Main page

Setting up a wildlife garden

Plants for butterflies

Plants for bees

Plants for hummingbirds

Plants for birds

Plant map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main page

Setting up a wildlife garden

Plants for butterflies

Plants for bees

Plants for hummingbirds

Plants for birds

Plant map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main page

Setting up a wildlife garden

Plants for butterflies

Plants for bees

Plants for hummingbirds

Plants for birds

Plant map

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main page

Setting up a wildlife garden

Plants for butterflies

Plants for bees

Plants for hummingbirds

Plants for birds

Plant map

 

 

Gardening with just rainwater to attract wildlife

The lowest maintenance gardens as those that do not require watering. To be able to do this, you have to choose plants that are adapted to the conditions in your garden. If you have sandy soil, which drains quickly, then you have to limit yourself to drought tolerant plants. However, even drought tolerant plants will need some watering to get them established. In nature, this process occurs only in exceptionally wet years. Many of these plants are attractive to wildlife and they are beautiful.

To maximise the use of rainwater, you should consider the following:

1) Set up a rain barrel. The roof of your abode represents a large surface area for the collection of water which you do not have to pay for and which is free of chlorine and fluorine. Collecting this water for your garden also diverts it from storm sewers.

2) Dig out bunds or terraces. The effect of either of these is to slow down the flow of water so that there is more time for the water to infiltrate the soil. It also helps to prevent the loss of topsoil. If you are planting on a slope, this is very important.

3) On slopes, keeping the ground permanently covered with plants helps to slow down water and prevent soil erosion.

4) Provide channels or furrows for water to flow through so that the water is directed to the plants.

5) Add plenty of compost to the soil to improve both water retention in dry soils and the movement of water in clay soils.

6) Add a few inches of mulch to slow down evaporation. In certain parts of the garden, you may want to leave some bare soil because many species of bees require this in order to make nests and reproduce. Around butterfly hostplants use leaves as a mulch in order to allow pupae to overwinter.

7) Choose plants with a low water requirement. A large choice of plants is provided below. If you insist on planting species with a higher water requirement, then site them near to your rain barrel but 3 metres away from your house.

8) If you decide that you do need to water, it is best to water in the early part of the morning. This is the time of day when water infiltration is high and the water will not sit on the plant for long because it will evaporate when the sun rises. Hand water using cans or use soaker hoses. Any water that sits on a plant can lead to various types of fungal pathogens, so it is always better to water directly onto the soil. It is much better to water for a long time and less frequently. This allows water to penetrate deeply into the soil which encourages deep root growth and promotes drought resistance. Using soaker hoses is a good way to do this.

 

 

Here is a list of perennials and shrubs that will survive well in a water limited environment. Many grasses are also well adapted to dry soils with deep roots and some have been included here.

Name Notes

Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)

The naturalised plant does attract bees. This stuff grows on any disturbed area that you can find and it would probably be OK to dig some up. It is not one of my favourites.
Agastache foeniculum native It is great for attracting bees and does tolerate some drought.
Allium cernuum native(Nodding wild onion) This plant is adapted for pollination by bees
Amelanchier sp. native(Serviceberry) The most common species of Serviceberry while doing well in moist soils can also handle dry soils. The berries are popular with birds.
Amorpha canescens native(Leadplant) Good for attracting bees and wasps. Take a few years to flower.
Anaphalis magaritacea native Pearly Everlasting is a host plant for butterflies.
Andropogon gerardii native(Big Blue Stem) Big Blue Stem grows up to six feet tall and will do well in dry soils even with full sun. It is a hostplant for Skippers and provides seeds for birds.
Antennaria sp.native(Pussytoes) Pussytoes is a host plant for American Painted Ladies.
Antirrhinum majus (Snapdragons) A good annual that attracts a variety of wildlife, self-seeds and does well in sandy soil.
Apocynum androsaemifolium native Spreading dogbane is good for dry sandy soil in part sun.
Aquilegia (Columbine)native It does well in a range of conditions. Canadian Columbine is pollinated by hummingbirds.
Arctostaphylos uva-arsi native A ground cover that does well in sandy acid soils. It produces berries that are eaten by birds and mammals.
Aronia sp. native Both species produce bitter fruit that are eaten towards the end of winter when the more tasty berries are no longer available.
Asclepias sp. native(Milkweeds) Many species of this genus are drought tolerant. Asclepias tuberosa is widely available and other species may be available from native plant nurseries. Asclepias purpurea and Asclepias verticillata are drought tolerant but harder to find.
Asters sp. native Smooth aster, heath aster, upland white aster and sky blue aster are good examples of drought tolerant asters.
Astragalus canadensis native (Canada Milk Vetch) It looks like one of the weedy vetches that grows everywhere, but it does not have tendrils. The plant feeds bumblebees.
Baptisia sp. native These plants are host plants for some blue butterflies and they provide an early source of nectar.
Blephilia ciliata (Downy wood mint) native These plants attract low numbers of bees in late spring.
Calamintha nepeta Calamint Do well in rock gardens and are great nectar plants for bees.
Campsis radicans native Trumpet Creeper is an aggressive vine that will reward you with large red flowers that attract hummingbirds.
Caryopteris x clandonensis It blooms on new growth producing blue flowers at the end of the summer that are popular with bees
Ceanothus americanus native New Jersey Tea is an excellent nectar plant.
Cornus drummondii  
Cornus racemosa native A popular plant with birds that tolerates dry soil well.
Cornus rugosa native Tolerates more shade than Cornus racemosa
Coreopsis sp native These plants tolerate drought and have open flowers that attract a wide range of bees. They also have a long blooming period. Coreopsis lanceolata is native to Ontario.
Crocosmia 'Lucifer' Plant in a place that catches a lot of sun during the winter or bring the corms indoors. It attracts hummingbirds.
Dalea purpurea native Purple prairie clover is attractive to bees and butterflies.
Desmodium canadense native A host plant for butterflies that is popular with bees.
Echinacea sp native Echinacea are the ultimate garden plants. They flower for a long time and attract a large number of insects. Their tolerance of drought and some shade make them easy to grow.
Echinops ritro Echinops are drought tolerant and are easy to grow. They attract a large number of insects.
Erigeron pulchellus native Acts as a permanent ground cover and attracts small bees.
Eryngium yuccifolium Unusual flowers that attract a wide range of insects.
Eupatorium sp. native Most species tolerate part-shade and do well in moist soils. Eupatorium rugosum tolerates dry shade and is one of the last plants to flower. Eupatorium altissimum does well in sun, sand and drought. They attract bees and butterflies. Eupatorium perfoliatum also tolerates some drought.
Eupatoriadelphus sp. native  
Euphorbia corollata native Flowering spurge is fairly drought tolerant and attracts a range of bees and wasps.
Fragaria sp. native Wild strawberries are fantastic wildlife plants. They will tolerate full shade and feed both insects and birds. They spread rampantly and are good ground covers.
Gaillardia sp. native These plants are native to the West and are a good nectar source for insects. They do well in dry soils and may reseed themselves. They have a long blooming season.
Geum triflorum native Prairie Smoke is an important food source for queen bees.
Hedyotis longifolia native This bluet blooms well in dry sandy soil.
Heucheura sp. The species commonly available in nurseries is not native to Canada. It tolerates dry shade and attracts hummingbirds.
Helianthus sp. native(Sunflowers) Helianthus strumosus and Helianthus divaricatus are both perennials that grow well in part-shade or on the north side of buildings. The both also do well in sandy soil.
Heliopsis sp. native(False sunflower) Grows well in part-shade or full sun and has a long bloom. It attracts bees and butterflies.
Lespedeza capitata native Round-headed bush clover is a host plant that is pollinated by bees. It is a legume and therefore does well in poor sandy soil.
Liatris sp. native (Blazing star) Several liatris species do well in full sun and dry sandy soil. Liatris aspera and Liatris cylindracea are good choices.
Lilium philadelphicum native This Lily is hard to find, but it grows in similar conditions to lupines. It prefers slightly acidic sandy soil.
Lobelia spicata native While other Lobelia species prefer moist soil, this one does well in dry soils. It has white flowers.
Lonicera sp. native The vines from this genus are easily grown; have a long blooming season; and they attract hummingbirds.
Lupinus sp. native Lupins like sandy soils and a good amount of sunshine. They are host plants for some blue butterflies. The native Lupin of the North East prefers a slightly acidic soil and is quite particular in its requirements.
Mitchella repens native Partridgeberries grow in dry shade and attract birds.
Monarda punctata native This particular beebalm does well in dry sandy soil. It goes well with lupins as it is a nectar plant for the Karner Blue. If you cannot find this species then look for Monarda fistulosa or the annual Monarda citriodora.
Nicotiana sp. This plant has escaped gardens into the wild so be careful where you plant it. It grows in partial shade and is pollinated by hummingbirds. The white forms probably attract sphinx moths as well.
Oenothera sp. native Many of these species can tolerate drought.
Origanum sp. Oregano is a nice herb to grow in the garden while providing bees with nectar that has a high sugar concentration.
Parthenocissus quinquefolianative

Virginia Creeper is a vine that grows quite well in the shade and provides fruit for birds. It is also a host plant for several species of sphinx moths. Do not plant Boston Ivy which is a member of the same genus.

Penstemons native These provide a good early sources of nectar for bees and hummingbirds
Perovskia This plant is known as Russian Sage and it has a long blooming season in the latter part of the summer.
Phlox sp. native These plants have a long bloom period. They attract Monarch butterflies somewhat and are supposed to attract hummingbirds. Sphinx moths will drink from them.

Pycnanthemum sp. native

These species have a long bloom period and are attractive to a wide range of insects.
Ratibida sp. native These plants look like coneflowers, but are much more drought tolerant.
Rudbeckia sp. native

Rudbeckia hirta is the most drought resistant example that is generally available.

Rosa sp. native Rosa blanda, carolina or virginiana all do well in dry soil.
Ruellia humilis native Does well in hot sun and sandy soils.
Schizachyrium scoparium native Little blue stem is a host for skippers and provides seeds for birds.
Shepherdia sp. native Grows well in dry alkaline soils and produces berries enjoyed by birds.
Silphium laciniatum native All the species mentioned can tolerate some drought.
Solidago sp. native Many, but not all species of Goldenrod are drought resistant. Make sure you do your homework on the species you are interested in. Solidago rigida is widely available in Ontario. You can also try Solidago nemoralis and Solidago speciosa
Symphoricarpos albus native The snowberry is an adaptable small shrub with distinctive white berries that feed birds and show off in winter.
Tephrosia virginiana Goat's Rue is a tough plant that hosts Southern Cloudywings. It grows in light shade and will compete with trees for water.
Verbena stricta or simplex native It is a good plant for pollinators with a long blooming period.
Viburnum acerifolium native A good plant to try in dry shade. It grows slowly.
Viburnum lentago native Most viburnum need some watering. Viburnum lentago is a native species that can tolerate dry soils. Viburnum dentatum is a smaller alternative.
Viburnum prunifolium Native the USA, this small tree provides flowers for insects and berries for birds during the winter months.
Viola sp. native Woodland violets tolerate part shade and are host plants for fritillaries.
Zauschneria garretti This plant is drought tolerant and has a long blooming season. It attracts hummingbirds. It is a plant from the chaparral biome on the West coast of N.America.
Zizia aptera native Spring flowering to feed queen bumblebees.