Which are the best plants for bees in a shade garden? What can you grow for bees in such challenging conditions?
Although it seems pollinators prefer foraging in sunshine, a shade garden can provide a number of opportunities for wildlife, including bees, particularly if the shade is caused by hedgerows or trees. To an extent, wooded areas can provide their own set of opportunities for some bee species.
I have a number of shady spots in my garden, some of which are also
In the past, I thought that shade gardens were automatically
‘problem gardens’, and that nothing would grow in them. However I now
believe that this is not necessarily true - it depends to a large degree on the depth of the shade and other conditions, such as moisture.
I'm not saying its without its challenges, and yes, I think gardens that have a fair amount of sunshine are easier to deal with - and selecting flowers and shrubs to attract bees and other pollinators in such scenarios is certainly more straightforward.
However, many gardens have a few shady patches here and there.
So, in short it seems to me that you have to make the best of your situation. This was the conclusion I came to, so I looked to nature for evidence that gardening with shade and attracting bees is possible.
contemplated the rich diversity of plant life in forests and woodlands, I
realised that there are plants that can tolerate different degrees of
shade (tolerate perhaps being a key word here), and specifically, there are quite a few that are happy in light to medium and dappled shade, including
bluebells, wild garlic and wood anemones.
tolerant plants are also valuable to wildlife - for example, woodland wildlife, where tree canopies restrict the light.
Some flowers can tolerate quite deep shade for at least a part of the day. Whether or not bees will visit those flowers is another matter. I suspect it depends what else is available, and experimentation is key here.
Nevertheless, shade gardening has its challenges.
So, here are my thoughts about using shade for the benefit of wildlife, and bees, and which plants you could try in a shade area.
Shade can sometimes provide the right conditions for a bumble bee nest.
Have you ever noticed bumble bees flying up against the windows of your house, investigating dark shady spots beneath the garden shed, hovering around dark holes in the lawn, or poking in dark wall crevices?
Chances are, they are looking for a suitable nest site. Elsewhere, I have filmed a bumble bee nest in a compost bin located in a light shaded spot in our garden.
The following are just a few examples of flowering plants that will tolerate at least some shade.
Note: some of these may or may not be toxic to humans and/or pets. I'm not a horticulturalist, so I won't provide advice on this topic.
Earlier this year, I spent about 15 minutes around a small patch of wild garlic in a wooded area, and saw many bee species. Anyway, within about 15 minutes I saw mason bees, various nomad species, mining bees, and honey bees.
The conclusion is that if you have space for wild garlic, do consider it. Note they are quite pungent when in flower - I rather like it - for me it's a cross between the garlic bulbs we eat, onions and sage.
Don't forget about spring bulbs: crocuses, carefully selected daffodils and snowdrops look beautiful planted in swathes around wooded and shady areas.
Other shade / partial shade tolerant plants that are attractive to bees include:
Please note, do check suitability for planting in your country and region (for example, to ensure they are not considered invasive in your area), and as with all plants, check for toxicity if you have pets or children.
In my experience, bees do seem to prefer foraging in the sunshine, and to some extent, it's about experimentation.
There are possibilities. You can only try it and see!
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