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Wildlife garden: Top 10 plants to attract bees and other pollinators

Our gardens are home to a huge range of living creatures, and they play a very important role pollinating our plants.

Unfortunately, their numbers are dropping around the world, thanks to a pesticide use and a loss of their natural habitats.

But insect activity is great for the whole garden ecosystem. If you help them, they will help you!

The easy way to attract more beneficial wildlife to come and explore your garden is to grow pollen and nectar-rich plants that they love. Aim to have their favourite varieties blooming from early spring to late autumn to keep them happy.

Here are my top 10 plants for pollinators. And why not read my guide to creating insect hotels?

1 Lavender

This is a great all-rounder. It’s hardy, it smells lovely and it looks great all year round. Bees and butterflies in particular love it. It’s also a perfect for cutting and drying. Plant it along a pathway so it releases its scent as you walk by. And prune well after flowering for the best display the following year.

2 Dahlia

The single or semi-double flowered varieties are best. Double flowers are often bred without pollen-producing parts. Others have too many petals, making it difficult for bees to find the bounty. But simple dahlias are hardy and low-maintenance plants for pollinators.

3 Wallflower

These are like small shrubs, and flower during spring and summer. Many varieties have strong scents that make them perfect for edging pathways too. Most are biennial, meaning that you can refresh your display every two years.

4 Borage

Also known as starflower, this is actually a Mediterranean herb. It has lovely star-shaped blue flowers that pollinating insects love. It has lovely soft green foliage and self-seeds, so it’s low-maintenance.

5 Foxgloves

These are a quintessential British cottage garden plant. They have bell-shaped flowers that are popular with bees, and come in a wide range of colours. They are also special for being one of the few flowering plants that grow happily in shady spots.

6 Cosmos

These are very long-flowering, giving blooms from June until late autumn. Deadhead the plants and they will keep on giving. There are loads of different styles and colours, and some have great scents too. I love the chocolate cosmos!

7 Scabious

Scabious plants have feathery blooms, usually in a pale lavender or cream colour. They are full of nectar, and insects including moths and butterflies love them. They look great in any bed. Cut stems back after flowering and they will carry on producing for months on end.

8 Verbena bonariensis

This is a great tall plant that is much loved by pollinators. It originally comes from Argentina, but it grows well in Britain. It has tall, strong flower heads bearing masses of tiny purple blooms. Cut the stems back after flowering to encourage more to grow.

9 Marigolds

Marigolds are ideal summer bedding plants. They will grow in any soil type, and reward you (and the pollinators) with loads of bright, fiery flowers. Aim to buy varieties with open centres so insects can easily reach the pollen.

10 Marjoram

Better known as oregano, this is another great herb that pollinators love. If left to grow freely, it produces tiny, delicate flowers in a pink or white shade. They have spiky, protruding stamen that offer the pollen freely, making them a great choice for insects.

Once you have these plants in the garden, it’s important not to use any pesticides on them while they are in bloom. And why not make the insects feel even more welcome by building them a home?

Top 10 Flowers to Plant to Help the Bees/Butterflies

For Spring

  1. Wild lilac: These flowering shrubs are easy to grow and come in seven colors. Bees and butterflies love their sweet fragrance.
  2. Calendula: Also known as pot marigold, this flower has a long history of helping others out. Humans have used it to flavor their stews and soups, and bees still enjoy what calendulas have to offer.
  3. Borage: Borage is a critical honey plant and was used by humans as a spice and herb. It does great in the shade and in loose soil.

For Summer

  1. Snapdragons: In the daytime, snapdragons ramp up their scent, releasing four times as much as they normally do. Bees are drawn to the scent and bring it back to the hive. That prompts other bees to seek out snapdragons.
  2. Cosmos: These flowers grow tall, strong and pretty to provide male bees with nectar and females with pollen.
  3. Bee balm: Any flower that has the name “bee” in it must be good for bees, right? That’s certainly the case with bee balm flowers, and they’re easy to grow.
  4. Echinacea: What has a nicely sized landing pad, delicious nectar and pollen, and bee-friendly colors? Yep, echinacea!

For Fall

  1. Goldenrod: One nice thing about goldenrod flowers is that many different kinds of bees use them. Mix species of goldenrod to attract the most diversity, for example, a tall goldenrod behind a shorter one.
  2. Witch hazel: Witch hazel provides a splash of color among otherwise drab and brown landscapes to tell bees, “Hey, we’re here. Come visit!”
  3. Zinnias: These flowers come in many varieties, so you can pick those that match the aesthetics you’re looking for. Bees love the flowers, no matter what they look like, and keep coming back.

Other Things to Do

In addition to planting bee-friendly flowers, other steps you can take include:

  • Avoiding herbicides and pesticides in your garden. They can kill bees and butterflies. The bugs in the area will naturally keep pest numbers where they need to be.
  • Leaving a patch of earth uncultivated: Some bees burrow and nest, and they’d really love it if you left a bit of your garden to them.

Have fun enjoying the beautiful sights in nature!

With potted patio plants, container gardening allows you to enjoy the benefits of a broad range of garden plants even in a small outdoor space.

Container gardens are versatile, attractive and easy to care for, making them excellent additions as patio plants.

