Pollinator plants are often planted in shady areas where they will receive some sunlight during the day time. They provide food and shelter for insects such as bees, wasps, ants, butterflies and other beneficial insects. There are many types of pollinator plants for shade including flowering perennials, annuals and even bulbs that can be grown from seed or cuttings. You may have seen them growing near your home or office. Some of these plants include:
1) Bee Balm – A plant native to Europe and Asia that produces white flowers with pinkish centers.
It is one of the most popular bee friendly plants because it attracts bees, which in turn feed on nectar from its blossoms. Bees love the scent of bee balm so much that they actually build their hives right next to the flower beds!
2) Daisy – Daisy (Dendrobium speciosum) is a small evergreen shrub that grows up to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide.
Its leaves are opposite, oblong-shaped, lanceolate at the tip and alternate along the stem. The flowers are yellowish red with five petals each, and have 5 stamens.
The fruit is a large green pod containing seeds.
3) California Poppy – California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a wildflower that grows between 3 to 5 feet high.
They are one of the most popular types of wildflowers grown in gardens. The flowers are usually orange with a darker center; however they can also be dark red.
4) Columbine – There are many species of columbines but one of the most popular is the American columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).
They are native to North America and have a height of 12 to 24 inches. The flowers come in yellow, orange and red.
All three colors have 5 petals that surround a spur containing nectar at the bottom of the flower.
5) Purple Coneflower – Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) grows up to 3 feet and produces purple or white flowers.
The leaves are thin, straight and lanceolate-shaped with toothed edges. It blooms from the bottom of the flower to the top.
6) Blazing Star – Blazing Star (Liatris spicata) is a wildflower that grows between 12 to 24 inches.
The leaves are linear, made up of several pairs of leaflets with a solitary terminal leaflet and are covered with fine hairs. The flowers are pink or purple and the tips of the stems are usually darker in color.
7) Black Eyed Susan – Also known as russia gay (Rudbeckia hirta) is a flower that is native to North America.
It grows between 12 to 24 inches and features flowers that bloom from the bottom of the flower to the top. The flowers are golden colored with black spots on the margins and a dark orange or yellow center.
The leaves are divided into several pairs of leaflets with a solitary terminal leaflet and are toothed on the edges.
8) Blue Flax – Also known as the common flax or linseed (Linum usitatissimum), this plant is not really a grass but rather part of the flax family.
The seeds are harvested and used to produce linseed oil and the plant itself can be used as a nutritious food or dietary supplement. It is also used to make linen fabric.
9) Poppy – There are over 60 different types of poppies and they are considered to be the most beautiful and revered flowers.
They come in various colors and bloom between spring and fall. The most popular types of poppies are the Oriental and California poppies.
Bee balm, a wildflower, should be planted in direct sunlight or at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. When planting bee balm it is recommended that you mix the flower with other flowers that require the same growing conditions to ensure proper growth and to create a colorful and diverse garden area.
Although bee balm is drought resistant, it will grow better if it is provided with adequate moisture and nutrients. In order to make sure that your bee balm is getting all the nutrients it needs, it is important to prepare a good quality soil for planting.
Well aerated soils are important, especially for plants with a large root system such as bee balm. The soil will also retain moisture better if it has a good amount of organic material such as compost or rotted leaves.
The soil that you choose to plant your bee balm flowers should ideally have a PH level between 5.5 and 7, contain organic material such as decayed leaves or have some limestone gravel added to it.
Bee balm can either be planted in the spring or in the fall, however springtime is the best time if you want to see the flowers before summer ends. Bee balm requires a lot of sunlight, at least 4 hours a day so make sure you plant it in an area that has a lot of sunlight such as the sides of hills or on a slope that faces east or south.
Bee balm grows best in zones 3 to 9. It should however be planted in a location where it will be sheltered from strong winds.
When planting bee balm you should space the plants 9 inches to 3 feet apart if you are using a row gardening method. If you are planting the flowers all by themselves, then they should be spaced a minimum of 12 inches apart.
Bee balm can also be effectively grown in containers. The containers should have a diameter of between 15 to 20 inches and be at least 10 inches deep in order to accommodate the roots of the bee balm plant.
