Deer in Spring Landscape

Maryland's Wild Acres

Wild-scaping Porches, Decks and Balconies


Backyard wildlife habitat doesn’t have to be restricted to large areas with lots of acreage. By providing basic needs for wildlife, you can turn small spaces into attractive places. This page is dedicated to enhancing wildlife habitat on porches, decks and balconies.

Habitat Elements

When designing backyard wildlife habitat, it is important to include elements that provide food, water, shelter and/or nesting habitat. In confined spaces, it is best to plant species which perform double duties such as shrubs that provide both cover and berries. Drought tolerant plants or those which prefer less sun are also good choices for container plants. In addition, be sure to maintain a sense of proportion when designing your habitat by choosing shrubs and plants which won’t overtake your space and will require little maintenance.

Food

Bird feeders are an excellent addition to small spaces. However, don’t put out large quantities of seed as it may attract pigeons and rats. Also, be mindful of your neighbors and possible seed spillage if your balcony is above someone else’s balcony. If you have large glass doors or windows by your feeders, then put up decals or blinds to prevent possible window strikes. If you are using shrubs to provide a berry source, be sure that if shrubs have male and female parts on different plants (dioecious), then you have at least one male and one female for berry production.

Water

Fresh water is probably one of the most important elements of habitat for wildlife. If possible, then try to add a bird bath or small fountain to your deck or porch as a water source for wildlife. A shallow terra cotta saucer filled with a small amount of water and sand can also provide an excellent water source for butterflies. Be sure to clean out bird baths and saucers regularly to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your water source.

Shelter

Evergreen shrubs can provide shelter year round for wildlife, as can clump forming grasses in containers. Hanging baskets can sometimes become nesting areas, especially for Mourning doves. Vines on trellises can also provide temporary cover.

Recommended Plant List

The following list provides some recommendations for wildlife friendly plants that also grow well in containers. When selecting plants, keep in mind the size of your space and the light needs for the plants you install. Also, be an informed consumer and stay away from plants that are known to be invasive. For a list of commonly planted invasive species, check out the “Bad Plants Planted by Good People” page or the recently revised Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas.

Pentas are favorites of bees and butterflies - Photo by Kerry Wixted

Annuals

Species

Native?

Flower/Fruit

Benefits

Flowering Tobacco

(Nicotiana alata)

N

May-Jul

Attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.

Lantana

(Lantana camara)

N

Jun-Aug

Good for butterflies but invasive in southern climates like GA,FL

Pentas

(Pentas spp.)

N

Jun-Sept

Nectar attracts bees, butterflies, birds

Petunia

(Petunia spp.)

N

Apr-Jul

Can attract butterflies like Painted ladies

Salvia

(Salvia spp.)

N

May-Sep

Great for beneficial insect pollinators

Sweet William/Phlox

(Phlox divaricata)

Y

Apr-Jun

Showy spring flower that attracts butterflies

Sweet William

(Dianthus barbatus)

N

Jun-Jul

Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds

Zinnia

N

 

Great for butterflies and other pollinators


Wild Oats produce attractive fruits while also providing cover for wildlife

Grasses

Species

Native?

Flower/Fruit

Benefits

Big Bluestem

(Andropogon gerardii)

Y

Jun-Sep

Clump forming plant which provides cover; best in large containers

Switchgrass
(Panicum virgatum)

Y

Jul-Oct

Clump forming plant which provides food for sparrows and other songbirds

Wild Oats

(Chasmanthium latifolium)

Y

Jul-Sep

Provides cover

Black swallowtail caterpillar feeding on herb - photo by Lynn Davidson

Herbs

Species

Native?

Flower/Fruit

Benefits

Dill

(Anethum graveolens)

N

 

Host for Black swallowtail larvae

Fennel

(Foeniculum vulgare)

N

 

Host for Black swallowtail larvae

Rosemary

(Rosemaryinus officinalis)

N

 

Good for bees

Parsley

(Petroselinum crispum)

N

 

Host for Black swallowtail larvae

Sweet Marjoram

(Origanum vulgare)

N

 

Good for bees

Thyme

(Thymus)

N

 

Excellent for bees

A Skipper enjoys Purple Coneflower - Photo by Kerry Wixted

Perennials

Species

Native?

