Butterfly plants for a balcony


I will broaden the querie . My deck is approx. 5X8 with a southeast exposure lots of sun in the morning and none in the afternoon. I am located in Chelmsford (NW of the city of Sudbury) I would like to attract butterflies and Humming Birds. So my question is what should I grow and how?


Since you are growing on a deck, I will assume you will be growing your pollinator garden in containers. Toronto Master Gardeners has created an extensive guide to planting a pollinator garden which you can see at:


Some of the key elements it recommends include:

A pollinator garden can be big or small – planted in a large empty urban lot or in small pots and containers on a balcony. What is key to attracting pollinators is imitating nature. Aim to:

  • Offer a diversity of plants to attract a diversity of pollinators.
  • Use plants of different heights – trees, shrubs, vines and plants – to effect a layered canopy, even in a small container garden.
  • Use enough of a single plant (massing them, if possible) to minimize pollinator search time and allow them to collect pollen and/or nectar more efficiently.
  • Provide a sequence of bright-coloured and fragrant blooms from spring to the end of fall.
  • Use chiefly native plants, which link up directly to native pollinators’ needs (native plants are four times more likely to attract native bees than non-natives). This may mean reassessing plants such as goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), which provides pollen and nectar late in the season.
  • When using non-native plants that attract pollinators – herbs such as parsley, basil and sage, or flowers such as alyssum, calendula or cosmos – try to plant heirlooms, which have more accessible nectar and pollen than hybrids.
  • Do not use pesticides.
  • Offer shelter and nesting sites to pollinators by allowing some parts of the garden to be a little “wild.”
  • Provide fresh water in bird baths or other containers for pollinators of all types.
  • Balcony pollinator gardens are most successful if they’re sunny and sheltered from wind. Creating a windbreak using a trellis or screen or native shrubs like juniper or viburnum will help shield plants from the wind. If the balcony is heavily shaded, choose shade-loving pollinator plants such as hostas, columbines, lady’s mantle and Bowman’s root, along with ferns.
  • Aim for a diversity of plant material. Using plants of varying heights, including annuals, wildflowers, flowering vines and potted shrubs and trees is most effective. To save space, herbs such as thyme and oregano can be planted around your potted shrubs and trees to act as mulches as well as food for pollinators.
  • A balcony (or deck) pollinator garden should also focus on native plants, which are first choice for native pollinators. In addition, native plants need less water. Silvery-leaved non-natives like rosemary, lavender and sage are also relatively drought-tolerant and valuable in attracting pollinators.
  • A pollinator garden aims to ensure that every plant functions as a pollinator as well as a decorative element or vegetable or mulch.

The Garden Guide lists all kinds of plants suitable for a pollinator garden and here are eight Native Pollinator perennials, suggested by Toronto landscape designer Sara Katz, all hardy to Canadian Hardiness Zones 3 or 4: Golden Alexander, Virginia bluebells, Foamflower, Bowman’s Root, Wild Columbine, Butterfly Milkweed, Culver ’s root and New York Aster.  This article is available in the Late Spring 2020 issue of Trellis, the magazine of Toronto Botanical Garden, available at www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca