Applications are now closed. Thank you to everyone that submitted a proposal!

Program Overview

Through its new PollinateTO grants program, the City will fund pollinator habitat creation projects that educate and engage the community.

Up to $5,000 per project is available.

Are you interested in gardening and protecting pollinators? Would you like to:

  • Create pollinator gardens or rain gardens in your neighbourhood or at your school?
  • Enhance or expand existing gardens with native pollinator-friendly plants?

If you answered yes to any of the above, please apply to PollinateTO for funding to support your idea!

PollinateTO advances the principles and priorities of the City’s Pollinator Protection Strategy.


Watch the video below for inspiration!

Why are pollinators important?

Pollination is what allows plants to produce seeds, fruits, and new plants. In addition to being essential for food production, pollinators contribute to biodiversity and our natural landscape.

How can we help Toronto’s pollinators?

Toronto is home to over 360 species of native bees and 112 species of butterflies. Pollinators are in decline due to habitat loss, climate change and other stressors.

Habitat creation is key to supporting Toronto’s pollinators as it provides food and places to nest, reproduce, and overwinter in our city.

What is pollinator habitat?

Pollinator habitat includes the following:

  • food sources – such as pollen and nectar from flowers
  • nesting and overwintering sites – such as bare soil, hollow stems, and leaves
  • larval host plants – such as milkweed

Ideal pollinator habitat features native plants that are locally-grown and pesticide-free.

This program is open to all non-profit groups located in the city of Toronto. To be eligible for funding, a group must have at least three Toronto residents that live in separate households.

Funding is not available for individuals or businesses.

Eligible applicants

  • resident, tenant and neighbourhood groups
  • community groups and organizations
  • school groups, clubs and parent councils
  • business improvement areas (BIAs)
  • faith/church groups
  • indigenous groups
  • registered charitable organizations and not-for-profit organizations that operate in Toronto
  • not-for-profit organizations with offices outside of Toronto are eligible to apply for the grant if the proposed habitat project is located within the city of Toronto.

Ineligible applicants

  • individuals (must be part of a group with at least three members)
  • for-profit businesses
  • building and property managers
  • grant making organizations
  • organizations allied with political parties

The program supports projects that create pollinator habitat in Toronto. Projects must also educate and engage the community.

Eligible projects

Examples of eligible projects include:

  • community-led pollinator gardens or rain gardens on private or public land
  • neighbourhood-based habitat projects, such as the creation of multiple pollinator gardens on the same street that together create a pollinator pathway/habitat corridor
  • pollinator gardens or rain gardens on school grounds

Each habitat creation project must include an educational component (e.g. signage, plant labels, etc) and involve the community (planting days, garden tours, etc).

Ineligible projects

Examples of projects the City will NOT fund include:

  • projects that are already partly or fully complete before funding is approved
  • projects that are not visible to the public, such as private backyard gardens
  • garden maintenance – your group must be willing to maintain the garden and have a plan for maintenance
  • gardens used for the sole purpose of urban agriculture
  • container gardens with a closed bottom (the bottom of the container must be open to the ground)
  • beekeeping activities, education or promotion
  • temporary projects not intended to last beyond one growing season
  • rooftop gardens – if you are interested in greening your roof space, the City offers green roof grants via the Eco-Roof Incentive Program.

If you are unsure if your idea is eligible, please contact the PollinateTO Program Manager at

Projects must:

  • be physically located in the city of Toronto
  • directly result in the creation of pollinator habitat
  • include an educational component to inform others about pollinator stewardship
  • involve the community in some way
  • be visible to the community
  • commence within a reasonable time after funding is approved
  • be completed within one year of the date funding is approved
  • acknowledge the financial assistance provided by the City of Toronto

Pollinator habitat requirements:

  • must contain a minimum of twelve plants
  • at least 75 per cent of plants must be native species
  • at least two different types of larval host plants must be used, one of which must be milkweed
  • plants must provide continuous bloom:
    • at least 2 species that bloom in the spring
    • at least 2 species that bloom in the summer
    • at least 2 species that bloom in the fall
  • no invasive plant species may be used
  • must select plants based on site conditions (e.g. full sun, partial sun, shade)
  • must have ongoing maintenance (watering, weeding, etc)

Supporting documents required:

The following documents are required to evaluate your project:

  1. Letter from property owner(s) giving permission to use the land
  2. Photograph of the proposed project site(s)
  3. Garden plan – a drawing of the proposed garden(s), including location on the property, with measurements in square metres
  4. Plant list – showing proposed species and number of plants
  5. Maintenance plan – a description of how the garden(s) will be cared for and who is responsible for the long term success of the project.