Flower/Fruit

Benefits

Beebalm

(Monarda didyma)

Y

Jul-Sep

Showy, aromatic flowers which attract hummingbirds and butterflies

Beardtongue

(Penstemon digitalis)

Y

Jun-Aug

Great for hummingbirds

Black-eyed Susan

(Rudbeckia hirta)

Y

Jun-Oct

Provides both a pollen and nectar source for wildlife

Butterflyweed

(Asclepias tuberosa)

Y

May-Jul/

Aug-Nov

Host plant for monarch butterflies. Also attracts adult butterflies

Creeping Phlox

(Phlox subulata)

Y

Apr-Jun

Attracts butterflies and works as a ground cover

Moss Phlox

(Phlox subulata)

Y

Apr-Jun

Attracts butterflies and works as a ground cover

Purple Coneflower

(Echinacea purpureum)

Y

Jul-Aug

Provides nectar for pollinators as well as seeds for birds

Stonecrops

(Sedum spp.)

Y/N

 

Provides good groundcover and some varieties are used by butterflies

Blueberries provide both a nectar and a food source - Photo by Kerry Wixted

Shrubs for Tubs

Species

Native?

Flower/Fruit

Benefits

Blueberries

(Vaccinium spp.)

Y/N

 

Provide berry source for birds as well as nectar source for butterflies and bees

Camellia

(Camellia spp.)

N

 

Can provide cover and some hummingbirds will use nectar

Coralberry

(Symphoricarpos orbiculatus)

Y

Apr-Jun

Provides cover, nectar for insects, berries for songbirds and leaves for moths

Hydrangea

(Hydrangea spp.)

Y/N

Jun-Aug

Provides cover and food for pollinators

Juniper (dwarf varieties)

N

 

Provides year-round shelter

Virginia Sweetspire

(Itea virginica)

Y

Jun-Jul/

Aug-Mar

Provides nectar for beneficial insects and fruit for songbirds and small mammals

Yew

(Taxus canadensis)

Y

Mar-May/

Jul-Sep

Provides cover and berries for songbirds

Passionflower is great for butterflies - photo by Kerry Wixted

Vines

Species

Native?

Flower/Fruit

Benefits

Bittersweet

(Celastrus scandens)

Y

May-Jun/

Sept-Dec

Provides fruits, buds and leaves. Excellent winter food for birds. Oriental bittersweet (C. orbiculatus) is invasive.

Passionflower

(Passiflora incarnata)

Y

Jun-Sep/

Sep-Oct

Great for butterflies and provides edible fruits

Trumpet Creeper

(Campsis radicans)

Y

Jul-Sep/

Aug-Mar

Great for butterflies and hummingbirds

Trumpet Honeysuckle

(Lonicera sempervirens)

Y

Apr-Oct/

Aug-Mar

Excellent plant for hummingbirds and provides berries for songbirds

Virgin’s Bower

(Clematis virginiana)

Y

Jul-Sept/

Aug-Nov

Fragrant flowers


For Additional Information, Please Contact:

Kerry Wixted
Wildlife and Heritage Service
580 Taylor Ave, E-1
Annapolis, MD 21401
kwixted@dnr.state.md.us
Phone: 410-260-8566
Fax: 410-260-8596

Acknowledgements:

  • Photograph of Black swallowtail caterpillar by Lynn Davidson
  • All other photos by Kerry Wixted
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    Write to Me!

    Kerry Wixted
    Natural Resources Biologist II
    Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
    MD Dept of Natural Resources
    580 Taylor Ave., E-1
    Annapolis MD  21401

    phone: 410-260-8566
    fax: 410-260-8596
    e-mail: kwixted@dnr.state.md.us

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