We’re always on the hunt for fresh ideas to pass on to our Patuxent Community. Recently, Kathryn Streeter of the Washington Post wrote a lovely article that made us see pollinator gardens in a whole new light.
She argues that pollinator gardens are not exclusive to homeowners – those who are limited to container gardens on balconies or doorsteps can also support our local pollinator population. While many people praise popular native plants for their ability to feed local butterflies, bees, and birds, we applaud the Washington Post for their attention on accessibility via container gardens.
If you have an apartment with a balcony and want to attract pollinators to your home, Patuxent Nursery has what you need. Here are some tools, tips, and plants that will get your perfect container pollinator garden started.
Also, a note about the season – fall is still a great time to plant your garden, even in containers. Plants that are more cold-hardy will do better. The soil in containers tends to get a little colder than the soil in the ground. If there is an early frost, feel free to wrap your container in burlap to help protect it.
Pottery & Soil
First, you need pottery. Glazed pots or resin pots will retain moisture better. Larger pots mean more room for healthy roots, so opt for pots as large as will reasonably fit in your space. Choose colors that will complement your plants of choice – contrast is attractive to pollinators. Choose pots with a drainage hole.
Next, potting soil! While it may not make sense to fill your big pots all the way, you really want to make sure there is as much soil as possible for your plants’ roots, especially for the perennials that will rebloom next year. You can add a few river stones or bark to the bottom for drainage, but don’t block the drainage hole.
Now you’re ready for your plants. Native plants are a favorite for pollinator gardens, since they co-evolved with our local pollinators. They’re fan favorites when it comes to pollen and nectar! Strike a balance between natives and non-natives but lean heavier on the native side. Here are a few perennials and annuals that are container-friendly and loved by butterflies and bees.
Container Pollinator Plants
Asclepias tuberosa – if everyone planted Butterfly Weed or Swamp Milkweed, the world would be a better place. Butterfly Weed is extremely important to our local butterfly population because it is the only food source for Monarch Butterflies, as well as being the only plant they attach their chrysalises to. Our Monarch Butterfly population needs a major boost, so come in and pick up some Milkweed for your container gardens!
Rudbeckia – the Maryland State Flower, Black-Eyed Susan, is both a pollinator favorite and a native! Bigger pots will help support bigger varieties, or come in and ask one of our experts for any varieties that will thrive in smaller pots.
Ornamental Grasses – These are a great addition to add texture and movement as well as being major resources for local pollinators. Purple Fountain Grass would work perfectly, especially in containers where you plan to replenish annuals.
Marigolds and Calicabroa – seasonal annuals with bright colors are attractive and will provide nectar and pollen. They layer well with larger perennial pollinator plants. You can also add native sedge plants to anchor the look.
Come in and ask our plant experts which container-friendly pollinator plants are right for you!