San Francisco Environment Department

Safely Care for Plants and Pollinators

Anise Swallowtail with Alyssum flowers. Photo by Peter Alexander

Many pesticides can harm bees, birds, and butterflies. You probably don’t need pesticides to keep a garden healthy. If you do plan to use pesticides, use pollinator-safe products. 

Do I need to use pesticides to solve this garden challenge? 

No, not usually. To safely resolve your pest challenges, ask a Master Gardener by calling (650) 276-7430, Mondays and Thursdays 9am-4pm. Volunteer Master Gardeners who staff the telephone help line are certified community volunteers that provide free, one-on-one advice, assisting home gardeners with questions about gardening and pest management. 

If you choose to use garden products, find nurseries and hardware stores selling pollinator-safe products. When you are at the store, check a product for the Our Water, Our World logo. Avoid combination fertilizer-pesticide products, which add chemicals to your garden that you may not need. 

Where can I get professional landscaping support? 

Bay-Friendly landscaping professionals use a sustainable approach to create healthy, drought-resistant landscapes. You can use the San Francisco Plant Finder and these nurseries as great resources for building pollinator habitat in the urban environment. Native plants require no pesticides to thrive in your garden.


Flowering Maple (Abutilon). Photo by Peter Alexander

Gardening Tips

Seeking Perfection? 
Plants don’t need to be perfect. They can take some insect damage and be just fine.

Observe & Interact
Enjoy and observe your garden often, so you can catch problems early. 

In Moderation
Water and fertilize just enough. Minimize impermeable surfaces.

Mulch! Compost!
To suppress weeds and reduce waste and your watering needs, apply 2”- 6” of coarse mulch. Keep your soil healthy by using compost in your garden.

Weeds or Dinner? 
Not all weeds are invasive. Some of the plants that you call weeds, a pollinator calls dinner!


Related Content

General Resources

Pests & Pesticides

Gardening Tips




yarrow and swallowtail butterflies




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