In this article, we will discuss a dozen of the top outdoor potted plant picks for creating a container garden that delivers a powerful visual impact.

We will also share tips to help you choose the right containers and set up your garden. Read on to learn more.

Plant Containers Put YOU In Control

With container gardening, you can enjoy flower gardening, vegetable gardening and even growing dwarf versions of trees and shrubs. Imagine the possibilities for topiary plantings!

If you live in a small home with only a balcony, patio or deck you can use this outdoor space for your garden, and your entire garden can grow in containers.

On a large estate, using large outdoor potted plants in container gardening provides a way of softening corners, defining the outdoor space and bringing life into featureless areas.

Theme parks make excellent use of outdoor potted plants in large containers to create impact.

Patio Planter Ideas – Tips For Selecting The Right Pots For Your Container Garden

For the best appearance, choose patio containers all of one type or coordinate using just a couple of different materials. Before you select any patio container, take a good look at your home and garden.

Choose materials and colors that enhance what you already have. For example, if you have a red brick home, terra-cotta containers will be just right!

For greater impact, choose bigger pots. Not only are large plant containers visually appealing, but they make care somewhat easier.

A large outdoor plant container will not dry out quickly and can be treated more like a small garden plot.

Let your choices in containers reflect your personality. In addition to striving to take into account the style of your home, you can also express yourself through your choice of containers and plants.

From perfectly matched, duplicate planters to eclectic mixes of shabby chic your imagination is your only limit in creating an eye-catching and impactful container garden display.

Need Some Ideas For Large Planters? Check these out:

  • Granite Brown 20″ inch planter
  • Large 28″ Charoal Rolled Rim Ancona Planter
  • Talavera Planter Very Attractive!
  • Large Cedar Outdoor Barrel Planter
  • Large 24″ inch Bowl Planter

12 High Impact Container Patio Plants

The right combination of potted plants for patio decor can make all the difference in getting the ultimate in visual effect from an outdoor space. Here are some of the top choices for container gardens that pop on the patio!

#1 – Elephant Ear (Colocasia)

Elephant ears plants are tropical plants boasting large, attractive heart-shaped leaves.

This beautiful plant ranges in shades from green and white variegated to plain green or even a dark and impressive purple/black.

In the wild, Colocasia grows in swamps. This makes Black Magic elephant ears in containers a perfect choice as a landscape feature around ponds in warm climates (USDA Zone 8-11).

In cooler climates, Elephant Ear makes an excellent container plant to be kept outdoors in mild weather and indoors during cold weather.

Alternately, it can do well as a houseplant all year round. If you plan to keep Colocasia as a houseplant, you should be aware that it can grow to be tall outdoor potted plants 3′ – 5′ feet high. You will need to have plenty of space.

It’s best to keep these tropical potted plants in an area receiving bright, indirect light and stays predictably warm (65°-75° degrees Fahrenheit) during the growing season.

Placing a humidifier in the room will help keep the plant happy.

Although Elephant Ear naturally grows in swamps, you must be sure to provide good drainage.

Sitting water stagnates and can cause root rot. Plant Elephant Ear in well-drained, rich soil like this with a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot.

It is also a good idea to place the pot on a layer of pebbles in a plant saucer to help improve humidity while preventing root rot.

During the growing season, fertilize your Elephant Ear bi-weekly with a 20-10-10 plant food diluted by half. When the growing season concludes, stop fertilizing to allow the plant a chance to rest.

During the late autumn and winter, reduce watering, lower lighting and provide less stimulation.

You may want to move your Colocasia to your garage or your basement for winter. It will be fine kept at a steady 45°-55° degrees Fahrenheit throughout the winter.

In the early spring, divide the tubers and repot them.

You are unlikely to ever see flowering with Elephant Ear, but it does occur in plants thriving outdoors. Colocasia flowers are small, yellow/green cones sheathed in green.

Varieties of Easy To Grow Elephant Ear Outdoor Patio Plants:

  • Black Magic is dark burgundy and grows to be 3-5 feet high.
  • Black Stem has green leaves, black stems, and deep burgundy veins.
  • Blue Hawaii a stunner has bluish purple veins
  • Lime Zinger grows quite large at 5-6 feet high. It has chartreuse foliage.
  • Jack’s Giant typically grows to be 5 feet high with deep green leaves.
  • Cranberry Taro grows to be 2-5 feet high and has green foliage and dark stems.
  • Nancy’s Revenge grows to be 2-5 feet high and has dark foliage with cream-colored centers.
  • Chicago Harlequin grows to be 2-5 feet high and has green foliage ranging from light to dark.
  • Illustris is a smaller variety at only 1-3 feet high. It has green leaves with lime green and black markings.

#2 – Coreopsis

This hardy easy to grow wildflower makes a surprisingly good container deck plantings. You may also see this perky little plant referred to as Calliopsis, Tickseed or Pot of Gold.

It also goes by the more scientific names Coreopsis bicolor and Calliopsis tinctoria.

Pot of Gold is an excellent choice for a natural, wild yard or a wildflower garden. This hardy little plant produces attractive flowers in shades of red, pink, orange and yellow. The foliage is light and airy and very nice-looking.

This wildflower does well in soil that has low fertility, and it presents a striking presence in a large container mixed in with other colorful perennials and annuals. Some good choices include Purple Basil and Nasturtiums.