Applications open March 1, 2019
Application deadline May 1, 2019 at 5 pm
Review committee meets May 2019
Applicants notified June 2019
Successful applicants receive partial funding June/July 2019
Projects delivered June 2019 to July 2020

(projects must be completed within one year from date of approval)

Completed projects receive remaining funding Within 60 days of proof of completion


Please note: Timelines are subject to change

Please review the steps below before applying online.

Step 1: Form your group & plan your project

Create your own group or join one that is already established. To be eligible, groups must include at least three Toronto residents that live in separate households. Select a group leader to be the main contact.

Decide what you want to do and how you will do it.

Choose a location that is open/visible to the public. Get permission from the property owner(s).

Put together an estimated budget of $1,000 to $5,000. See the Eligible Project Costs section for guidance.

Approved projects must be completed within one year after the funding is awarded.

Step 2: Get support

Partner with others who can support your idea and/or have experience creating pollinator habitat or working in your community.

Get approval from the property owner(s) of the land where you want to plant.

If your project involves a City park, please ensure you have the support of the Park Supervisor before applying. Call 311 to connect.

Step 3: Complete the online application

You must apply using the online application form by May 1. The Group Lead completes the application form. Please wait to receive funding approval before you begin your project.

If you would like to see a copy of the full application before applying online please request a copy by emailing

Step 4: Provide supporting documentation

The following documents are required to evaluate your project:

  1. Letter from property owner(s) giving permission to use the land
  2. Photograph of the proposed project site(s)
  3. Garden plan – a drawing of the proposed garden(s), including location on the property, with measurements in square metres
  4. Plant list – showing proposed species and number of plants
  5. Maintenance plan – a description of how the garden(s) will be cared for and who is responsible for the long term success of the project.

To submit these documents, or any others, please upload them with your application form or email them to

Step 5: Application review

City staff will review your application to ensure eligibility requirements are met. An email confirming the application has been received will be sent.

Applications must be complete and received by the deadline to be eligible. A Review Committee will evaluate all eligible proposals.

Step 6: Project approval

Successful applicants will receive an approval letter and funding offer. If the funding offer is accepted, successful applicants will enter into a funding agreement with the City of Toronto.

Step 7: Funding issued

Most (approximately 80 per cent) of the funding will be provided in advance to get you started. The remaining (approximately 20 per cent) will be provided upon proof of completion.

Step 8: Start your project

As your project progresses, please notify the PollinateTO Program Manager about any events or milestones (such as groundbreaking, workshops, planting events, art installations, garden tours, etc.) so that we can help support and promote your project. We may also like to attend!

Grant recipients must acknowledge the financial assistance provided by the City of Toronto in program materials, communications and signage, including any promotional materials used in project activities.

Step 9: Submit proof of completion

Your project must be completed within one year from receiving the funding.

Please notify the PollinateTO Program Manager when your project is complete. A site visit may be requested.

Your group will be responsible for submitting the following:

  • Impact report: Please include photos of your completed project including media clippings, testimonials or other items to show the impact of your project and evidence of completion. A template will be provided.
  • Expense summary: Report the actual costs of your project with supporting receipts and invoices. A template will be provided
  • Video: Please send a short video (one to two minutes) of your completed project and tell us what you accomplished. We’ll post your video online to share your story and inspire others.

Here are some things to consider before submitting your application.

  1. Who owns the property? Has your group obtained permission to plant?
  2. What is the proposed size of the garden?
  3. What plants are you using?
  4. When is the planting happening? Who is doing the planting?
  5. Will the garden be accessible to the public? Will the garden be accessible to people with disabilities/limited mobility?
  6. For school gardens – has the school/teachers/parents approached you requesting the project, or will you be reaching out to them with your idea?
  7. How will you notify the community about your project? For school gardens – how will your project engage teachers and students at the school, but also the larger community nearby?
  8. What is the maintenance plan for the garden? For school gardens, how will the garden be maintained over the summer months?
  9. What are your measures of success?
  10. Do you have community partners supporting your idea?
  11. How will you educate and engage the community? Some ideas you might consider:
    • offering demonstrations, workshops, or garden tours
    • installing informative signage, plant labels or interpretive art
    • inviting the community to participate in planting, maintenance, and celebratory activities
    • engaging users of the green space (youth, teachers, seniors, families and others) to participate in planning, implementing and/or maintaining your project
    • developing an online tool, webinar or instructional video
    • creating toolkits, how-to guides, lesson plans, and/or teaching activities
    • collecting seeds, sharing plants and/or helping others start their own garden
    • participating in citizen science projects and community research
  12. Have you prepared supporting documents? The following information must be submitted with your application:
    • Letter from property owner(s) giving permission to use the land
    • Photograph of the proposed project site(s)
    • Garden plan – a drawing of the proposed garden(s), including location on the property, with measurements in square metres
    • Plant list – showing proposed species and number of plants
    • Maintenance plan – a description of how the garden(s) will be cared for and who is responsible for the long term success of the project.

