Trees, Bushes, Flowers

Flowers that Attract Bees

thehoneybeeconservancy.org

Early Spring

 

Pansies

USDA zones 4 – 8. Full sun. Blooms early Spring – Fall.

Whimsy, joy, colors – pansies have it all, and bees love them. They are great for containers or ground cover, but are often treated as annuals because of their ability to spread quickly. Bred from their predecessor the wild pansy, the many types of pansies can bloom in early spring or later in autumn.

 

Pussy Willow

USDA zones 4 – 7. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These North American wetland shrubs have a beautiful greyish hue and fur-like blooms. Their blooms mark the arrival of spring, making them a perfect treat for early foraging bees. Humans may also enjoy using their dried stems as decorations.

 

Siberian Squill

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These beautiful blue blooms have a stunning presence that you can enjoy for a few weeks each year. If you have a grass lawn, you can make the most of your space by planting Siberian Squill bulbs throughout it. Their colors will make your lawn pop in early spring, and the plants will recede just in time to let you start mowing in late spring. Just make sure they have good drainage to prevent bulb rot, and be cautious about their ability to spread quickly.

 

Snowdrops

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Winter, early Spring.

Snowdrops are known to announce their arrival by poking out of the snow. They are great for climates with mild to cold winters. Just keep in mind that the flowers will be dormant by summertime, so the soil in which the bulbs rest will be barren.

 

Spring, Summer

 

Peony

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Spring.

With their colors and sweet scents, these flowers will attract bees, hummingbirds, and possibly your neighbors too. Peonies benefit from cold winters to aid their bud formation. Try to place them in loamy soil in a spot protected from wind.

 

Milkweed

USDA zones 4 – 10. Prefers sun. Blooms Spring – Fall, depending on variety.

Milkweed not only serves as food to bees, but it is also the only host to monarch butterflies. These plants are great food sources for bees, but beware of their complex flower structures, for bees can get trapped or lose a leg in them. Many varieties are drought-resistant and prefer sun (browse varieties here).

 

Bee Balm

USDA zones 4 – 9. Full to partial sun, but shade tolerant. Blooms Summer.

As you may guess from the name, bees love these North American prairie flowers. The blooms almost resemble little fireworks, and come in befittingly vibrant shades too. Favoring warm climates, you can enjoy these perennials’ lush, colorful blooms year after year, and so will bees and other winged things.

 

Lavender

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

Bees love them for their nectar, humans love them for their scent and flavor. Everyone wins, and with many different varieties of lavender to choose from, you’ll likely find one that will settle happily in your garden. The plant can do well in many climates, but prefers warm climates and well-drained soil. It is rather drought resistant once established. (Read about the different varieties’ climate preferences and bloom times here)

 

Phlox

USDA zones 2 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

With their star-shaped blooms, these plants are a beautiful addition to any garden, and can make a great ground cover. There are several different varieties, including the wild ground phlox. This variety bears its pink blooms in early spring, which is the reason Native Americans dubbed the April full moon the “Full Pink Moon.”

 

Zinnias

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Zinnias come in many colors and will attract both bees and butterflies to your space. They are relatively easy to plant and will bloom in abundance all summer long if dead flowers are removed.

 

Marigolds

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Like zinnias, marigolds are annuals that can bloom all summer long if properly groomed. Their edible blooms can brighten up your salads as well as your garden, and they are even known to repel pests and animals, such as nematodes.

 

Goldenrod

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Summer.

These flowers are sometimes considered weeds because of their ability to spread easily, but kept in check, they are an invaluable resource for bees and have medicinal value as well. To keep their spread in check, just cut off the dead flower heads before they re-seed.

 

Chives

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun. Blooms late Spring, Summer.

Resist eating their tasty purple flowers and the bees will thank you! This perennial tolerates cold climates rather well, and is a great way to add a fresh, oniony taste to salads, dishes, or eggs.

 

Late Summer, Fall

 

Liatris

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer.

These flowers, found in purple, pink, and white, bloom on grass-like spiky leaves that can grow 1 – 5 feet tall. They are relatively low maintenance, and are rather tolerant of drought, pests, and cold weather. Butterflies will also thank you for having liatris in your garden.

 

Mint

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun, but tolerates some shade. Blooms Spring through Summer.

Mint is invigorating with its fragrance and flavor – and bees go crazy on their flowers too. Mint is a great choice if you’re looking for an herb that’s low maintenance. They make good ground cover and a tasty kitchen ingredient. Easy to grow, but easy to lose control of too, so be careful about their spread.

