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12 Wildflowers and Herbs for Your Small Space

We get a lot of you asking about planting wildflowers and herbs in smaller spaces like patios, porches, and balconies. So, here’s our list of our favorite and easiest to grow plants that will provide food for both you and the pollinators!


First, make sure your small space has at least 2-4 hours of direct sunlight. Also, if you have varying degrees of sunlight in different spaces, that’s even better for mixing up different plants that prefer more shade. Most flowering plants of all types love the sun and will help them develop more blooms and attract more bees, bumblebees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.



Also, it’s best to use a planter box or pot that is deep enough (8” or more) which includes small drain holes and a tray or saucer to catch water. You’ll also want a blended soil rich in organic material, some sand, and a few wood chips and/or rocks to help the water escape during watering and rainfall. Once you’ve scoped out where, how many, and what types of containers to use, let’s get to the fun part of selecting plants!


The Herbs:


Lavender



We love Lavender because it’s easy to grow, it’s a beautiful plant to grow, pollinators love it, and you can use it in so many dishes and even in tea. This plant, which is native to the Mediterranean, will grow relatively fast and bloom throughout the growing season. Plant once temperatures are 50 degrees (although our test pots did great even when it dipped into the 40’s at night!). They like well-drained soils and allow them to slightly dry between watering.




Thyme

This herb is wonderful because of its fragrance and health benefits. You can use all parts of the plant in cooking and teas. The small leaves and stems grow fast once it’s established and the blooms will attract various pollinators. Thyme also prefers well-drained and dryer soil. They also love the sun.


Basil


This tropical herb likes warmer sunny areas and will grow rapidly once established. Afternoon shade works well for it along with keeping the soil moist and rich with compost. Cutting off stems and leaves will stimulate more growth and provide you with healthy green leaves for pasta dishes. Allow some stems to grow into blooms to attract the pollinators. One word of advice on this, as Basil is allowed to bloom, it slows leaf growth and may impact the flavor. So, one idea is to plant several and allow at least one to bloom and produce seeds. Once the temperatures dip below 50 degrees, it’s best to bring these plants indoors.



Marjoram

These are great patio and balcony plants. Once they are established, they tend to grow quickly and spread. Their small white flowers are a bees and butterflies spring and summer favorite. Marjoram leaves can be pulled off easy from the top down and put into soups, salads, baked chicken and other recipes. They like well drained containers but frequently watered as they are a thirsty species.




Hibiscus

Tropical and easy to care for, Hibiscus are a must for small spaces. They grow fast and will flower through all the growing season. They like frequent watering, especially during hot days. They do well in sunny to partial, depending on the species. So, check the label or check with your nursery professional before to make sure your available space will work. Hibiscus leaves and flowers can also be added to salads or teas and have beneficial health benefits in small amounts. Some people may have an allergic reaction, so be aware of that with your dinner guests. Cut back in the early spring to encourage new growth and more flowers. These plants will attract all pollinators and especially hummingbirds.




Marigold

These are the easiest to grow and keep flowers that will give you bright orange and yellow flowers through all three seasons. Provide them with plenty of sunlight and regular water, and both you and the bees and butterflies will enjoy them. They also reply the pesky insects. You may want to use several pots in between your other flowers to provide a rich array of color. Marigolds are also edible and can be added to salads. Depending on the species, their flavors range from citrus to saffron and even mint.





Verbena

These brilliant purple bloom clusters are perfect for small spaces. They prefer full sun and like a short period of dry soil in between watering. They are probably the most drought and heat tolerant on our list. They will provide flowers from spring to the fall and attract all kinds of pollinators. Cut back frequently to encourage new growth and blooms.


Zinnias



These colorful plants will bloom from spring to fall and they love the direct sun. Zinnias will also attract all types of pollinators including some birds like finches, swallowtails. They’re great to plant near Tomato plants as they deter worms and beetles. Plant these once the chance of frost has past. Keep the soil moist allowing it to just slightly dry in between frequent watering. Cut back dead blooms to keep more blooms coming into the fall. Colors will include white, pink, orange, and red.


Lantana



These are climate hardy plants that provide little bouquets of tiny flowers bursting with colors of red, yellow, and white. These can tolerate some shade as well. Keep watered regularly and use well-draining soil. Pollinators love these plants too!


Moss Rose Portlulaca

These unique and beautiful plants are easy to grow and even multiple. They like direct sun and can tolerate heat and drought, so water them less than your other plants. They will provide blooms from early spring until the first frost. They have small leaves like Rosemary and paper-like blooms of yellow, red, white, and purple. Bees love these flowers!


Begonia



These beautiful, delicate looking flowers like the shade along with consistently moist soil. They will begin to bloom in late spring and into the fall. These are great for balconies as long as they get a little sunlight to create vibrant blooms. They also provide a great rest stop for butterflies during hot summer months.




Dwarf Morning Glories

These are exotic and beautiful flowering plants the like full sun of at least 6 hours per day. They also prefer dryer soil conditions and well-drained pots. Plants grow to about 8” tall and do well in containers. These are great to have around kids and pets as this species is not toxic, like traditional Morning Glories. One interesting trait is that the very blue flowers close at night and reopen in the mornings. Hence the name we think!


If you’re looking for additional pollinator features for your small space, check out our nonprofit’s store and find a variety of solar powered water fountains, heirloom seeds, and pollinator houses! We’ve also got a great selection of books on plants, pollinators, and gardening. Here’s to creating your perfect outdoor space!


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