Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)
Eastern Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

 Spring Beauties – Perennial, 3-6”, with white/pink petals. Forms loose colonies of plants.

 Virginia Bluebells –Perennial with blue trumpet shaped buds and 1 to 2’ tall. Will colonize in moist, shady areas.

 Trout Lily – A 4-5” yellow bell shaped perennial that will spread. They have their own pollinator, the trout lily bee.

Native Ground Covers for Early Pollinators

Roundleaf Groundsel (packera obovata)
Roundleaf Groundsel (packera obovata)

 Pussytoes – Silvery foliage that’s close to the ground. Will tolerate a dry area and medium sun. Flower resembles a cats paw.

 Common Blue Violet – Low growing flowers in moist shady areas. Needs bees for pollination and has its own special bee. Host for several species of Fritillary butterflies!!

 Wild Strawberry – Works as a green dense mulch. Berries are edible! Will do best in sunny areas.

 Roundleaf Groundsel (packera obovata) – Early 10-14” yellow blooms draw lots of bees. Stays green through winter and will survive in sun or shade.


Sweat Bee
Sweat Bee

Early Spring Bee Pollinators

 Mining Bees – Ground nesting, 500 species, important fruit pollinator

 Sweat Bees – Ground nesting, 15 species, visit many plants, prefer aster

 Cuckoo Bees – Lays eggs in ground nests of other bees, 72 species

 Carpenter Bees (Small) – Nest in cavities of plants stems, 27 species

 Mason Bees – Nest in cavities above or below ground, 142 species, tree fruit

It’s a simple step to ask yourself, “Is there something else I can include in my fall planting for that pop of early spring color to also benefit nature?”

Comment on this EnviroTip article

So, we’d love to hear how you’re doing with the suggestions in this EnviroTip!

Please comment below and let us know what works for you and what you tried that wasn’t so successful.


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Darlene Arnett

Darlene Arnett has been a Missouri Master Gardener since 2012 and has obtained the Advanced Master Gardener certification. She loves veggie gardens and native plants of all kinds and wants to continue to educate herself and others about the intricate and interesting interactions of humans and the environment.  She loves passing on her knowledge and experience to others - even her mistakes!