Planting for Pollinators
Did you know that Council Bluffs is a Bee City USA?
Our indigenous plants have grown in the Loess Hills of western Iowa for tens of thousands of years. They have adapted to our unique environmental conditions and have co-evolved with our native insects. As a result, over 90% of insects are "specialists,” and can only feed and lay eggs on a limited number of local, native plants with which they share an evolutionary history.
Native plants and flowers are typically hardier than non-native species. Once established, the right native plant in the right location requires no watering, no fertilizer, and no pest control, resulting in healthier green spaces for pets and people as well as healthier soils, rivers, and streams. Native plants do not just beautify neighborhoods, they add rich biodiversity to the urban habitat, improving human connection with landscape and wildlife.
Resources for Planting Native
You can use the tips and resources on this page to plant your own pollinator garden with plants native to Council Bluffs!
Step One: Plan Your Pollinator Garden
- Select a location for your garden such as a container, raised bed, or within an existing landscape bed.
- Take note of sun, soil type, drainage, and soil moisture.
- Design your garden with the right plant in the right place. Don’t just toss a bag of seeds and hope for the best.
- Use our Recommended Native Plant Guide for Council Bluffs Pollinator Gardens
- Use Our Native Tree and Shrub List for Council Bluffs
- Map out your garden. Be sure to include all existing plants.
- Plan for the mature size of your plants.
- Create a focal point with a taller plant or a water feature such as a birdbath or a fountain.
- Create a visual impact by planting in odd-numbered groups with a minimum of three of each plant.
- Choose three to five species that repeat throughout the space.
- Plant a mixture of foliage textures and leaf shapes.
- The maximum plant height should be half the width of your garden site.
- Choose plants so you have blooms (nectar sources for bees and butterflies) from early spring to late fall.
- Frame your garden with a clean edge so the landscape has intention.
- Consider the time and money you have available for planting and garden maintenance. Your garden doesn’t need to be complete all at once. You can add to a space incrementally as time and budget allows.
- 70% of our native bees are ground-nesting single mothers who cannot dig through mulch. A more beneficial alternative to mulching every spring is to space plants close together and incorporate a mix of shorter “ground cover” native grasses and flowers. This approach has a similar effect of shielding the soil from the drying sun and crowding out weeds and is less expensive in the long run. Some mulch in the first year is fine, but no need to reapply every year.
Step 2: Plant your Pollinator Garden
- Remove turf grass via sod-cutting, solarization, and smothering with newspaper or cardboard.
- Remove exotics, invasives, and noxious weeds. Refer to Iowa Code Chapter 317.
- Plant densely with plants that have not been treated with any kind of chemical insecticide or fertilizer. Xerces report on Neonicotinoids.
- Remember to add plant markers so you know what is in your garden (and what should not be).
Step 3: Maintain your Pollinator Garden
- New native plantings need regular watering, at least for the first one to two years, until established.
- Disturbing your soil invites weed seeds already in the soil to grow. Cut weeds at their base instead of pulling them.
- Be prepared. Some plants will die. Make note of species that do well and those that don’t.
- When blooms are done, leave the seed heads for birds to eat. Seed heads also provide winter interest!
- Cut back stems to no lower than 15” from the ground. Old plant stems provide nesting and hibernation space for native bees.
- Leave the leaves! Leaf litter provides shelter for overwintering butterflies and other beneficial insects.
- Share your seeds with our Prairie Rose Seed Library
- Be Patient. Native plants take time. Remember “first year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap!”
Please review the City of Council Bluffs Municipal Code Chapter 4.19 Weed Nuisances. Purposefully planted gardens that include pollinators, native plants, flowers, ornamental grasses, and native grasses can grow taller than 18 inches as long as they are maintained free from weeds.