 

Sage

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Spring, Summer, Fall.

It’s great in stuffing, sauces, and herb pots! Bees love sage’s beautiful flowers, and these perennials are rather easy to grow. Of all the flowers that attract bees, make sure to incorporate this one into your autumn squash dishes.

 

Nasturtium

USDA zone 9 – 11. Full sun. Blooms Summer through Fall.

Nasturtiums can keep bees buzzing in your garden well into autumn. Their edible blooms will bring a burst of color to your outdoor space. To maximize the amount of blooms they have, water them regularly and opt for poorer soils. Most nasturtiums are annuals, but some varieties are perennials in zones 9 – 11.

 

Black-eyed Susans

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer, Fall.

These are flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and bring a burst of yellow to your garden. As members of the sunflower family, they can grow up to three feet tall! They make excellent borders, but spread very easily, so be careful about placing them in – or letting them grow into – other plants’ space.

 

Borage

Full to partial sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Also known as starflower, borage’s star-shaped blooms start out pink and mature into a beautiful blue. Borage is considered a good neighbor for tomatoes, which bees also love. These plants are annuals, but they re-seed readily, so keep an eye on their spread.

 

Thyme

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Irresistable to bees and pun-lovers alike, placing one of these shrubs by a walkway will prove to be a wonderful way to pass the thyme. These perennials bear bee-loving flowers in pink or purple, and can grow up to one foot tall.

 

Oregano

Full sun. Blooms mid-Summer, Fall.

This perennial has pink, purple, or white flowers, and its late blooms will be appreciated by your bee friends. Oregano provides excellent ground cover and is rather hardy. Harvest its leaves for cooking or medicinal purposes. Drying them will help you make use of its reported immune-boosting properties throughout winter.

Flowers that Attract Bees

thehoneybeeconservancy.org

Early Spring

 

Pansies

USDA zones 4 – 8. Full sun. Blooms early Spring – Fall.

Whimsy, joy, colors – pansies have it all, and bees love them. They are great for containers or ground cover, but are often treated as annuals because of their ability to spread quickly. Bred from their predecessor the wild pansy, the many types of pansies can bloom in early spring or later in autumn.

 

Pussy Willow

USDA zones 4 – 7. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These North American wetland shrubs have a beautiful greyish hue and fur-like blooms. Their blooms mark the arrival of spring, making them a perfect treat for early foraging bees. Humans may also enjoy using their dried stems as decorations.

 

Siberian Squill

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These beautiful blue blooms have a stunning presence that you can enjoy for a few weeks each year. If you have a grass lawn, you can make the most of your space by planting Siberian Squill bulbs throughout it. Their colors will make your lawn pop in early spring, and the plants will recede just in time to let you start mowing in late spring. Just make sure they have good drainage to prevent bulb rot, and be cautious about their ability to spread quickly.

 

Snowdrops

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Winter, early Spring.

Snowdrops are known to announce their arrival by poking out of the snow. They are great for climates with mild to cold winters. Just keep in mind that the flowers will be dormant by summertime, so the soil in which the bulbs rest will be barren.

 

Spring, Summer

 

Peony

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Spring.

With their colors and sweet scents, these flowers will attract bees, hummingbirds, and possibly your neighbors too. Peonies benefit from cold winters to aid their bud formation. Try to place them in loamy soil in a spot protected from wind.

 

Milkweed

USDA zones 4 – 10. Prefers sun. Blooms Spring – Fall, depending on variety.

Milkweed not only serves as food to bees, but it is also the only host to monarch butterflies. These plants are great food sources for bees, but beware of their complex flower structures, for bees can get trapped or lose a leg in them. Many varieties are drought-resistant and prefer sun (browse varieties here).

 

Bee Balm

USDA zones 4 – 9. Full to partial sun, but shade tolerant. Blooms Summer.

As you may guess from the name, bees love these North American prairie flowers. The blooms almost resemble little fireworks, and come in befittingly vibrant shades too. Favoring warm climates, you can enjoy these perennials’ lush, colorful blooms year after year, and so will bees and other winged things.

 

Lavender

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

Bees love them for their nectar, humans love them for their scent and flavor. Everyone wins, and with many different varieties of lavender to choose from, you’ll likely find one that will settle happily in your garden. The plant can do well in many climates, but prefers warm climates and well-drained soil. It is rather drought resistant once established. (Read about the different varieties’ climate preferences and bloom times here)

 

Phlox

USDA zones 2 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

With their star-shaped blooms, these plants are a beautiful addition to any garden, and can make a great ground cover. There are several different varieties, including the wild ground phlox. This variety bears its pink blooms in early spring, which is the reason Native Americans dubbed the April full moon the “Full Pink Moon.”