#3 – Flowering New Guinea Impatiens

If the patio area where your container garden will live is a shaded area, one of the best potted plants is the New Guinea impatiens plant!

They do equally well in a shaded outdoor space or indoors as houseplants. With regular deadheading, you can expect abundant blooms far into the autumn months.

When keeping Impatiens indoors, it’s a good idea to use a hanging basket and keep the plant in a bright, window where it will receive indirect sunlight.

Keep your Impatiens warm and protected from direct sunlight and drafts.

Water your potted or container garden Impatiens sparingly. You want the surface of the soil to be moist, but you don’t want it soggy.

Unlike some types of house and container plants, you do not want the surface of the soil to become dry during the spring and summer months.

Indoors, check your Impatiens every day to see if it needs water. Don’t overdo it, though. Soggy soil tends to lead to root rot.

Give your Impatiens a water-soluble fertilizer like this once a week to encourage your plants to begin blooming early in the spring and continue throughout the summer and the autumn months.

Remember to deadhead very frequently to help prevent your Impatiens from becoming leggy and ungainly.

Related Reading:

  • How To Make Hypertufa Pots
  • Plants Around Patios: Bringing Color To A Patio Near You

#4 – Cosmos

Pretty, Daisy-like, colorful Cosmos flower adds a lighthearted touch to container gardening.

These tall, lovely flowers in shades of pink, yellow, orange, red and white do nicely mixed in with a wide variety of plants.

They look especially good combined with plants sporting silver foliage.

It’s very easy to grow cosmos in containers, and you can harvest lots of beautiful flowers for your dry or fresh flower arrangements.

Be careful when selecting cosmos as a potted outdoor plant. Some varieties can grow as high as six feet. You’ll want to look for dwarf varieties or compact varieties such as:

  • Cosmos sulphureus which is available in red, orange and yellow.
  • Cosmos bipinnatus which produces rose toned and pink blooms.

#5 – English ivy (Hedera helix ivalace)

For use as outdoor pot plants there are many applications for Ivy in container gardening. With its shiny, dark green, attractive curled leaves it makes an excellent backdrop for a wide variety of other container plants. It also makes a tremendous impact on its own. The variety known as “ivalace” was Ivy of the Year in 2011

It’s easy to add English ivy to your existing container plantings by taking cuttings and propagating them. This plant does well in a wide variety of settings ranging from full sun exposure to light shade, so it makes an excellent companion plant for many other types of plants.

Personally, I would ONLY GROW English Ivy in containers and NEVER plant English Ivy in the landscape!

Regarding water, it can tolerate some drought. Ideally, it should be kept lightly moist, and like most plants, it should never be waterlogged.

English ivy is fairly pest resistant, but it is subject to fungal diseases if over watered. Fertilize lightly using a diluted (half dose) of your favorite fertilizer.

When working with English ivy, you should understand it is far more tolerant of extremes in weather when planted in the ground than when planted in containers. Containers should be placed in relatively protected areas to avoid harsh heat conditions, high winds, and complete freezing.

#6 – Emerald & Gold (Euonymus fortunei)

There are several different varieties of this compact, attractive shrub. All present some variation of green and gold variegated foliage. In cold weather, this foliage takes on a pink tinge.

Emerald & Gold shrubs can grow to be two or three feet high and attain a width as great as 4 to 6 feet. It’s easy to see that if used in container gardening, the containers must be quite spacious.

Nonetheless, the shrubs make a very striking and impactful display in large containers as patio borders, centerpieces for large indoor settings and more. Planting colorful flowers such as primroses, Narcissus, and tulips at the base make a gorgeous presentation, indeed.

Do your research! Some varieties of Euonymus fortunei are considered invasive.

Another Euonymus of interest is: Euonymus alatus – Burning Bush Plant

#7 – Skimmia japonica

Skimmia japonica is low maintenance evergreen shrub producing an attractive array of tiny red buds throughout the winter. These open up to become pinkish white flowers in spring time.

It is important to note that Skimmia comes in both male and female varieties. To get good bud and flower production, you need both.

Naturally, only the female variety produces buds and flowers; however, you can have several females and only one male to stimulate bud and flower production in the females.

Skimmia is a slow-growing shrub. They are also “acid-loving,” so plant them in a well-drained acidic soil and use a fertilizer designed for azaleas and/or rhododendrons. As container plants, they prefer light shade or indirect sunlight.

#8 – Geraniums & Pelargoniums

Geraniums and Pelargoniums come in a wide variety of colors, foliage types, and blossom types. You could make a fascinating and varied container garden consisting entirely of these types of plants.

The best container for Geraniums or Pelargoniums is a terra cotta pot as good drainage, and soil aeration is of the utmost importance. These plants do not like soggy roots or stems and are very prone to fungal infestation if they are kept too wet.

When purchasing Geraniums or Pelargoniums, be sure to check their maximum size and their growth habits. Some types of Geraniums can grow quite large and tall. Trailing pelargoniums do very well in hanging baskets or as the edge planting spilling over the sides of a larger planter.

Always suit the size of your pot to the size of your plant, and remember to repot mature plants annually. Geraniums and Pelargoniums can be propagated by dividing or by planting cuttings.

