Seen with praise by the gardener but as a menace by those with allergies, the average honeybee definitely excites a wide spectrum of emotions. However, there’s no debating how necessary and useful honeybees are to not just our agricultural industries but also to our local ecosystems. At least one-third of the food we consume today has been pollinated by honeybees, and without the hard work of our buzzy friends, we’d be without fruits and produce such as apples, honey, and cherries and more.
Unfortunately, honeybees have faced a sharp decline in recent years due to climate changes, pesticides, loss of biodiversity and disease. In the winter between 2018 and 2019 we saw a 40% decline in the honeybee population, and scientists are predicting a further drop in the population as we enter a new decade.
So Why Is Planting Flowers That Attract Bees Vital To Our Existence & What Can We Do About It?
You may be wondering: what can I do on my part to support our honeybees? Besides donating to non-profits, you can help local honeybee populations by making your garden as bee-friendly and bee-accessible as possible a sort of bee garden. One way is to plant flowers that have bee friendly plants that not only attract bees but are also important to their livelihood.
The winning strategy for you and the planet: get nature’s most productive pollinators in your yard and help with preserving the local honeybee population.
Anyone that has a garden should be planting flowers that attract bees today and giving those amazing pollinators a home such as a bee house. It’s a win-win your garden will be thriving and beautiful and its a small part you can do to help the planet and the future of children.
Here are the top 17 most common flowers and plants that bees love so you can do your part in saving our fuzzy garden comrades.
- Hardiness zone. Though commonly associated with monarch butterflies and also known as “butterfly weed,” milkweeds are a great way to attract bees to your garden with their generous helping of nectar. They come in a variety of colors such as pink and white, yellow, and orange. These bright and colorful blooms prefer the sun and are drought-resistant, making them perfect for arid and areas such as California. An extra bonus to these flowers is that they also attract ladybugs, which can serve as a natural form of aphid control for your garden.
- Nothing is more symbolic of spring than the vivid blossoms of the pansy. Pansies are hardy annuals who fare well in colder temperatures; unfortunately, heat-resistance is a thing pansies have yet to develop. When buying pansies, keep in mind that it’s pretty difficult to raise pansies from the seed, so buying from the local nursery will save you more time and frustration. Make sure to water and fertilize your pansies thoroughly so you and the bees can enjoy this particular springtime bloom.
- With their striking purple and blue petals, it’s no wonder that bees are attracted visually to this spring and summertime flower. In fact, studies have shown that bees adjust their activity in accordance with the bloom-time of local lilacs. One particular bee, the leafcutter, is a fan of this flower. Luckily for gardeners, lilacs are some of the more easy shrubs to raise—all you need to do is find a location with good sunlight as well as drainage and you’re all set.
- Lavender isn’t just only coveted for its fragrance—lavender serves as an important source of food for bees. These purple blooms are best planted in the spring; planting in the fall is possible but be sure to use larger plants so they survive the winter cold. For those more DIY-savvy, after lavender is finished growing, the plant can be harvested and dried to make lavender sachets.
- From deep blues to light purples, delphiniums come in a variety of shades that will add a pop of color to your summer garden. Because of their majestic blooms, delphiniums are popular among gardeners, but they can be a challenge for those starting out. These flowers are best planted in areas that experience cool and moist summers versus hot and dry ones. Be sure to also plant them in an area where they receive some cover from the wind and rain.
6. Black-Eyed Susans
- Part of the coneflower family, black-eyed Susans provide for a nice aesthetic and are popular among bees as well as butterflies. Semi-drought-resistant, black-eyed Susans primarily bloom in the summer. Be sure to plant these particular flowers in clumps, as not only does this make them more visually attractive, it also makes it easier for bees to find them among your garden’s blooms.
- With their luscious petals and gorgeous pink as well as red hues, it’s no surprise that peonies are a popular flower for gardens. Peonies bloom between late spring and mid-summer so most gardening experts suggest planting this particular flower in the fall. Planting in the fall ensures that the peony is able to set in its roots before the winter frost. By planting in the fall, you’ll get stronger blooms in the spring and summer as well as a healthier plant in the long run. One other thing to keep in mind for this plant is to avoid the “bomb double” variety. The “bomb double” variety does not produce pollen and thus will not help your garden in attracting bees.
- Despite being low-maintenance, these flowers pack a punch once they bloom. Snapdragons are hardy flowers that last from late spring until autumn. While they need moderate watering, they do well in full sun. Given their bright colors and their accessible openings, snapdragons are popular with local bees as well. When maintaining snapdragons, gardening experts recommend removing faded or deceased flowers from the plant to keep it healthy and strong.
9. Lantana Flower
- Though considered a weed in parts of South America, lantana’s colorful colors and hardiness are perfect for any garden. Also known by its common name “verbena,” lantana comes in shades such as white, yellow, pink, orange, red, and even blue. In areas with a warmer climate, lantana is a perennial, but in cooler areas, this shrub is an annual. In some cases, lantana blooms all year long if the weather is warm enough! When caring for this shrub, it’s suggested to prune it every spring to manage its growth.
