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Want to help pollinators? Try these annuals and native grasses

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, University of Minnesota Extension, office 612-626-4077, mobile 651-492-0811,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (5/24/2017)— Minnesotans eager to help pollinators now can turn to research at the University of Minnesota Extension, which looked at which annual flowers likeliest to attract bees, butterflies, moths and other insects.

Zinnias topped the list of 24 varieties Extension Master Gardeners studied for eight weeks in 2016.

“As horticulturists, we want to find out which annual flowers attract pollinators. This will give gardeners some new ideas for using annuals to benefit these important insects,” said Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator.

“Pop Art Red and White” and “Envy” zinnias were the top-ranked pollinator destination. Also appealing to pollinators: “Coral Nymph” salvias and “Irish Eyes” rudbeckia (sometimes called coneflower).
Honeybee on zinnia flower

Nearly 100 volunteers were trained by Extension educators and started seeds on their own as part of the 35th annual Master Gardener Seed Trial. The volunteers tracked activity among the flowers for an hour twice a week, counting the pollinators landing on the flowers as well as weather conditions. The study began in 2015 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum; it will continue this year with an expanded plant list and new urban locations.

To learn more, visit

Native grasses offer more help for pollinators

Native grasses are attractive, low-maintenance additions to the landscape that also benefit pollinators.

Extension horticulturist Mary Meyer has studied native grasses for nearly 30 years. She recommended little bluestem, big bluestem, blue grama, switch grass, side-oats grama, lake sedge and prairie dropseed as larval food for native skipper butterflies.

“The decline of native grasses caused the loss of habitat for many grassland butterflies and moths,” Meyer said.

Native grasses need little, if any, watering once they’re established and require no fertilizer. As they establish, they help minimize erosion and increase organic matter, creating better soil conditions.

For more information on native grasses visit


For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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