Annual repotting time is the ideal time to propagate more plants for your home and to share with others. It is also possible to propagate these plants from seed, but it is easier just to take a cutting.

Always use a good quality of potting soil for Geraniums. It should be light and airy and nourishing.

You don’t need to fertilize often (or at all). When you repot, just be sure to use fresh potting soil and/or finished compost to provide nourishment.

You may also wish to provide a monthly dose of liquid fertilizer like this, but if you find you are getting lots of leaves and few blooms, you will want to cut back on that.

Place your containers in areas that are somewhat protected and receive at least 6 hours a day of sun. Geraniums and pelargoniums are not cold weather hardy. If you live in an area with hard winter freezes, you must bring them inside.

Be sure to deadhead individual Geranium blossoms and remove spent clusters. Also, remove wilted leaves. Don’t drop these onto the soil as they will promote fungal growth. Dispose of them properly by adding them to your compost heap or tossing them in the trash.

#9 – Clematis

Some types of clematis are ideally suited for growing in containers. Although often sold as a climbing plant, it does equally well as a trailing plant; therefore, it can make an attractive addition to a container garden.

Be sure to give your Clematis vine a large container as this will help protect the roots – especially in areas that tend to freeze in wintertime.

Use lightweight, high-quality potting soil like this popular brand to fill your container.

At the time of planting, mix in a good quality slow release fertilizer. Provide a trellis or support right from the start if you want your Clematis to climb. If you wait until later, you may damage your plant’s roots.

It’s important you understand that Clematis is a thirsty plant. Check on it daily and provide water as needed. If you notice the top couple of inches of soil feel dry, give the pot a good soaking.

Provide a good, slow-release, general purpose fertilizer early in the springtime. You may need to fertilize another time or two during the growing season.

Be sure to protect your Clematis against the cold by providing a good thick layer of mulch. In very cold areas, place your container in a sheltered outdoor space to prevent damage to your plant.

Related Reading: Trellis Plants: What Are 10 Of The Best Flowering Vines For A Trellis?

#10 – Hosta

These cheery shade lovers make a very attractive container plant on their own or combined with eye-catchers such as Bleeding Heart or Heuchera. As with most plants, Hostas prefer well-drained soil.

It’s wisest to give them a good foundation of an inch of pebbles and a mulch of pebbles on the soil surface. This will ensure both good moisture retention and good drainage.

Be sure to water your Hostas regularly and carefully around the base of the plant. Avoid getting the crowns and the leaf canopy wet.

By providing light, airy soil and taking care when you water, you can help prevent root rot and fungal disease. These are the main problems you might encounter with hostas.

Slugs and snails can also be an issue with Hosta Plants, learn more on how to naturally control slugs and snails here.

#11 – Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum)

If you want real impact, you can’t go wrong with Fountain Grass. With its bushy red flowers and long graceful stems, it makes a grand and dramatic statement on its own and is also lovely in combination with plants such as ornamental Alliums.

Fountain Grass can be grown in beds or pots. It can be kept indoors all year round, and it’s a good idea to have at least one plant that you keep indoors on a regular basis so you can propagate new plants by division. This is the most effective and efficient way to grow more Fountain Grass.

When kept outdoors, you’ll want to cut back your Fountain Grass to a height of about three inches in the autumn after the first frost.

Move container plants into a sheltered and unheated area to over-winter. A non-freezing garage or basement is ideal.

When over-wintering your Fountain Grass, be sure to water occasionally just enough to keep the soil moist. As always, you do not want to over-water or create soggy soil.

To prepare your Fountain Grass to be moved back outside in the springtime, provide bright light approximately six weeks before the last predicted frost of the winter.

Begin watering and fertilizing actively at this time. Soon you will see new growth, and this means that you can remove the plant from the pot and divide it to create new plants for your spring garden.

Each divided plant should have one or two shoots growing actively.

Repot each of these to create all new plants. At this point, you will want to increase light and heat to encourage rapid growth so that you will have nice strong plants for the spring and summer.

Fountain Grass is a tropical plant, so you should protect it from all danger of frost. Gradually habituate your new plants to outdoor conditions, but don’t put them outdoors permanently until all danger of frost passes.

Learn more about fountain grass here.

#12 – Pittosporum tenuifolium

This lovely evergreen shrub produces pale, creamy colored leaves that gradually darken as they mature.

When fully colored, they attain a deep and rich mahogany shade. This is an excellent shrub for impact at your entryway as it does need some shelter in the wintertime.

This easy-to-grow shrub also makes a lovely focal point on your terrace or balcony.

Although Pittosporum does best kept outside, it can be grown indoors in a container in a setting with partial sun. The main thing to remember is to shelter the plant from temperature extremes and high winds.

Pittosporum likes soil that is always slightly moist, so you should water well throughout the growing season (spring and summer) and reduce watering from fall through winter. As with most plants, you should avoid over-watering and allow the soil to become slightly dry before re-watering.

Pittosporum likes a light, loamy, well-drained and slightly acidic soil. Use a slow release, balanced fertilizer during the growing season.

Follow label instructions and avoid excessive fertilization. In the springtime, use aged manure or composted leaves to mulch around the base of the plant and provide it with natural, ongoing nourishment.