Funding can only be used for the direct delivery of the proposed project.

What the City will fund

Examples of fundable budget line items:

  • plant material, soil and tools
  • project materials and art supplies
  • equipment rentals
  • permit fees, space rental, liability insurance for your event/activity
  • volunteer recognition, volunteer food expenses
  • food and refreshments for participants during planting activity (no bottled water)
  • training and workshop expenses, including honorarium for speakers/facilitators
  • communications and promotion (e.g. flyers, posters, printing)
  • public transportation costs for project participants
  • interpretation and translation fees
  • labour costs to prepare the area and plant the garden, if required
  • consultant fees such as a landscape designer, rain garden expert, etc (up to 10% of the grant amount)
  • other expenses on a case-by-case basis

What the City will not fund

Examples of budget line items that are not fundable:

  • costs associated with the regular operation of your organization, current programs and services such as office rental, utilities, computer equipment, phones, fax, internet, accounting services, insurance, etc.
  • salaries and hourly wages for staff, group members
  • mass market advertising campaigns
  • costs to maintain activities beyond the funding term, ongoing garden maintenance
  • award ceremonies, banquets, receptions,  annual general meetings, sport tournaments
  • religious activities/services, political activities, fundraising events, donations to charitable causes, lobbying or advocacy on behalf of for-profit entities
  • alcohol
  • bottled water
  • land acquisition, lease or rental
  • purchase or rental of media equipment (computers, laptops, or software)
  • purchase or rental of vehicles, personal vehicle expenses and parking
  • postage and shipping costs
  • disbursement of funds to provide additional grants to other parties
  • conference registration and travel fees
  • TTC monthly passes
  • reserve funds, debt repayment, deficit funding, capital costs (i.e. building repairs, renovations, water service, etc)
  • activities that extend beyond Toronto’s borders

A Review Committee will review applications and recommend funding using the following process:

  1. Applications will be reviewed by City staff to ensure that your group and project are eligible.
  2. Complete applications that meet the eligibility requirements will be evaluated by a Review Committee comprised of representatives of various City of Toronto divisions. The review is a detailed evaluation of the proposals, including identification of irregularities and/or missing information as well as the feasibility of the proposed project.
  3. The Review Committee will make funding recommendations to the Director, Environment and Energy Division based on their assessment of the following elements of each application:
    1. organizational history and track record
    2. proposal’s ability to meet the goals and objectives of the program
    3. organizational readiness to undertake the proposed work
    4. likelihood of generating measurable results and likelihood of success;
    5. long-term sustainability of the project
    6. use of strategies and tools to engage and educate the community, including new audiences who have not been targeted by previous initiatives.

Your group should consider the following best practices when designing pollinator habitat and education initiatives.

Please note: These are best practices only – not mandatory project requirements. See the Project Requirements section for what elements are mandatory.

Best practices for creating pollinator habitat

Use this checklist to help you create or enhance pollinator-friendly habitat in your community.

1.    Provide food sources

Plant native: Choose native plants, trees and shrubs rich in pollen and nectar. Locally grown and pesticide free are best.

  • At least 75% of plants are native species
  • If using non-native plants, invasive species are to be avoided

Plant host plants: Butterflies lay their eggs on specific plants. Monarch butterflies, for example, will only lay their eggs on milkweed, the sole food source for their larva.

  • Incorporate at least 2 different types of larval host plants
  • At least one species of native milkweed is to be included

Provide continuous bloom: Pollinators need a continuous source of pollen and nectar so select a variety of plants that will bloom from spring to fall.

  • At least 2 different plants that bloom in spring
  • At least 2 different plants that bloom in summer
  • At least 2 different plants that bloom in fall

Mass plantings: Planting multiples of the same plant together in large groupings makes it easier for pollinators to find and collect pollen.

  • Plants are planted in groups of 3 or more (at least 3 plants per species)

Plant single bloom varieties: The petals of double or triple bloom varieties can block access to pollen and nectar.

  • Single bloom varieties only

2. Provide nesting sites

Bare ground: Many native bees build nests in soil, so leave some bare patches and limit your use of mulch.

  • Bare patches of soil
  • Limited use of mulch – if you must use mulch only use at base of plant with areas of open soil provided

Dead wood: Large branches and decaying logs can be kept in a sunny spot to provide additional shelter, resting sites for birds and nesting locations for bees and other wildlife.

