When thinking of a pollinator garden, you might imagine a field of wildflowers blooming in the full sunlight. But if you have nothing but shade in your yard, can you still attract pollinators? Yes, you can! There are plants that tolerate different degrees of shade, and there are quite a few plants that can tolerate light and dappled shade. The first step to consider in selecting plants for shade is knowing the types of shade.
Partial shade typically refers to morning and early afternoon sun, in contrast to dappled sun, which is like partial shade. Plants getting partial sun means that the light makes its way through the branches of a deciduous tree. Woodland plants and under plantings, even for many mosses, prefer dappled sunlight. Full shade means less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day even if it is morning light, which is the best light for plants in full shade. Every plant needs some sun, even those that thrive in full shade.
There are several devices on the market that can be used to calculate the amount of sunlight. The one I have used is called SunCalc Sunlight Calculator. This device can be reused repeatedly and will calculate the amount of light in your area within 12 hours. Very easy to use and available at your local garden center.
The next step is to select the type of plants for your location. Shrubs are the bones of a landscape, whether in sun or shade. Place the shrubs in your landscape first, then build around them with smaller plants. Shade-loving shrubs range from short bushes to tall hedges, variegated to solid leaves and those that are evergreen or deciduous. Some shrubs provide blossoms while others mostly contribute foliage. Some pollinator-friendly shrubs to consider are Hydrangea, Mahonia, Viburnum, and Rhododendron.
To attract bees, choose plants that attract a variety of bees. Honeybees are usually attracted to yellow, white, blue and purple flowers. Native bees, like the Mason bees, are attracted to fruit tree blossoms, such as American Plum, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, and Red Buckeye. Flowers of Lenten rose, also called Hellebores, bloom in winter and spring, and attract mainly bumblebees. Other excellent bee plants for shade are Foxgloves, Crocuses, Daffodils, Jacob’s Ladder, Bleeding Heart, Coral Bells, and Columbine. Cultivars of Bee Balm with pink, purple, white and red flowers attract bumblebees and hummingbirds and should be planted in groups.
Another way to attract bees is to create a nesting area. Most of North America’s native bee species are solitary ground nesters; their nests look like ant holes. Leave some semi-bare ground to provide nesting sites for these bees or use rock piles or brush piles that provide valuable nesting opportunities for bumble bees and other beneficial insects, as well as providing safe places for insects to overwinter and hibernate. Avoid disturbing these sites, including mulching and tilling.
Attracting hummingbirds includes planting a variety of flowering plants that provide nectar throughout the warmer months. Ruby-throated hummingbirds prefer the nectar from bright, tubular flowers, such as crossvine (Trumpet flower) and Carolina Jessamine. Red Columbine is like a beacon to hummingbirds. Coral Bells have a year-round garden presence because of low mounds of colorful rounded leaves. Tall wiry stems produce red to pink bell-shaped flowers in summer that are attractive to hummingbirds. The Red Buckeye tree, in addition to providing hummingbird fuel, is a handsome tree with large palm-shaped leaves that give it a tropical look.
Butterflies are usually attracted to plants with red, orange, pink or yellow flowers. Most butterflies and moths prefer plants with flat tops making landing easier for them. Some part shade to shade loving plants for pollinators like butterflies and moths include: Astilbe, Begonias, Columbine, Hardy Geraniums, Mint Balloon Flower, Yarrow, Lemon Balm, Blue Star Amsonia, Jasmine, Verbena Honeysuckle Buddleia, and Lacecap Hydrangea.
With a little effort, you can turn your shade-dappled landscape into a pollinator paradise. Add a couple of shrubs and shade-tolerant herbaceous plants to feed native pollinators. Then sit back and enjoy all the new visitors flitting around your new pollinator-friendly landscape.
For more information on shade tolerant trees and shrubs or native plants go to the Resource section on the Hillsborough Garden Club website: www. hillsboroughgardenclubnc.com/ or email us at: email@example.com