To keep Pittosporum looking its best, prune it regularly with very sharp pruners or scissors like these. Be sure to cut away any dying, damaged or diseased branches promptly.

Don’t prune heavily until the blooming season ends. Then do a comprehensive pruning in preparation for the winter months.

Generally speaking, Pittosporum is free of disease; however, they may be subject to pests such as:

  • Pittosporum Sucker
  • Red Spider Mite
  • Cottony Cushion Scale
  • Aphids (homemade spray)

Related Reading: Dwarf Mock Orange – Tips On Growing Pittosporum Tobira

Patio Trees And Flowering Shrubs For The Backyard Patio

Not every container garden requires multiple varieties of plants. Sometimes one simple plant in a nice container is the only requirement.

There is something fascinating about a small tree growing in a container. They can be moved around to provide different looks or screen areas as needed.

In general, you want these patio plants to add some color to the outdoor space.

Flowering shrubs growing as standard trees with a long bloom time make perfect patio additions. A good example is the purple blooming Tibouchina plant.

We like the look of a small tree in a big pot. The decorative large container helps keep the plant stable when blown around.

Several of our favorite sun loving plants grown as patio trees are the:

Hibiscus Tree or Flowering Shrub

The potted tropical hibiscus tree is a perfect flowering shrub for use for as a patio plant for color.

  • Hibiscus has a long bloom time from spring all the way through summer.
  • Come in a variety of colors, red, orange, pink, yellow and some fancy multi-color hybrids
  • For best flowering give the plants full sun
  • Easy to maintain and care for.

Lantana Plant – Bush, Shrub or Tree

We especially like Lantana plants grown as trees as tall container plants. However, what makes them one of the best patio plants is:

  • A bright, easy to grow, sun-loving plant, perfect of any patio with lots of bright light or full sun.
  • Produces flowers in abundance with lots of colors.
  • Lantana care is not difficult. Need only occasional trimming.
  • Plant Lantana as soon as all danger of frost passes.
  • In areas where frost seldom occurs, Lantana can grow and constantly flower all year. Now THAT’S a long bloom time!
  • Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies

Croton Bush or Tree

If color as a patio plant with no need for flowers the Croton plant is tough to beat.

  • The foliage on Croton plants produce intense colors when grown in full sun or bright light
  • Easy care
  • Variety of leaf shapes

New Zealand Flax (Phormium Tenax)

  • Colorful yellow or variegated foliage creating a dramatic look
  • Evergreen with straplike leaves some in shades of orange and striking red

More on New Zealand Flax (Phormium)

Banana Trees

The dwarf cavendish banana tree is a real conversation piece. It has large, broad dark green leaves or flecked with dark spots on top.

Underneath, some varieties have leaves of green or purple, making this an attractive plant from several points of view.

Learn more on growing banana plants.

Farfugium Japonicum

Known as the “Leopard plant” it gets the common name from its unique green leaves with a randomly spotted blotches of cream, yellow and sometimes pink.

It likes cool temperatures, humidity and bright light. Related related to the daisy, with yellow, daisylike flowers.

Looks great planted in a bowl to display its large green leaves!

Learn more on growing and care of Farfugium japonicum plants.

Citrus Trees

The fresh fragrance of citrus is always a treat when walking outside. Several citrus patio trees to consider are:

  • Meyer Lemon Tree
  • Calamondin Tree

13 Tips For High Impact Decorating With Container Gardens

It’s only natural that large container gardens have the greatest impact.

When you create a large, impressive display, you are sure to generate visual attention in any setting.

Here are some smart tips to help you create and maintain container gardens with real flair.

13 Tips For High Impact Patio and Deck Plants

1. When creating a large, combined container display be sure to choose combinations of flowers and plants that thrive in similar conditions. In this way, you can be sure that your choices will always look their best.

2. When selecting a setting, look for spaces that seem to be crying out for color, texture and other visual and tactile points of interest.

3. You can begin with a store-bought container or (if you are handy) build or assemble your own.

4. When selecting plants for your container garden, be sure to read the tags carefully to amass a collection of plants with similar care requirements.

5. For most container gardens, you should water when the surface of the soil feels dry. Water enough that some water escapes from the drain holes in the bottom of the pot.

6. When selecting plants, in addition to seeking similar care instructions, you will want to choose plants that offer contrast and interest in terms of size, color, texture, and shape. It’s a good idea to look for plants that will:

  • Fill the center of your planter. These should be the taller plants.
  • Spill over the edges of your planter. These should be smaller, cascading sorts.
  • Thrill passersby with color, scent, and texture.

7. Once you have chosen your container and your plants, it’s smart to assemble your new garden where you intend to keep it. In this way, you can avoid having to lug a heavy, full planter to its permanent location.

8. Organize all of your supplies together at the spot where you plan to place the container garden. You’ll need:

  • Drainage material for the bottom of the pot
  • Gravel or mulch for top-dressing
  • Your collection of plants
  • Potting soil

9. With a very large pot, you should fill the bottom third with drainage material. This could be pebbles, shipping “popcorn”, aluminum cans or other non-biodegradable, non-toxic materials that will take up a bit of excess space, improve drainage and (preferably) help keep debris out of the landfill. Get some ideas here.

