Leaving Stems Provides Habitat for as Long as You’re Willing to Leave Them

Broken stems like this one create nice little homes for overwintering bees, insects, and even spiders.  You want to leave your dead flower stems intact in winter, then in spring, cut the stems, leaving stalks one to two feet tall, dropping the tops or bundling them for the brush pile.  Emerging adults will begin to lay eggs on pollen balls in these cut stems in spring, then new adults emerge from same stalks in summer.  A lot of people talk about leaving the stems for the winter, but it is equally important to leave them cut to varying heights during spring and summer—they are nesting sites and nurseries for cavity nesting bees! 

Plant native species that hold on to berries for overwintering birds, like photo two, which shows a berry still intact on Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana). Other native species with fruit this time of year are snowberry, false lily of the valley, kinnikinnik, Oregon grape, chokecherry, and Madrone, just to name a few. 

Leaving the leaves is also a significant step you can take in providing habitat and resources for overwintering butterflies, moths, and other insects, not to mention they protect your plants, reduce weed germination, and give your soil back exactly what it needs for another spring season. 

Wishing each of you rest and peace during the coming week and time with family and/or friends as you create new memories together. ✨

Resource: Nesting & overwintering habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects. Xerces. (2020). https://xerces.org/sites/default/files/publications/18-014.pdf