 

Zinnias

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Zinnias come in many colors and will attract both bees and butterflies to your space. They are relatively easy to plant and will bloom in abundance all summer long if dead flowers are removed.

 

Marigolds

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Like zinnias, marigolds are annuals that can bloom all summer long if properly groomed. Their edible blooms can brighten up your salads as well as your garden, and they are even known to repel pests and animals, such as nematodes.

 

Goldenrod

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Summer.

These flowers are sometimes considered weeds because of their ability to spread easily, but kept in check, they are an invaluable resource for bees and have medicinal value as well. To keep their spread in check, just cut off the dead flower heads before they re-seed.

 

Chives

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun. Blooms late Spring, Summer.

Resist eating their tasty purple flowers and the bees will thank you! This perennial tolerates cold climates rather well, and is a great way to add a fresh, oniony taste to salads, dishes, or eggs.

 

Late Summer, Fall

 

Liatris

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer.

These flowers, found in purple, pink, and white, bloom on grass-like spiky leaves that can grow 1 – 5 feet tall. They are relatively low maintenance, and are rather tolerant of drought, pests, and cold weather. Butterflies will also thank you for having liatris in your garden.

 

Mint

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun, but tolerates some shade. Blooms Spring through Summer.

Mint is invigorating with its fragrance and flavor – and bees go crazy on their flowers too. Mint is a great choice if you’re looking for an herb that’s low maintenance. They make good ground cover and a tasty kitchen ingredient. Easy to grow, but easy to lose control of too, so be careful about their spread.

 

Sage

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Spring, Summer, Fall.

It’s great in stuffing, sauces, and herb pots! Bees love sage’s beautiful flowers, and these perennials are rather easy to grow. Of all the flowers that attract bees, make sure to incorporate this one into your autumn squash dishes.

 

Nasturtium

USDA zone 9 – 11. Full sun. Blooms Summer through Fall.

Nasturtiums can keep bees buzzing in your garden well into autumn. Their edible blooms will bring a burst of color to your outdoor space. To maximize the amount of blooms they have, water them regularly and opt for poorer soils. Most nasturtiums are annuals, but some varieties are perennials in zones 9 – 11.

 

Black-eyed Susans

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer, Fall.

These are flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and bring a burst of yellow to your garden. As members of the sunflower family, they can grow up to three feet tall! They make excellent borders, but spread very easily, so be careful about placing them in – or letting them grow into – other plants’ space.

 

Borage

Full to partial sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Also known as starflower, borage’s star-shaped blooms start out pink and mature into a beautiful blue. Borage is considered a good neighbor for tomatoes, which bees also love. These plants are annuals, but they re-seed readily, so keep an eye on their spread.

 

Thyme

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Irresistable to bees and pun-lovers alike, placing one of these shrubs by a walkway will prove to be a wonderful way to pass the thyme. These perennials bear bee-loving flowers in pink or purple, and can grow up to one foot tall.

 

Oregano

Full sun. Blooms mid-Summer, Fall.

This perennial has pink, purple, or white flowers, and its late blooms will be appreciated by your bee friends. Oregano provides excellent ground cover and is rather hardy. Harvest its leaves for cooking or medicinal purposes. Drying them will help you make use of its reported immune-boosting properties throughout winter.

Top Flowering Bushes for Bees

Black Berries and Raspberries

Berry bushes are available in wild and cultivated varieties. They are relatively easy to grow and adapt to most locations. In addition to providing food for pollinators, this type of shrub provides edible fruit. They do not require a lot of space. Some can even be grown in containers. If thorns are a concern for you, thornless varieites are available. These do tend to grow rather tall and need a fence or backdrop to lean on. Give this variety a try – See on Amazon. Honey bees are attracted to the blooms, as well as, other types of bees. The hollow or pithy stems provide nesting sites for some species of caterpillars

 

Oregon Grape (Mahonia)


A slow growing holly-like shrub, Oregon Grape is evergreen. This plant makes an impressive barrier to unwanted visitors. It retains tough spikey leaves year-round. Oregon Grape produces a blue fruit in late Summer that is enjoyed by various types of wildlife. But, it is the bloom that makes it one of the best bushes for bees. In late Winter, the shrub comes alive with bright yellow bell shaped flowers. It is a very showy display and gives off a sweet fragrance. My honey bees, flock to the blooms to collect much needed food.