10. Keep your soil loose as you work. Fill the container with a loose, loamy potting soil that provides good drainage. Don’t tamp it down at this point as you want to be able to add plants to it.

11. Plan your arrangement. Set the plants and flowers on the surface of the dirt in their pots to get an idea of the look you prefer. Once you determine how to arrange the plants, remove them from their pots (gently without pulling on the stem). Settle them into place and gently tamp down the soil. Add more as needed to bring the level of the soil surface to within 1.5 inches of the top.

12. Start off with good nourishment. If the soil you use does not contain a fertilizer, you are well-advised to add a balanced fertilizer for container mix. Follow package instructions for containers. You may want to play it safe at first by diluting the product by more than 1/2.

13. Finally, add a top dressing of pebbles, moss or mulch to help your plants make the most of the water you provide.

Good Planning & Careful Work Create Container Gardens That Pop

A large container garden on a patio is sure to make an impression.

You can be certain of making a desirable impression by choosing your containers carefully, coordinating your plants well and planting them skillfully.

Follow the tips presented here to make the most positive impact on your container gardens.

With US bees dying at an unprecedented rate, are you doing your part in bolstering the bee population? Beekeeping is a wonderful way to support bees, but it’s not the only thing you can do. Planting flowers that attract bees will provide much needed food for pollinators near you, and can require as little space as a windowsill.

From herbs and ornamentals to hardy winter bloomers, bees benefit from a plethora of plants. This list is by no means comprehensive, but we hope it will help you get ideas for your gardening space. If you have any doubts about whether your land or climate is suitable for any of these plants, you may want to reference your USDA hardiness zone or consult with your local gardening center.

Dos and Don’ts

Do : diversify and maximize blooms

To help bees make the most out of their active months, it’s ideal to have plants that bloom at different times across the seasons. Early spring and late autumn blooms will be especially helpful for early foragers or bees going for their last harvest before hunkering down for the winter. It is also ideal to have a variety of flower shapes – from flat to tubular – to accommodate bees with different tongue sizes. Be sure to prolong your plants’ blooms by removing dead blooms and leaves.

If you have a grass lawn, consider replacing it with colorful pollinator plants to make better use of your space and save water. You can also make a compromise by allowing your lawn to share space with flowers that attract bees, such as dandelions, clovers or siberian squill (more on squills below).

Don’t : plant treated or hybridized plants

It is extremely important to avoid using any insecticides, herbicides, or pesticides on your plants – even organic ones contain substances that are harmful to bees. Pesticides contain neonicotinoids, chemicals that are a known danger to bees. If we’re going to do our part in helping the declining population of bees, we must be adamant about keeping our gardens chemical-free. When purchasing plants from nurseries, make sure they haven’t been treated. Also, avoid hybridized plant varieties, as they are often less beneficial for bees (more info on this here).

Flowers that Attract Bees

Early Spring

Pansies

USDA zones 4 – 8. Full sun. Blooms early Spring – Fall.

Whimsy, joy, colors – pansies have it all, and bees love them. They are great for containers or ground cover, but are often treated as annuals because of their ability to spread quickly. Bred from their predecessor the wild pansy, the many types of pansies can bloom in early spring or later in autumn.

North American pussy willow © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Pussy Willow

USDA zones 4 – 7. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These North American wetland shrubs have a beautiful greyish hue and fur-like blooms. Their blooms mark the arrival of spring, making them a perfect treat for early foraging bees. Humans may also enjoy using their dried stems as decorations.

Siberian Squill

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These beautiful blue blooms have a stunning presence that you can enjoy for a few weeks each year. If you have a grass lawn, you can make the most of your space by planting Siberian Squill bulbs throughout it. Their colors will make your lawn pop in early spring, and the plants will recede just in time to let you start mowing in late spring. Just make sure they have good drainage to prevent bulb rot, and be cautious about their ability to spread quickly.

Snowdrops

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Winter, early Spring.

Snowdrops are known to announce their arrival by poking out of the snow. They are great for climates with mild to cold winters. Just keep in mind that the flowers will be dormant by summertime, so the soil in which the bulbs rest will be barren.

Spring, Summer

Peony

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Spring.

With their colors and sweet scents, these flowers will attract bees, hummingbirds, and possibly your neighbors too. Peonies benefit from cold winters to aid their bud formation. Try to place them in loamy soil in a spot protected from wind.

Milkweed; Photo by Michaela, Gardener’s Eden

Milkweed

USDA zones 4 – 10. Prefers sun. Blooms Spring – Fall, depending on variety.

Milkweed not only serves as food to bees, but it is also the only host to monarch butterflies. These plants are great food sources for bees, but beware of their complex flower structures, for bees can get trapped or lose a leg in them. Many varieties are drought-resistant and prefer sun (browse varieties here).

Bee Balm

USDA zones 4 – 9. Full to partial sun, but shade tolerant. Blooms Summer.

As you may guess from the name, bees love these North American prairie flowers. The blooms almost resemble little fireworks, and come in befittingly vibrant shades too. Favoring warm climates, you can enjoy these perennials’ lush, colorful blooms year after year, and so will bees and other winged things.