10. Bee Balm Flower
- Besides bees, this plant native to North America also attracts welcomed guests to your garden such as butterflies and hummingbirds. Bee balm is best grown in the spring and fall, especially in evenly moist soil. It is important that bee balm is planted with adequate space between plants for good air circulation, as this leads to the prevention of mildew on the plant’s leaves. Make sure to also keep these plants in full sunshine.
- Pun-lovers, chefs, and bees alike are attracted to this hardy herb. Compared to other plants, thyme doesn’t need a lot of attention or watering. It’s best to also plant this herb in the sun as thyme does best in hot conditions. Instead of starting from seed, consider propagating this plant via cuttings. For the best tasting thyme, harvest in the summer and let this evergreen plant rest in the winter.
- Zinnias are colorful annuals that are easy for amateur gardeners to grow and can also provide a blast of color to your garden. Given the unexposed nature of their stems, they’re understandably popular for bouquets and cuttings. When planting zinnias, keep in mind to raise them in an area with full sun. Zinnias are particularly sensitive to the cold and will die as soon as the first fall frost comes; make sure to allow for ample time to reseed your zinnias during late summer.
13. Solidago "Goldenrod"
- As long as there is the sun, this flower will grow. Often there is debate as to whether goldenrod is a weed or a wildflower, but regardless of where you stand in that debate, this is a flower to consider for the bees in the late summer to fall. However, keep in mind that this flower considered an opportunist: goldenrods are infamous for propagating uncontrollably in gardens. However, regular maintenance can help in curbing this flower’s habit and producing a fine fall bloom.
- These pink and purple flowers are a favorite among bees—unsurprising since bees favor yellow and purple blooms. Asters’ greatest boon is its bloom time, which is late summer and fall. When planting aster, be sure that the soil is moist and loamy, but also well-drained. Furthermore, this flower does best in areas with cool and moist summers. If you live in a warmer area, make sure to plant your asters in a place where they can avoid the full brunt of the mid-day sun.
- Popular among beginning and pro gardeners alike, marigolds provide a blast of color for very little money. In addition to staying in bloom for the majority of summer, marigolds have a diverse variety of flower heads as well. When planting marigolds, start from spring when the temperature begins to warm up. Avoid planting them in shady areas as marigolds are prone to mildew if there is a lack of sunlight. Be sure to remove stones and to prepare the ground six-inches deep before planting.
- Available in an array of heights and with a bloom time from early spring to late summer, phlox is a flower that not only attracts bees but is also considered extremely versatile. Their blooms are fragrant and don’t require too much labor to maintain save for the occasional trim of faded flowers. Especially if you live in hotter climates that see less rain, be sure to water these plants often throughout the week.
- With little maintenance necessary, sage is a popular flower among bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This purple flower also has a generously long bloom time—sage typically blooms from late spring to summer, but removing the fading flowers in the summer leads to more blooms in the autumn. When planting sage, be sure to start in the spring when all signs of frost are gone. Give this flower thorough watering and a place beneath the sun. Particularly in drier and warmer climates, sage does exceptionally well whether it’s annual or perennial.
Tips to Consider When Choosing Flowers
While you don’t have to necessarily restrict yourself to the flowers on the list above, it’s always useful to also have these pointers in mind when choosing flowers for your bee-friendly garden:
1. Plant Native
Being conscious of your local ecosystem is important for both the well-being of bees and local wildlife. Planting native plants will only bolster your local be population while planting non-native plants may be riskier and have unseen, negative side effects.
2. Avoid Hybrids
One reason to avoid hybrids is that hybrids have a reduced amount of pollen and nectar. Furthermore, depending on the shape of the flower’s hybrid, bees may have trouble harvesting the already limited amount of pollen and nectar available.
Though bees are often associated with late spring and summer, it serves to note that bees are hardy workers who collect year-round to save for the colder winter days. Diversifying your flowers not only means you get beautiful blooms in the fall months but also helps sustain bees for longer.
Why Plant for the Bees?
Bees are one of nature’s strongest pollinators. Some bees, such as mason bees, are able to pollinate an entire fruit true on their own in less than 4 hours. Furthermore, as the US’s honeybee population continues to fall, even the casual gardener can do their part to ensure the survival of our best pollinator by creating a bee-friendly garden. To kill bees accidentally via pesticides or other means would only cause detrimental harm to your garden’s overall well-being.
Especially for those who searching for new ways to practice pesticide-free gardening, garden pest control isn’t too difficult when it comes to using specific plants as ways to control pests without pesticides.
For example, some plants, such as milkweed, are great at not only to attract bees but also pest predators such as ladybugs. To the benefit of those who want to pursue natural garden pest control, there has luckily been a boom in available resources in recent years. Pesticide-free gardening is easy for beginners—even for those who still wish to use pesticides, safe garden pesticides and all other forms of all-natural pest control becoming increasingly available.