SUBSCRIBE NOW AND SAVE 3 months just 99¢/month

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Ask a Master Gardener: Choices abound to encourage pollinators

Almost anything that will flower in shade is worth considering, but do note that some plants have been bred for their looks, not for what they can provide pollinators.

mastergarden0229web.jpg
A bumblebee, a honeybee, and a painted lady butterfly visit a blooming spire of Actaea racemosa in a Duluth garden. (Submitted photo)

Q: I’d like to add more flowers for butterflies and other pollinators to my yard. It seems like most of the perennials people recommend for pollinators require full sun. Can you recommend any that do well with some shade?

A: When it comes to butterflies, the top plant I’d recommend for part shade is swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata. I wish this plant had a different common name, because it doesn’t need swampy conditions and it’s prettier and better behaved than common milkweed. It can tolerate different soil conditions. And it provides both food for monarch caterpillars, which require milkweed to eat, and food for adult bees and butterflies in the form of nectar from its flowers. It will tolerate some shade and also grows well in full sun. The flowers are attractive and fragrant.

Another shade-tolerant favorite of mine for pollinators is black cohosh, also called bugbane — though it’s not a bane to bugs at all. Its botanical name is Actaea racemosa, but you may see it called cimicifuga racemosa in older publications. It’s a tall perennial that produces spires of fragrant white flowers in late summer. Mine is always covered with bees and butterflies.

Another tall, showy plant that attracts pollinators and tolerates some shade is queen of the prairie, Filipendula rubra. It is deer resistant and tolerates the clay soils common in our region. When mine is blooming, everyone who walks by asks what it is.

Some other flowering plants that tolerate shade and are good for pollinators are astilbe, bleeding heart, goat’s beard, Joe-Pye weed, meadow rue and turtlehead.

ADVERTISEMENT

Almost anything that will flower in shade is worth considering, but do note that some plants have been bred for their looks, not for what they can provide pollinators. You’re often better off choosing native plants.

If you’re trying to attract pollinators, it’s best to plant in clusters, creating a mass of one variety, rather than putting in one each of many different plants. Clusters of the same plant will look prettier in the garden, too.

Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to features@duluthnews.com.

MasterGardenerslogo.jpg

Related Topics: HOME AND GARDENGARDENING
What to read next
"Fielding Questions" columnist Don Kinzler also answers questions about evergreen snow removal and fungus gnats.
"Growing Together" columnist Don Kinzler gets answers about trees from North Dakota State University Extension Forester Joe Zeleznik.
Check out these events in the area.
"You can't deny that it was a case of bad luck ... that after taking all the precautions, there was a reporter there at the taxi rank," Francis said in the letter Martinez-Brocal shared with colleagues on Friday.