Native plants, containers and a patio

Asked November 17, 2020, 2:46 PM EST

Dear Master Gardeners,

I am about to move into a condo with a great 200 sg ft concrete patio. Exciting! But I want to green the spot up, preferably with bee-attractive native plants (maybe even bought at one of your plant sales). I also haven't grown anything but house plants, so I'd love a recommendation for some spring, summer and winter blooming plants that are not too obscure but will grow in a container. Tall order, but I *know* our MG are up to the challenge.


Benton County Oregon

3 Responses

Hi Andony, congratulations on your new dwelling! I reached out to some volunteers who are not currently on AaE but who will likely have some excellent ideas. Are you open to non-native plants that are still pollinator friendly? Updates soon.

Hey Elizabeth!

Yes I will totally use non-native plants. My interest in native plants is not out of some sense of purity, but rather out of biological curiosity. Having spent so much time learning about bees I realize I don't know my plant families very well. I dream of having coffee and have tremendous bloom, get visited and then set seed. So let me revise my original request and ask for weird plants, that can grow in a container and that can meet me halfway in terms of my lack of gardening skills.

Great! Here are some recommendations from Master Gardener Volunteers who are familiar with gardening for pollinators.

From Susan Morton:
"There are lots of plants that bees love that can be grown in containers. Some of the best are culinary herbs--double bang for your buck. I have oregano and a mint that blooms copiously. Both are under clouds of bees. But the best one I have found is Africa Blue Basil. It blooms all season. In fact mine is still going in the greenhouse. It has a bright spicy flavor. Monarda (Bee Balm), any of the salvias, both culinary and ornamental, penstemons, lavender, thyme, and rosemary would all be good for attracting bees. ...For other suggestions I recommend the Xerces Society's publication 100 Plants to Feed the Bees:"

From Ranee Webb:
"Here are some great sources of information to help with container gardening including bee-attractive native plants and also vegetable gardening container plants. Do consider some herbs that you allow to go to flower.

Container Gardening

Plants for pollinators

This one gives you bloom times.

This Bloom Time Chart that is also very helpful.

From this chart I personally would choose to plant a variety of Oregon grape (there are dwarf sizes and ground cover varieties that are better suited to containers). Larkspur, bleeding heart, columbine, Oregon sunshine, phacelia, cinquefoil, mule's ear, lovage, goldenrod and Douglas aster would be sized for container planting. Look at watering needs and plant those with similar needs together."

From me, Elizabeth:

A few of my personal favorites which would do well in large containers include some smaller species that are recommended in a recent publication that you co-authored, Trees and Shrubs for Fall and Winter Bloom. :) I have had good success with heathers, sages and lavenders of various kinds. These all have good-looking foliage year-round with minimal maintenance and attract a variety of pollinators at different times. Also there are native sedums which are attractive to pollinators and would do great in a container. Here's one from Oregon Flora's new garden plant search:

Andony, I hope these ideas help you get started with an enjoyable patio container garden that draws in the pollinators. Don't hesitate to reach out if you would like to discuss further. We appreciate your reaching out and hope that these ideas add to your extensive professional knowledge on this topic.