Bee balm is easy to grow from seed. If you are collecting your own seeds, they can be stored dry in cold conditions for up to 4 years.
Bee balm is ready for seeding when the flowers begin to die. The seeds need to be planted right away or stored in cool conditions. They need to be kept moist until they are planted.
Bee balm can be seeded in the spring when the threat of frost has passed and the soil temperature is at least 40 degrees farenheit.
1) Prepare the soil by plowing it.
2) Rake the soil so it is level and smooth.
3) Sift the soil to take out any stones or debris.
4) For every 25cm of row planting, dig a hole that is 15-20cm deep.
5) Place some fern mulch, compost or rotted leaves in the bottom of the hole.
6) Place 2 tsp.
of seeds into the center of the hole.
7) Cover the seeds with soil and pat down firmly.
8) Water the seeds thoroughly.
Caring for Your Bee Balm
Water your bee balm plant regularly to make sure that it does not dry out completely, but also avoid saturating the soil. Soil that has been supplemented with organic materials such as leaves and compost will retain more water than soil that contains only sifted dirt.
It is a good idea to water the plants early in the day so that they have all day to dry off. This will help to prevent fungal growth and your flowers will have a longer shelf life.
You can fertilize bee balm with either an organic or synthetic fertilizer. Fertilize early in the growing season using 1/4 strength fertilizer solution.
Use a low concentration of fertilizer and then increase the concentration as the plant grows. Avoid using high concentrations of nitrogen on plants that are flowering because it can cause foliage to grow at the expense of the flowers.
Bee balm plants can be pinched back to promote branching and to encourage bushiness. Pinch the growing tips of the plant when it is about 6 inches tall to encourage side shoots to form along the stem.
This can be repeated several times during the growing season.
If your bee balm becomes infested with aphids you can wash them off with a strong spray of water or spray them with an insecticidal soap.
Bee Balm Trivia
The genus name for bee balm, monarda, is named after the 16th century Spanish botanist, Nicolas Monardes. Monardes also gave his name to the species of coffee bean, cynanchum, and the Cuban oregano, lippia.
The leaves of the bee balm plant are edible and can be used to flavor meat, fish and rice dishes. They can also be candied.
The leaves can also be used to make a medicinal tea that helps with colds and fevers.
Bee balm flowers are often used as a natural food coloring. The colors range from red to purple and can be mixed to achieve different colors.
The aromatic oils in bee balm can be used as an ingredient in shampoos, soaps and lotions.
The Cheyenne Indians used bee balm as a sedative and a cure for colds and fevers. They also mixed the plant with others to make a treatment for stomach problems.
How to Make a Beautiful Bee Balm Flower Arrangement
Bee balm flowers can be used to make a colorful and fragrant arrangement. They should be harvested before they have fully bloomed because after they open, the flowers become too bitter to be smelled.
Choose a vase that will allow three or four inches of space between the water and the top of the vase. This will allow room for the flowers to be placed underneath the water line.
Cut off the stems of the bee balm flowers so that the ends are level with the base of the leaves. Place an inch or two of stones (fish tank pebbles work well) at the bottom of your vase and place the cut flowers in the arrangement that you desire. When you are happy with the arrangement, fill the vase with lukewarm water and place it in a cool location out of direct sunlight. Changes in temperature or sunlight can cause the flowers to wilt or open. Water the flowers every couple of days and replace the water every week.
Did You Know…
…that while bee balm is very useful in the garden it should not be eaten by bees? It is actually poisonous to them!
Sources & references used in this article:
Understanding and planning ecological restoration of plant–pollinator networks by M Devoto, S Bailey, P Craze, J Memmott – Ecology letters, 2012 – Wiley Online Library
Using native plants to create pollinator habitat in southwest Oregon: lessons learned by TD Landis, S Savoie – Native Plants Journal, 2018 – npj.uwpress.org
Plant reproductive characteristics during secondary succession in neotropical lowland forest ecosystems by PA Opler, HG Baker, GW Frankie – Biotropica, 1980 – JSTOR