Willows (Salix)

Willows can be a very important source of early Spring food for bees and other pollinators. They are often one of the earliest food sources. Male and female blooms appear on different plants. Both types of bloom produce nectar that is valued by pollinators. However, only male willow blooms produce pollen. Planting them in a thicket or as a windbreak in groups provides food and shelter for many insects. There are many varieties of willows to consider. All types are easy to grow and propagate by cuttings. The native Pussy Willows (Salix discolor) are some of the best bushes for bees. The fancy hybrids such as weeping willows are of little value to pollinators.

 

Plum or Cherry Shrubs

The homeowner can choose from many types of bee friendly shrubs in the “Prunus” Genus. Dwarf Plum and Cherry bushes are popular in home gardens. Many are ornamental and are not grown for their fruit. They do still produce nectar or pollen that is collected and used by bees. A hardy large shrub or small tree, they can be grown in most regions. They may a beautiful addition to any bee garden. However, it is important to note that many of the plants in this genus are toxic to livestock. They are not suitable for planting near grazing animals such as: cows, horses or goats.

 

Blueberry Shrubs for Bees

Blueberries are another bush that attracts bees. One of the best bee friendly shrubs, the blueberry has a lot to offer. In addition to providing food for pollinators, and edible fruit for humans, blueberry bushes are also ornamental. These shrubs come alive with color in the Fall. This makes them a perfect choice for a small backyard garden. Potted blueberries are a nice addition. Adaptable to pruning, blue berries do need acidic soil. Once established, they require very little maintenance. Honey bees are used to pollinate blueberry blossoms. In fact, commercial beekeepers provide thousands of colonies for blueberry pollination. However, the short tongued honey bee is not as good at blueberry pollination as the larger Bumble Bee.

Plan for blooms year-round

Plant at least three different types of flowers in your bee garden to ensure blooms through as many seasons as possible. This will provide bees and other pollinators with a constant source of food. For example:

  • – Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac provide enticing spring blooms in a bee garden.
  • – Bees feast on bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons foxglove, and hosta in the summer.
  • – For fall, zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod are late bloomers that will tempt foragers.

Don’t : plant treated or hybridized plants

It is extremely important to avoid using any insecticides, herbicides, or pesticides on your plants – even organic ones contain substances that are harmful to bees. Pesticides contain neonicotinoids, chemicals that are a known danger to bees. If we’re going to do our part in helping the declining population of bees, we must be adamant about keeping our gardens chemical-free. When purchasing plants from nurseries, make sure they haven’t been treated. Also, avoid hybridized plant varieties, as they are often less beneficial for bees….which have been bred not to seed and thus produce very little pollen for bees.

Select single flower tops for your bee garden

…such as daisies and marigolds, rather than double flower tops such as double impatiens. Double headed flowers look showy but produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for bees to access pollen.

Best Drought Resistant Plants for Bees

 

When planting for bees, it is good to create plant groupings.  Instead of having 1 plant of 20 different types, create block planting.  Having 4 plants of 5 different varieties will be especially attractive to honey bees. This is due in part to flower fidelity.  Honey bees enjoy gathering food from the same type of plant during a given time period. It is also easier for the bees to find the food source when planted in blocks of similar color or type.  However, the bees are not that picky and will be glad of any available food source.

Some bee friendly plants provide pollen that bees use to feed and raise baby bees. Other flowers produce nectar. Nectar is collected and used by honey bees to make honey! And, some blooms provide both nectar and pollen to visiting pollinators. Both types of food are needed for healthy, well fed bee families.

Flowering Plants for Bees During Drought

Asters (Aster spp.) come in many different varieties and colors. Though most are small, they provide food late in the season when many other plants have gone to seed. These dependable little flowers are hardy and easy to grow.  They thrive in sunny locations. You may notice many wild types growing along roadsides and in fields.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) is an interesting plant.  We know it must be attractive to bees – it even has the word “bee” in its common name. Bee Balm has unusual frilly blooms and comes in several colors.  It is suitable for sunny locations to partial shade.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a very drought tolerant plant.  Once established it requires no maintenance from the gardener. Happiest in a sunny spot, Butterfly Weed is also a host plant for monarch butterflies.

Catmint (Nepeta spp.) is a great addition to the bee garden due to its long bloom time.  This mint can provide food for pollinators over several months. It is available in several different types and a variety of sizes and spreads. Some types have an upright growth habit – others are lower growing. Happy in full sun, this plant is a mint so give it space. And, you may have some kitty cat visitors.

