Lawn & Garden Gardening

3 Container Garden Combos for Attracting Pollinators

Would you like to help our pollinators “bee around” for many years to come? Plant a container oasis of nectar-rich flowers to help sustain them.
Audrey Stallsmith Avatar
container garden combos for attracting pollinators


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Although bees come to mind first as the preeminent pollen movers and shakers, butterflies and hummingbirds also do their share of transporting that “gold dust.” You’ll want to encourage them to hang around, both for their own sakes and so that your vegetable garden and fruit trees will bear well.

The most attractive container combos usually include thrillers, fillers, and spillers. Thrillers are the tall showy plants at the center or center back and fillers the shorter but also upright plants that fill in around those superstars, while spillers hang out over the edges of the container.

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Bee Happy Container

The current buzz is that bees prefer flowers in yellow, white, blue, and purple hues. Consider using long-blooming dwarf sunflower Helianthus ‘Suncredible Yellow’ as your sun-colored thriller, dwarf coneflower Echinacea ‘Kim’s Knee High’ as your purple-tinted filler, and a white alyssum such as Lobularia ‘Snow Princess” to spill the appropriate scent of honey over your efforts.

bee friendly pollinator container combination

Fly High Container

Butterflies like it hot—not just warm temperatures, but bright colors such as red, orange, and yellow—on blooms large enough for safe landings. To capture the flutter-bys’ attention, you might want to make the red and orange tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, your thriller, with a lower-growing red and yellow gaillardia, such as ‘Arizona Sun,’ as your filler. Then add trailing Lantana ‘New Gold’ as the spiller.

butterfly container garden ideas

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Hum Along Container

Hummingbirds prefer being in the red—especially if those blooms have a furled funnel shape. To make that color pop, pair it with dark foliage or flowers. For a partial sun position, you might choose a red-flowered bee balm with purple bracts, such as Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ for the thriller, a dusky salvia such as Salvia splendens ‘Lighthouse Purple’ for the filler, and a dangling red and purple fuchsia like Fuchsia magellanica for the spiller.

hummingbird container garden

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Planting Tips

Some of the plants mentioned here are perennials, and might not bloom until their second year, so make sure that any perennials you purchase are at least 2 years old. If you intend to keep them in their containers over the winter, those plants should survive in a hardiness zone that ranks two zones colder (north) than where you live. Select containers for your perennial pollinator garden composed of a material that doesn’t crack easily.

If you combine annuals with perennials, simply replace the annual plant the following year. Also, avoid spraying the plants with insecticides, since those likely have contributed to the current decline in pollinators. And you’ll want to help alleviate that problem—not contribute to it!

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