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Pollinator Plants for Part-shade to Full-Shade Gardens

Updated: May 5, 2019

Most pollinator plant lists are for sunny gardens (Ginkgo Gardens proudly carries most of the plants on the Xerces Society list for the Mid-Atlantic). But those of us with part-shade to full shaded gardens don’t have to be left out, try some of these plants:

Shade tolerant trees and shrubs that attract pollinators include Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree), Amelanchier spp. (serviceberry - best for part-shade) Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea), Fothergilla gardenii (witch alder) Cephalanthus spp. (button bush), Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush), and Itea spp. (sweetspire).

Shade-tolerant perennials that attract pollinators include Monarda spp. (bee balm - great in part-shade), Pycnanthemum spp. (mountain mint), Aquilegia spp. (columbine), Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox), Eutrochium (joe-pye-weed - great in part-shade), Lobelia spp. (cardinal flower and great blue lobelia), Packera spp. (ragwort of groundsel), Amsonia spp. (bluestar), Geranium maculatum (native geranium), Tradescantia (spiderwort), Eurybia divaricata (white wood aster - a personal favorite of one of our designers), Iris cristata (dwarf crested iris) and Heuchera spp. (coral bells).

While most milkweed species demand full sun, you can support Monarch butterflies by planting Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) in part-shade. Additional shade tolerant plants that host butterfly caterpillars include Viburnum spp. for Spring Azures, Morella spp. (bayberry) for Hairstreaks, Symphyotrichum spp. (asters) for Pearl Crescents, Chelone glabra (turtlehead) for Baltimore Checkerspots, Carex spp. grasses for Skippers, and Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) for Sphinx moths.

While the colorful leaves of Heuchera are greatly admired in landscapes, the stalks with clusters of tiny flowers attract pollinators

The striking flowers of columbines not only attract bees and butterflies, but hummingbirds

Written By: Ginkgo Gardens Staff (Amelia, Kellie, Thomas, and Matthew)

Additional Reading:

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy

The Living Landscape by Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy

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