Coneflower (Echinacea spp.) is one of the most well-known bee friendly plants.  Choose the common purple coneflowers if you are just learning about gardening. These dependable flowers provide food for bees early in the season.  They are also a seed source for birds in late Fall and Winter. In my region, purple coneflowers are easy to over Winter and often need thinned after several years.  The more modern cultivars are also hardy but they are slower to reproduce.

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) is a native flower that is often noticed in the wild.  In Fall, the tall plants come alive with brilliant yellow blooms.  Look closely and you will see bees or many kinds working the blooms. Because it blooms at the same time as Ragweed, Goldenrod is often blamed for allergies. However, the pollen from Goldenrod is heavy and not wind borne.  It does not cause your itchy eyes or stuffy nose. Many varieties are available. This plant makes a beautiful background specimen for a backyard garden.

Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta) is also known as Black-Eyed Susan.  This daisy like flower is very similar in appearance to coneflowers. Growing in clump-like fashion, the plants will quickly double in size. Providing food for many pollinators, they do best in a sunny spot.

Salvia (Salvia spp.) also known as Sages, are available in many varieties and make an excellent addition to any pollinator garden. This nectar rich plant is easy to grow in full sun but can take partial shade.  It provides nectar over a long period to many hungry bees. The old-world varieties are better suited for honey bees than the more modern cultivars. However, hummingbirds will enjoy all varieties. Most Salvias need very little water but grow best in well drained soil. Some varieties will also do well in large containers.

Sedum (Sedum spp.) is a member of the succulent family.  It is very drought-tolerant and has thick fleshy leaves. Dying back to the ground during Winter, each Spring sees new growth emerge. This is a mounding plant that will fit into any location and does well in containers. If you have a problem growing things, Sedum is the plant for you. Seeming to thrive on neglect, Sedum comes alive with late Summer blooms. The colorful compact blooms are very attractive to bees, wasps and other pollinating insects.  One of the most popular varieties is “Autumn Joy”. However, you have several types to choose from that vary in leaf color and bloom color.  Sedum is another valued plant that provides badly needed late season food.

Best Flowering Trees for Bees

Top Trees for Bees & Other Pollinators

Of course, not every tree provides food for bees. On average, trees bloom for a shorter time than some other types of plants.  However, they provide a lot of bee food over their short bloom time. Even a small tree can provide a bee colony with a large amount of nectar in 1 central location. Before buying a tree for your garden or yard, take a moment to look around.  Do you see any trees that are already in place and beneficial to bees? If so, consider planting a tree that will bloom at a different time.  Filling in the “food gaps” or time when other things are not in bloom is one good way to help save bees. Also, the nectar or pollen provided by each plant is slightly different.  By providing bees with a variety of food sources we are promoting better bee health.

 

Early Flowering Trees for Bees

As the Winter months begin to wind down, early Spring bees are hungry and anxious to get started on the new season.

In my region, the native Red Maple trees (Acer rubrun) are one of the earlier nectar providers for bees. In a warm Winter season, it is not uncommon to see Red Maple pollen being brought in to the hive in January.  This fresh pollen and nectar is one of the first signals to the colony that Spring is coming. Bees need nectar for energy but pollen is important as well. Bees need pollen to raise baby bees – the next generation that will harvest honey this season must be raised!

If the idea of a large Red Maple doesn’t appeal to you, the small Japanese Maple “Bloodgood” (Acer palmatum  atropurpureum ‘Bloodgood’ ) attracts bees to the blooms in my yard each year. It does bloom a bit later in the Spring but is a good candidate for small spaces. The blooms of this Japanese Maple are very small but the bees enjoy visiting them.

Wild Cherry trees (Prunus avium) are another early blooming food source for honey bees.  Because parts of the plants are poisonous, most people do not choose them for a yard tree. However, you will see them blooming along the roadsides in early Spring.  They provide important early nectar for growing bee colonies.

Good Small Trees for Bees

The Easter Redbud tree (C. candadensis) is just about the perfect tree in my opinion.  This native tree grows throughout most of the Eastern US. Several different cultivars have been developed as well.  As a smaller under-story tree, the Redbud fits into any garden plan.  I rarely have fewer than 4 or 5 growing in my yard. In early Spring, this tree blooms before leaves appear.  Beautiful magenta blooms attract bees and other pollinators for several weeks.  It is an important early pollen sources for many types of bees – not just honey bees.