Lavender

Woodland phlox. ⓒMichaela at The Gardener’s Eden

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

Bees love them for their nectar, humans love them for their scent and flavor. Everyone wins, and with many different varieties of lavender to choose from, you’ll likely find one that will settle happily in your garden. The plant can do well in many climates, but prefers warm climates and well-drained soil. It is rather drought resistant once established. (Read about the different varieties’ climate preferences and bloom times here)

Phlox

USDA zones 2 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

With their star-shaped blooms, these plants are a beautiful addition to any garden, and can make a great ground cover. There are several different varieties, including the wild ground phlox. This variety bears its pink blooms in early spring, which is the reason Native Americans dubbed the April full moon the “Full Pink Moon.”

Which flower made April’s full moon the Pink Moon? Phlox – and it’s one of 21 flowers that bees love!

Zinnias

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Zinnias come in many colors and will attract both bees and butterflies to your space. They are relatively easy to plant and will bloom in abundance all summer long if dead flowers are removed.

Marigolds

Flowers that attract bees: Chives. ⓒMichaela at The Gardener’s Eden.

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Like zinnias, marigolds are annuals that can bloom all summer long if properly groomed. Their edible blooms can brighten up your salads as well as your garden, and they are even known to repel pests and animals, such as nematodes.

Goldenrod

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Summer.

These flowers are sometimes considered weeds because of their ability to spread easily, but kept in check, they are an invaluable resource for bees and have medicinal value as well. To keep their spread in check, just cut off the dead flower heads before they re-seed.

Chives

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun. Blooms late Spring, Summer.

Resist eating their tasty purple flowers and the bees will thank you! This perennial tolerates cold climates rather well, and is a great way to add a fresh, oniony taste to salads, dishes, or eggs.

Late Summer, Fall

Liatris

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer.

These flowers, found in purple, pink, and white, bloom on grass-like spiky leaves that can grow 1 – 5 feet tall. They are relatively low maintenance, and are rather tolerant of drought, pests, and cold weather. Butterflies will also thank you for having liatris in your garden.

Mint

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun, but tolerates some shade. Blooms Spring through Summer.

Mint is invigorating with its fragrance and flavor – and bees go crazy on their flowers too. Mint is a great choice if you’re looking for an herb that’s low maintenance. They make good ground cover and a tasty kitchen ingredient. Easy to grow, but easy to lose control of too, so be careful about their spread.

Sage

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Spring, Summer, Fall.

It’s great in stuffing, sauces, and herb pots! Bees love sage’s beautiful flowers, and these perennials are rather easy to grow. Of all the flowers that attract bees, make sure to incorporate this one into your autumn squash dishes.

Nasturtium

USDA zone 9 – 11. Full sun. Blooms Summer through Fall.

Nasturtiums can keep bees buzzing in your garden well into autumn. Their edible blooms will bring a burst of color to your outdoor space. To maximize the amount of blooms they have, water them regularly and opt for poorer soils. Most nasturtiums are annuals, but some varieties are perennials in zones 9 – 11.

What beautiful orange flower can bring life – and bees – to your garden? Find out by reading about 21 flowers that bees love.

Black-eyed Susans

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer, Fall.

These are flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and bring a burst of yellow to your garden. As members of the

Chair with Nasturium. ⓒMichaela at The Gardener’s Eden

sunflower family, they can grow up to three feet tall! They make excellent borders, but spread very easily, so be careful about placing them in – or letting them grow into – other plants’ space.

Borage

Full to partial sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Also known as starflower, borage’s star-shaped blooms start out pink and mature into a beautiful blue. Borage is considered a good neighbor for tomatoes, which bees also love. These plants are annuals, but they re-seed readily, so keep an eye on their spread.

Thyme

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Irresistable to bees and pun-lovers alike, placing one of these shrubs by a walkway will prove to be a wonderful way to pass the thyme. These perennials bear bee-loving flowers in pink or purple, and can grow up to one foot tall.

Oregano

Full sun. Blooms mid-Summer, Fall.

This perennial has pink, purple, or white flowers, and its late blooms will be appreciated by your bee friends. Oregano provides excellent ground cover and is rather hardy. Harvest its leaves for cooking or medicinal purposes. Drying them will help you make use of its reported immune-boosting properties throughout winter.

Plant for Bees, Plant for Change

They say flowers that attract bees also bring good tidings for the gardener. Okay, maybe they don’t say that, but there’s something undoubtedly powerful about planting pollinator blooms. The art of gardening is not only a form of relaxation, but also of creating change. With every haven we create for bees, we make clear our stance on their importance, we designate ourselves as their allies, and we become leaders in the movement to create a world that is nourishing to the very creatures that nourish us too. Gardening is no longer a hobby – it is a grassroots movement.

Are there any flowers that attract bees to your garden? Share with us in a comment below!

The art of gardening is not only a form of relaxation, but also of creating change.

