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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - July 03, 2014

From: Apex, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Lists, Wildlife Gardens, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Wildlife Attracting Plants for a Shady Patio
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

We have a concrete patio that receives 2-3 hours of sunlight a day, so the only plants we will be able to grow will be in container. We are looking for plants that do well in shade, and containers and will not grow too large. Plants that attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, birds, etc. are preferrable.

ANSWER:

The first place to go to find a list of potential shade plants attractive to wildlife for your patio is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.
Under Combination Search, select the following categories: NC, Habit – shrub (and then herb), Duration – Perennial, Light Requirement – Shade, Soil Moisture – Dry, and Size – 1-3 feet.

Surprisingly, more shrubs tolerant of shade and with benefits for wildlife appeared as a result of the search. The shrubs to consider are:
Running serviceberry (Amelanchier stolonifera), white spring flowers and edible fruit. Fruit attracts birds.

Limber honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica), a shrub-like vine, fragrant red and yellow blooms, red berries in the fall, attracts hummingbirds and bees.

Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus), a small mounding shrub growing to 4 feet, small greenish-white flowers and clusters of attractive coral-pink berries from fall into the winter. Wildlife use this plant for food, cover and nesting sites.

And a herbaceous plant to consider:
Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata), an informal perennial growing to 2-3 feet tall with white or pinkish flowers in the spring. Tolerant of dry shade. Low wildlife value.

 

From the Image Gallery


Running serviceberry
Amelanchier stolonifera

Running serviceberry
Amelanchier stolonifera

Limber honeysuckle
Lonicera dioica

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Bowman's root
Gillenia trifoliata

Bowman's root
Gillenia trifoliata

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