  • Dead branches or logs are incorporated in garden

Dead stems: Some bees hibernate and lay eggs in hollow stems. Bundles of sticks and stems that are put out for yard waste collection too early in spring will often contain overwintering bees.

  • Bottom 8 inches of dead stems are left in place
  • Cut stems are bundled and left in garden.

Leaves: Leave the leaves where they fall or rake them into your garden to provide overwintering habitat for butterflies. Leaves can be removed in late spring, after overwintering adult butterflies are gone, or left in the garden to decompose.

  • Leaves are raked into garden in the fall

Avoid tilling: Keep large patches of land unmown and untilled to provide secure and undisturbed nesting sites for ground-nesting bees.

  • Ground is not tilled

3. Provide water

Offer a drink: A birdbath or shallow dish of water with half submerged rocks will help bees and butterflies quench their thirst.

  • Water source provided or nearby (does not have to be directly in the garden)

4. Provide sun

Create sunny spots: Butterflies like to bask in the sun, so place a few flat rocks in sunny, sheltered locations.

  • Flat rocks in sunny spots provided

5. Provide a chemical free zone

Avoid pesticides: Don’t spray pesticides or insecticides, especially neonicotinoids. Toronto has a Pesticide Bylaw that bans the cosmetic use of pesticides.

  • Pesticides will not be used on site (during installation or on-going maintenance)

6. Be mindful about maintenance

Prevent the spread of invasive plants: Monitor your garden for invasive plants and remove them when detected. For example, the invasive dog-strangling vine has a negative impact on Monarchs – female butterflies mistakenly lay their eggs on it since it’s in the milkweed family, instead of native milkweeds, causing their larvae to starve.

  • Invasive species are removed when detected

Plant material is replaced as required: Monitor garden regularly for struggling or dead plants and replace accordingly in order to ensure healthy plant diversity.

  • Plant material that does not survive is replaced as required.

7. Spread the word

Tell your friends and neighbours: Help spread the word about what pollinators need by sharing your experience with others. Let them know how they can create or enhance pollinator habitat on their property.

  • Each project participant shares with one other person

Offer tours of your garden: Inspire others to create pollinator gardens by showcasing yours. Identify plants and offer tips for success.

  • Annual garden tour offered (upon request)

Install signage provided: Identify your garden as pollinator-friendly by installing the signage provided by the City of Toronto’s Live Green Toronto program upon completion of your garden.

  • Signage installed

Best practices for pollinator education

Educational messaging should align with the guiding principles and priorities of the City’s Pollinator Protection Strategy. The following are best practices for designing a pollinator educational initiative funded by the PollinateTO Program.

1. Incorporate the following key messages:

  • Toronto is home to a wide range of pollinators, including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and birds.
  • Threats to Toronto’s pollinators include forage habitat loss, loss of larval host plants, nesting habitat loss, overwintering habitat loss, pesticides, introduced and invasive species (including honey bees), diseases/pests, and climate change.
  • Habitat loss is the greatest threat to pollinators. Habitat protection, creation and enhancement is key to supporting Toronto’s pollinators.

2. Raise awareness about the differences between native bees and non-native honey bees

  • Toronto’s diverse bee community consists of over 360 species of native bees and one species of managed bee, the European Honey Bee, which is not native to North America.
  • Native bees are primarily solitary, don’t make honey, live underground or cavities, come in a wide range of colours and sizes
  • Honey bees are not native to North America, managed by beekeepers, and they can be re-established when beekeepers experience a loss.
  • Native bee species are more threatened than honey bees
  • Mention that Toronto has an Official BeeAgapostemon virescens

3. Discuss alternatives to beekeeping

  • Many well-meaning individuals may wish to pursue hobby beekeeping in the belief that this is how they can help pollinators. Adding more honey bee colonies to the city without the habitat to support them, adds to the problem.
  • Evidence suggests that native bees may be negatively impacted by urban beekeeping activities. Studies have shown that honey bees may act as an additional stressor on native bees, due to competition for food and the spread of diseases and pests. One honey bee colony can potentially out-compete thousands of native bees for food.
  • Establishing a pollinator garden, or adding pollinator-friendly plants to an existing garden is a much more significant way to help pollinators, including honey bees.

4. How can we help? Pollinators need:

  • Foraging resources – native flowering plants rich in pollen and nectar
  • Larval host plants – butterflies can only lay their eggs on specific plants (eg. monarch and milkweed)
  • Places to nest and overwinter – bare sandy soil, hollow stems, dead wood, leaf litter, etc
  • A chemical free environment – insecticides (especially neonicotinoids) are the most harmful. Toronto’s Pesticide Ban has been in place since 2003.

5. Acknowledge funding support from the City of Toronto