Learn more about flowers that attract bees:

Check out these great resources:
Fall Blooming Plants for Bees – Overall Gardener
Planting a Bee Garden – Beverly Bees
Bees and Other Pollinators Love These Flowering Plants – Resilience
5 Early Season Plants Which Attract Pollinators to your Garden – Eartheasy Blog
Siberian Squill – Wisconsin Horticulture
Pussy Willow – The Honeybee Conservancy
Goldenrod – Landscaping.About
Gardening Know-how

  1. Don’t use pesticides. Most pesticides are not selective. You are killing off the beneficial bugs along with the pests. If you must use a pesticide, start with the least toxic one and follow the label instructions to the letter.
  2. Use local native plants. Research suggests native plants are four times more attractive to native bees than exotic flowers. They are also usually well adapted to your growing conditions and can thrive with minimum attention. In gardens, heirloom varieties of herbs and perennials can also provide good foraging.
  3. Chose several colors of flowers. Bees have good color vision to help them find flowers and the nectar and pollen they offer. Flower colors that particularly attract bees are blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow.
  4. Plant flowers in clumps. Flowers clustered into clumps of one species will attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered through the habitat patch. Where space allows, make the clumps four feet or more in diameter.
  5. Include flowers of different shapes. There are four thousand different species of bees in North America, and they are all different sizes, have different tongue lengths, and will feed on different shaped flowers. Consequently, providing a range of flower shapes means more bees can benefit.
  6. Have a diversity of plants flowering all season. Most bee species are generalists, feeding on a range of plants through their life cycle. By having several plant species flowering at once, and a sequence of plants flowering through spring, summer, and fall, you can support a range of bee species that fly at different times of the season.
  7. Plant where bees will visit. Bees favor sunny spots over shade and need some shelter from strong winds.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, cross-pollination from bees and other pollinators assist at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of wild plants. Without bees to pollinate plants, many would perish (food crops included). If we’d like to keep berries, apples, onion, carrots, avocados, and many other foods, we need to start caring about bees. Bees are magnificent creatures, who not only pollinate food for

Bees are magnificent creatures that not only pollinate food for all but also serve as a main indicator of the state of the environment on whole. Declining populations should be a huge indication that something is unbalanced and wrong. Between humans spraying pesticides on crops to habitat loss and climate change, bees are at risk. If bees go extinct, so will humans, along with just about every other species on the planet.

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Now, more than ever, it is important that we try to be as kind to bees as possible and give them an opportunity to visit our yards. Along with all of the other things you can do to help the bees, planting a garden is a great place to start. Even if you only have enough space for a container garden, you can “plant for the bees” by making it as organic as possible! Try planting these flowers and herbs this spring to not only add beauty to your home but attract our buzzing friends!

1. Borage

Known as the “starflower” and the “bee bush,” bees love this medicinal herb! Borage is a bright blue, star-shaped flower that will bring beauty to any garden (and the bees along with it). This super plant is sure to have the bees buzzing!

2. Rosemary

Teresa Design Room/

Rosemary is also a wonderful herb that can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Honeybees love this fragrant beauty and its beautiful purple flowers.

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3. Catnip

In the spring, catnip grows around to be around two to four feet tall and sports white or lavender colored flowers, attracting cats and bees alike! If you grow this around your garden, it’ll be likely that you will not only attract bees but butterflies and other pollinators.

4. Flowering Currant

These bright pink flowers draw in bees and butterflies. They are not only gorgeous, but their fragrance entices the bees to stay a while and take its pollen. This flower will bloom in early spring, which is perfect to help the bees rejuvenate after the winter months.

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5. Crocuses

Maleo/

Crocuses are early bloomers which are perfect for bees that visit your yard! These purple/blue beauties, tend to come up at the end of winter when the weather is still a tad on the colder side. Bulbs for these flowers are usually planted in the fall and the flowers grace us with their presence come March, depending on where you live of course. These flowers are super easy to maintain, so this is a great flower if you don’t necessarily have the green-ist of thumbs yet!

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6. Pussy Willows

Pussy Willows are also great for bees thanks to the fact they are early bloomers and have pollen ready for the bees at the very beginning of spring.

7. Echinacea

These lovely flowers come in all different colors and are known as, “the cone flower,” due to their shape. These flowers are perennials and unfortunately bloom later in the season.

8. Sunflowers

Sunflowers are one of the best flowers to plant for bees. They provide quality pollen and nectar for bees and seeds for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife. After the chance of frost is gone, go ahead and plant these seeds directly into the soil. You can also start the seeds indoors and wait until after the chance of frost is past to plant them outside.

9. Lilacs

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Lilacs are a great treat for bees as they produce both pollen and nectar. Lilacs have bright purple flowers that grow in bunches, making it easier for bees to graze from one blossom to the next. The nectar provides the bee with much-needed energy, while the mixture with the pollen is a necessity for growing larvae back at the hive.

10. Hyacinth

Hyacinths come in all different colors (i.e. pink, purple, white, etc.) and are especially bright colored and fragrant. These flowers provide nourishing nectar, which is why these flowers are a win for the bees.

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Remember, when planting the above plants, stay away from hybrid varieties and keep your garden organic, i.e. don’t spray chemicals. Besides planting a garden, there are actually a ton of different ways to get active for bees! Try setting up a bee hotel, creating a bee bath, and planting wildflowers in your yard rather than grass lawns to keep the bees coming back! Don’t have a yard? Simply try to buy organic and local as much as you can and spread the word about how important bees are to the planet around your community. Education and kind action can change the world, especially for bees.

Looking for more information on how to help save the bees? Check out how the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is changing the world for bees!

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