Container Plants for Bees, Butterflies and Gardeners

A close up of Erigeron karvinskianus.
A close up of Erigeron karvinskianus.

Whether you’ve got a garden, patio, balcony, or a windowsill, remembering to choose flowering plants that produce pollen and nectar that bees and other pollinating insects can access when you’re selecting new plants is a wonderful and worthwhile thing to do. By encouraging nature into your area you can really transform your garden, bringing the whole area to life.  There’s nothing more entertaining than watching bees, butterflies and moths in your garden, these fascinating insects will raise your spirits and inspire you.

If you’re looking for beautiful plants that will encourage bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other precious pollinating insects to your garden, yet will grow well in containers, the following suggestions will help you.

Lycaena phlaeas, also known as the Small Copper butterfly, feeding on Erigeron karvinskinanus.
Lycaena phlaeas, also known as the Small Copper butterfly, feeding on Erigeron karvinskinanus.

Erigeron karvinskianus is such a pretty flower.  It adds a delicate softness to walls, steps and other areas of hard landscaping, giving them a touch of beauty, and a delicacy that might have previously been thought impossible.  It’s also a super choice for hanging baskets, containers and window boxes, flowering non-stop from early summer to the first frosts.

Erigeron karvinskianus growing on the steps and walls at Loseley Park.
Erigeron karvinskianus growing on the steps and walls at Loseley Park.
Gerbera garvinea ‘Sweet Surprise’ (Garsurprise) (Garvinea Sweet Series).
Gerbera garvinea ‘Sweet Surprise’ (Garsurprise) (Garvinea Sweet Series).

I love growing hardy Gerbera – Gerbera garvinea, in containers.  My plants have survived without any special care through the coldest of our winters, growing larger in size each year, and producing such an abundance of flowers that I also use them for cut flowers.  With regular feeding and deadheading, my Gerbera garvinea have flowered non-stop from early spring, until they have really been hammered by the frosts in winter.  Gerbera garvinea ‘Sweet Surprise’ is part of a new series of hardy Gerbera that have been specially bred to provide hardy plants that produce a continuous display of flowers over three seasons.  This particular cultivar has large, candy pink flowers, but you’ll find different coloured flowering Gerbera from the same series.

Many herbs, such as Chives, Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary, to name just a few, are very beneficial to bees. Herbs are beneficial to gardeners too.
Many herbs, such as Chives, Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary, to name just a few, are very beneficial to bees. Herbs are beneficial to gardeners too.

Thyme is a super plant to grow in containers.  When you’re harvesting Thyme, resist temptation to remove your stems in their entirety from the very base of the plant, instead cut your harvest from the tips of your plant which will encourage bushy growth.  There are so many varieties of Thyme to choose from, varieties of Lemon Thyme provide a delicious flavour in cooking, as does Orange-Scented Thyme.

A close up of Sarcococca confusa's unopened flowers. Sarcococca confusa flowers from December to March every year, its sweetly scented, highly fragrant flowers are beneficial to bees and to gardeners, as they lift your spirits and touch your heart as you breathe in their delicious scent.
A close up of Sarcococca confusa’s unopened flowers. Sarcococca confusa flowers from December to March every year, its sweetly scented, highly fragrant flowers are beneficial to bees and to gardeners, as they lift your spirits and touch your heart as you breathe in their delicious scent.

Other worthy candidates to grow in containers to provide pollen and nectar for pollinating insects include: Lavandula angustifolia, Origanum, Cosmos, Limnanthes douglasii, Calendula officinalis, Osteospurmum, Aubrieta, Clarkia, Sarcococca, Sedum, and Scabious.  Single-flowered varieties provide accessible pollen and nectar – avoid double-flowered varieties.  Try wherever you can to provide a continuous supply of nectar throughout the year.  Look out for the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ logo on plants at your local garden centre or nursery.

Calendula officinalis, a super plant for bees and butterflies.
Calendula officinalis, a super plant for bees and butterflies.

None of the plants I have mentioned here require a peat-based compost, so use a peat free alternative growing media.  I’ve had excellent results using Dalefoot Composts, a range of peat-free composts made from 100% natural ingredients including bracken and sheep’s wool.  Dalefoot’s wool-based potting compost is ideal for containers, the sheep’s wool that’s incorporated into this compost has naturally absorbent properties, which provide extra water retention, the result being that your containers require less watering.

Bees and butterflies love Lavender, it's a great plant to have in your garden. Lavandula angustifolia is a compact variety, ideal for containers.
Bees and butterflies love Lavender, it’s a great plant to have in your garden. Lavandula angustifolia has a naturally compact habit and is ideal for containers.

If you have the choice, position your containers in a sunny spot – butterflies like the warmth and will be more inclined to visit your plants.  Deadhead your plants regularly to encourage further flowering and keep your containers well watered.  Avoid using any insecticides or pesticides in your garden – these are naturally very damaging to insects and wildlife.

Polygonia c-album, also known as the Comma butterfly, feeding on Sedum in late summer.
Polygonia c-album, also known as the Comma butterfly, feeding on Sedum in late summer.
A rather wet and bedraggled bee drying out under a Limnanthes douglasii flower.
A rather wet and bedraggled bee drying out under a Limnanthes douglasii flower.
Aubrieta is an easy to grow container plant that also grows well on walls and in rockeries.
Aubrieta is an easy to grow container plant that also grows well on walls and in rockeries.

This article was first published in the March 2016 edition of Vantage Point Magazine

Other articles that may interest you………………….

For more ideas of container plants to plant and sow in June, please click here.

To read about Daffodils, please click here.

To read more about container gardening, please click here.

For information on how you can help hedgehogs, please click here.

For information on wonderful places to see carpets of Bluebells, please click here.

To read about growing gourmet vegetables, please click here.

To find out about beautiful gardens to visit where you can see large collections of Daffodils, please click here.

For information on natural slug controls, please click here.

To read my interview with the Guildford based, award-winning garden designer, David Neale, please click here.

To read my review of Trugmakers hand-made trugs, please click here.

For information on beautiful, historic and important gardens to visit in Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex, please click here.

Other articles you might like:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *