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Monarch Butterly
Butterflies & Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly

Nectar Gardening for Butterflies, Honey Bees & Native Bees

By Michelle Peterson, St. Lucie County Master Gardener

Plants produce nectar as a means of attracting insects, birds and other potential pollinators. One of the greatest benefits of gardening with nectar-producing plants is being able to provide an attractive habitat for a great number of wildlife, particularly butterflies, honey bees and native pollinators. A standard nectar garden includes a mix of annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs and trees. Although there are many commonalities in nectar gardens, each has specific requirements when attracting a specificpollinator.


  • Prefer red, orange, pink and yellow flowers
  • Like trumpet-shaped flowers that hold sweet nectar
  • Need species-specific host plants that provide shelter, camouflage and larval food.


  • Prefer yellow, white, blue and purple flowers – can’t see the color red.
  • Like daisy-like flowers with broad petals that offer a large landing pad.
  • Need pollen as well as nectar to feed the hive.

Native Bees:

  • Prefer fruiting trees and shrubs and native plants
  • Have short life spans, and like a variety of blossoms throughout the year
  • Are largely ground-dwelling and prefer native soil that free of pesticides and fertilizers

Butterflies and bees also like shallow mud puddles where they get their source of water and minerals. Most plants that attract pollinators require full sun (a minimum of 5 to 6 hours of light a day), so it may be more of a challenge to attract bees and butterflies to your shade garden, though not entirely impossible.

Pesticides will not only keep pesky bugs away, but also the ones that you’re trying to attract. Be very judicious in your applications, and choose spot treatments over systemic. Avoid planting the red flower passion vine (Passiflora racemosa) which can be poisonous to butterfly caterpillars.

Also, be cautious about toxic plants like Yellow Jessamine aka Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and White Ti Ti (Cyrilla racemiflora ) which are poisonous to bees.

Majesty Palm
Pothos and Philodendron

Creating a Tropical Container for Shade

When creating any container, there are several factors to consider that will affect the overall impact. Color, of course, is a high priority when trying to achieve a tropical look. There are other details to consider though such as pattern, shape, texture and movement. Considering these will help you create a container you can’t take your eyes off of all summer!

Understanding “thriller, fillers and spillers” will help you to create an eye-catching combination. The “thriller” is the plant that not only brings height to the container, but is also the standout. It’s the plant you normally notice first. “Fillers” are shorter than the “thriller” but equally important. They fill in space while also bringing some element (texture or color) to complement the other plants. “Spillers” are trailing plants. The perfect “spiller” can have a wonderful effect as it cascades over the edge of the container.

You can create your own stunning container with as little as three plants…or feel free to use more! Just remember the elements mentioned above and consider the shady tropical plant suggestions below:


Cordylines – the deep red leaves of ‘Florica Red’ Cordyline lend dramatic color that only gets better as the season progresses.

Dracaenas - another eye-catching tropical, especially varieties such as ‘Colorama’ and ‘Limelight.’ Whichever one you choose, you are sure to be impressed by the easy-to-grow nature of these plants.

Palms - potted alone or with companions, palms are the epitome of tropical. Palms bring movement and texture to your container. Even the slightest breeze causes the fronds to rustle back and forth. Try ‘Majesty’, ‘Rhapis’, or ‘Phoenix’ palms.


Stromanthe ‘Tri Color’ – this beauty brings both color and pattern to the shade. In the evening, watch its leaves fold upward to reveal the magenta undersides.

Ferns – there are many different kinds of ferns. Each provides a unique opportunity to create texture and add a lush tropical feel to your containers. Each new frond on the ‘Autumn’ fern unfurls and takes on a bronze color. The almost wax-like shine and deeply lobed fronds of ‘Austral Gem’ ferns will bring beautiful texture to your container. If you’re looking for something that’s a little more unusual, try ‘Staghorn’ or ‘Blue Star’ ferns. Their funky fronds are sure to garner attention.

Anthuriums - there are few plants that can bloom the way anthurium do. This tropical beauty will thrive on your hot, shady porch all summer too. They can be either the filler or the thriller in a combination container. Anthuriums now come in several shades of pink, red, white, and even purple.

Crotons – the bright mixture of red, orange, yellow and green in croton leaves will dazzle you all summer. Crotons can be grown in the shade, but a little sun will bring out more color in the leaves. Try the varieties ‘Petra’ or ‘Curly Boy.’


Pothos and Philodendron – trailing pothos and philodendron are old school houseplants that can become the finishing touch on an outdoor shady container. Both vines grow quickly in our summer heat. Consider ‘Golden’, ‘Satin’, and ‘Neon’ Pothos or Philodendron ‘Cordatum.’

Angel Vine– the lacy stems of this plant are a little more airy and understated compared to big, bold pothos. Angel vine adds a delicate texture to combination containers.

Ivy – one of the most reliable shady trailers. Try traditional green English Ivy or variegated versions like ‘Glacier’ and ‘Gold Child’.

Whichever plants you choose, don’t be afraid to get creative with your containers. To see more shady tropicals or receive help putting your containers together, come on by and see us today!

Summertime Kale Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Crisp kale, ripe fruit, crunchy vegetables and a pungent dressing

CUISINE DU JARDIN with Chef Manu - Summertime Kale Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Featured Recipe Exclusively for McDonald Garden Center

Summertime Kale Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Crisp kale, ripe fruit, crunchy vegetables and a pungent dressing come together to make this tasty and wholesome summertime salad. Kale, a member of the cabbage family, is packed with beta-carotene and other nutrient-rich antioxidants. And, did you know that just one cup of kale offers over two times the amount of vitamin A you need in one day? The fresh summer berries infuse color and a sweet taste. A healthy and light salad that is perfect for summer and pairs well with just about everything!


  • Kale, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup of red cabbage, shredded
  • 5 radish, thinly sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, cut into 4 wedges, then cut the wedges in half
  • 1 package of strawberries, cut into fours
  • 1 package of raspberries
  • 1 package of blueberries
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Parsley, cilantro and basil


  • 10 raspberries
  • 4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 8 tbsp of olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of pepper

Toss together kale, carrots, red cabbage, green onions, radishes, strawberries, and tomatoes. Add the raspberries and blueberries. Chop the herbs and mix in.
Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients and the dressing, and mix until well coated. Let set 10-15 minutes and enjoy.