How to build a pollinator garden in Asheville, NC

Photo courtesy of Asheville GreenWorks

DYK that Asheville is the original Bee City? This special namesake means that the Asheville area is a certified safe haven for a wide variety of local pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, moths + butterflies. The name comes from the efforts of local pollinator advocate Phyllis Stiles, who launched the designation (and corollary nonprofit) Bee City USA in 2012 as a way to promote the concept of pollinator gardens

For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, a pollinator garden is a special habitat that provides food + habitat for pollinators to help offset the rapid decline these species have faced over the last 30 years. In the last decade, the popularity of pollinator protection has soared, with 248 cities and college campuses across 43 states following Asheville’s lead to adopt the program and become certified Bee City affiliates.

Photo courtesy of Asheville GreenWorks

With all this newfound interest, the knowledge base of pollinator ecology has grown considerably — so much so that Asheville GreenWorks and Bee City USA teamed up to create a brand-new recommendation list with updated info on plants that are native to WNC and function as food sources + nesting habitats for pollinators. In total, it includes 284 wildflowers, shrubs, trees, vines, grasses + sedges. The guide also includes the bloom schedule of each plant and which local suppliers keep them in stock. 

And if you really want to nerd out, you can also read through the list’s “Value to Pollinator” column to learn about the relationship between the plant + pollinators. For instance, I (Laura here) learned that the wild strawberry can host up to 69 species of butterflies and moths, while the Eastern Blue Star + Scaly Blazingstar are more likely to attract bees and hummingbirds. 

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s a great resource for anyone looking to upgrade their pollinator garden or start one for the first time. Plus, because it only features native plants, all items from the list will have a hugely positive impact on the local pollinator ecosystem versus  other popular non-native + invasive pollinators, such as the Japanese knotweed.

Interested, but not sure where to start? We recommend reading through the guide + picking 1-3 plants from a recommended local supplier (on pages 2-3) to get started. Asheville GreenWorks also offers the Pollinator Garden Certification program to anyone in WNC interested in taking their setup to the next level.