Night blooming, moth-attracting plants create a bat paradise
By Kristen Pope
Providing habitat for bats can be as simple as planting a garden with flowers that entice insects they like to eat. Consider constructing a wildlife garden in order to benefit your local ecosystem—including bats.
”In a wildlife garden, you see all sorts of fun things like butterflies and birds during the day,” BCI Community Engagement Manager Erin Cord says. “Then bats are taking the night shift eating lots of nocturnal insects that are supported by the native plants. Planting a bat garden is a tangible action people can take where the positive impacts ripple out to wildlife.”
BCI is working with partners to create bat gardens all around the country, including a garden at Anacostia Watershed Society in Maryland, one in Austin, Texas, in partnership with Travis County Natural Resources, and one at the headquarters of local non-profit Austin Youth River Watch (AYRW). The AYRW effort built on a week of summer Bat Week programming through a partnership with BCI and Austin Bat Refuge. The November 2022 planting day to create AYRW’s garden was even chronicled on Austin PBS show Central Texas Gardener.
You can create your own bat garden at home. A few key tips include:
Find the right species to plant
Use native plants that attract native insects like moths, which are a favorite food for many insectivorous bats. To find out which native plants are likely to thrive in your area, check out National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder. Incorporate plants that bloom at night or stay open at night. Light-colored and fragrant blooms are best.
Below are a few flowering plants that many bats like, but be sure to find out which species of the recommended genera grow well in your area before planting.
Flowers for Bats
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Native Salvia/Sage (Salvia sp.)
Yucca (Hesperaloe sp.)
Sunflower (Helianthus sp.)
Trees (especially oak trees) provide many benefits to bats, including roosting habitat and support a multitude of insects.
“Native trees are biologically rich in terms of invertebrates, and there often are sort of mini ecosystems within the canopy of trees,” Cord says.
Dead trees can also provide valuable habitat, including hollows and spaces in the bark where they can roost.
Below are a few trees and shrubs to consider. Be sure to select species that do well in your climate.
Dogwood (Cornus sp.)
Elderberry (Sambucus sp.)
Native Oaks (Quercus sp.)
Native fruit trees (Prunus sp.)
Organic is best
Avoid garden pesticides and remedial timber treatment agents in structures, since they can both be harmful to bats. Bats can provide natural pest control and eat enormous quantities of insects. Some pregnant or nursing bats can eat up to half their body weight in insects each night.
Consider adding bat houses
To make your yard even more enticing for bats, consider installing bat houses in addition to planting flowers, shrubs, and trees to attract them.
Other tips for creating a garden for bats include keeping cats away and providing a water source with the right dimensions and clearances to allow bats to drink “on the wing.”
Learn more with BCI’s Guide to Gardening for Bats.