Another tree that is a good fit for smaller spaces is the Crape Myrtle.  There are many cultivars of this plant available for purchase. Some sources claim that bees do not visit Crape Myrtle blooms.  My bees however have not read those books and visit my blooming Natchez Crape Mytrle (Lagerstroemia x Natchez)  in late Spring/Early Summer. During this time, the big Spring bloom time is over. My Crape Myrtle provides some fresh food for the bee colonies in a time when many other things are not in bloom. The Natchez Crape myrtle is a beautiful specimen plant with peeling cinnamon bark.

Another popular tree for beekeepers is the Yellow Popular or Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).  Locally, we just call these “popular trees”. This large native tree is fast growing with large beautiful leaves. Each Spring huge yellow and orange blossom fill the top of the tree.  In a year when nectar production is good and flying weather cooperates, you can stand under the tree and hear the buzzing bees in the top. Popular honey is a local favorite.  A strong colony can make a good honey crop from the bloom of this tree. However, these trees get quite large and are only suitable for those with lots of space. They need room to grow as they get rather tall.

Not every blossom feeds bees, it may not provide nectar or pollen. Today, many new plant varieties are developed for a showy display. These hybridized plants have double flowers with massive blooms and many petals. But fancy blooms are not the best plants for bees, butterflies etc.  Take the time to walk past the new hybrids and look at some of the older more simple flowers. Some of the best flowers for bees have single flowers.  This is because the single flower plant invests more energy in nectar production and less in petal formation. Honey bees will forage on any nectar or pollen producing plants.  But yes, they do have color preferences. Honey bees find flowers that are blue, purple and yellow most appealing.

 

Early blooming daffodils are beautiful harbingers of Spring but produce no nectar and not a lot of pollen. Remember that blooms don’t always mean food for bees, some varieties of plants have been bred to lack pollen!

My Favorite Flowers For Honey Bees

I love sunflowers. The enormous flowers we see are actually made up of hundreds of tiny flowers. Honey bees enjoy foraging on the individual flower segments. Seeds produced in the fall are also a treat for birds. Not all sunflowers provide pollen! Read the seed packet, some new varieties are pollen-less.

Rudbeckia Goldstrum is a variety of cone flower that boasts a bright yellow display. This is one of the flowers that honey bees love that can be grown in a large mass. In the fall, birds will feast on the seeds. Rudbeckia Goldstrum can be a perennial in some areas.  I have several areas that reseed each year but I would not term mine as aggressive.

Native to the United States, Horsemint (Monarda punctate) is a long blooming perennial. This sun loving plant is a beneficial flower to plant for bees. It is a favorite of other pollinators as well.  Mint has been known to have a mind of its own.  Plant it in a pot or corral it in.

Flowering Trees Feed Bees

Blooming trees can provide large amounts of nectar in one season.  Many are available for purchase. Find one that grows well in your climate. One of my favorites is the Tulip Poplar Tree.  This large tree is native to my area.  It grows very tall and has large flowers in April.

Another tree that is native to my area is the Red Maple.  Red Maples bloom very early in the year and are important for colony buildup.

 

Small Bee Gardens Help Too!

In my little gardens, I love to plant zinnias, daisies, asters and Echinacea.

 

Native Flowers that Feed Bees:

Blueberry, Blackberry Bushes, Ground Ivy, Red Bud Trees, Henbit

I could have 200 beehives on site during this heavy flow. But there are some times of the year when the site might not feed more than 20 hives. The takeaway point is that most flowering bee plants do not bloom all summer long. Planting flowers that attract bees may help small colonies in peril through a time of need. Also, if we provide nectar producing flowers that bloom throughout the summer this is better than having all of them bloom at once.

Sedums are an ornamental easy to care for plant. They are drought tolerant and thrive on neglect. Autumn Joy sedum offers a food source when other plants have dried up due to lack of rain.

Pollen Producing Plants:

  • Red Maple, Grey Alder, Cherry, Plum, Raspberry, Willow, Zinnia

Providing a Diverse Bee Food Source

Honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinators benefit from a variety of nectar and pollen sources. Each type of flowering plant that produces nectar or pollen contains different vitamins, minerals etc. Healthy bees need diversity in food sources.  This is why commercial hives used for pollination sometimes suffer poor health. There may be plenty of food available but it is all the same. Our mono agriculture system plants large plots of one thing. This limits the diversity of bee diet. Mix it up and choose bee friendly flowers of different kinds.

 

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