Pollinator-attracting flowers for shady balcony


I would like to attract pollinators to my 5th floor balcony container garden, but have had success growing only ferns, coleus and fibrous rooted begonias – not plants with numerous bright flowers. I have seen two or three bees around the begonias, so I know they are able to reach the 5th floor. The balcony faces east, and gets a maximum of 2 hours direct sun daily. At times it can be windy, so I haven’t tried anything that grows above 12 inches (30 cm.) or so. What would you suggest that I plant? Would flowering native plants survive in these conditions? The bees and I look forward to your suggestions.
Thank you.


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your question about attracting pollinators to your balcony shade container garden. This is such a worthwhile project ! Pollinators can use all the help we can give them. While most plants that attract pollinators prefer full sun, there are many that do well in the shade.

Pollinator Garden: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide has lots of helpful information about pollinators and pollinator gardens, including in containers. Here is an excerpt that applies to your situation :

‘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 Hosta (Plantain lily), Aquilegia (columbine), Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle), and Gillenia trifoliata (Bowman’s root).’

This Guide also has links to lists of native plants, including those that grow in shade. The link for Credit Valley Conservation includes a link for their Plant Guide titled Woodland Plants for Landscaping that has an extensive list of native plants for shade. There are also plant lists from other sources, as well as many links in the References section on subjects related to pollinator gardening..

The David Suzuki Foundation also has a list of plants for sun and shade that are native to the Toronto area. This list is here.

Good luck with the pollinators !