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I would be pleased to hear from any readers who can suggest non-cultivar plants for a rather shaded garden, in the hope that butterflies and bees will become a less rare sight in my garden (I know they're declining, anyway ... very sad).  A friend of a friend has advised against cultivars as they often produce an artificial nectar which deceives the butterflies and bees, and suggested I go for wild plants.  My back garden is small and I can only grow in containers because of very poor soil.  Many thanks.


Plant things like cosmos, marigold (calendula), echinacea, rudbeckia & any open single blooms. Most wildflowers are good too.


Pulmonarias, good shade plants and the bees love them. Single flowers are what you're looking for. the doubles don't have the naughty bits. The sexual parts that produce what insects like.

Trachystemon orientalis, another early one for the bees.


I suspect your friend's friend is in a bit of a muddle.  Do you mean named varieties when you say 'cultivar'?  

Double flowers are not good for bees and butterflies.  Nor are many foreign plants, but buddlias, heather and privet, brooms, ivy, clovers, obviously.  Honeysuckle for moths.  Do a bit of research on the internet and you'll find lots, I'm sure. Visit some gardens and see what's buzzing.

Remember bees and butterflies are more active in the sunshine.


'Cultivars' are Cultivated varieties. Bred by us from those we think are best of the species. Varieties are naturally occurring forms within a species. each may or may not be good for insects. If not a clear comment blame the wine


Wildflowers especially liked by bees include borage & phacelia. They also adore limnanthes (poached egg flower) which is dead easy to grow.


Insects like plants with open access to pollen and nectar so, as said above, no doubles as they are often sterile.  There are plenty of clematis that like shade.  You could try rose Ballerina which has open blooms and tolerates shade.  Just make sure it's planted in good soil and gets a regular top dressing as roses, like clematis, are hungry plants.

Aquilegias are good, foxgloves (bees not butterflies), astilbes if the soil is not too dry, primroses and primulas for early season nectar, japanese anemones, sweet cicely, geranium phaeum, lobelia cardinalis and simple busy lizzies.  Try heliopsis and eupatorium if you have some sun on the bed.

Hi barry

I too have a shaded garden it gets the early morning

and very late afternoon sun but i grow all wild flowers, they like poor soil.

and seem to manage with limited sunlight.

Take a look at the butterfly and bee conservation sites, they list the plants for you.


The bees are really enjoying my pulmonarias at the moment 


Even with the few plants I have here just now the bees are buzzing

Barry- buddleias  will grow anywhere and butterflies and bees love them.


Another vote for pulmonarias, the variagated ones can add bright splashes in the shade garden, and at this time of year, they are where all the bees in my garden have been hanging out. 


Pulmonaria rubra starts really early in time for the first bumblies. On a good year they're out for the new year's day flower count.

Many thanks for all kind and helpful suggestions, I feel spoilt for choice now!


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