Planting for pollinator health is on every gardener’s mind these days. Zinnia Profusion Orange flower1

While there’s lots of research on how native plants help pollinators, there’s not much on the interaction of pollinators and annual flowers.  Many people want to do their part, but may only have space for annual plantings. There are conflicting references to the value of annual flowers as pollinator-friendly plants, so this year, the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener seed trials will focus on a study of annual flowers for pollinator attraction. Pollinators are attracted to such plant features as flower form, color, size, and pattern. So what annual flowers DO attract pollinators? We want to find out!

Participants in this study will count pollinators on selected varieties of six annual flowers (Salvia, Zinnia, annual Rudbeckia, sunflowers, marigolds and snapdragons) to help determine recommendations for home gardeners interested in growing annuals that support pollinators. Pollinator identification training and Extension educator support will be provided throughout the study (June – August). Involved Master Gardeners will improve their proficiency in identifying pollinators, be able to speak knowledgeably about annual flowers that attract pollinators, and hone their observation skills. The results of the study will be used for new educational materials for use by Extension Master Gardeners in 2017.