Do Bees Like Sunflowers?
One of the most popular bees in the world is the honey bee. And one of the most popular flowers in the world is the sunflower. It is only natural for us to wonder do bees like sunflowers? Is this one of the best flowers for bees to include in your garden? And lastly, what is the best sunflower variety for bees?
Growing Sunflowers for Wildlife – including Bees!
With over 70 different species of sunflowers in the world, the home gardener has many types to choose from. In general, sunflowers are divided into 3 groups: Giant, Dwarf and Colorful.
Giant sunflowers grow tall with large impressive blooms. This type can actually be planted in a way to create a sunflower forest of the stalks.
It is not unusual for giant sunflowers to reach a height of 10-12 feet or more. Keep this in mind when you are choosing where they should be planted.
Provide support by growing along a fence or other barrier. They are easy to start from seed, grow quickly and are an impressive choice for gardening with kids.
Dwarf Sunflowers are those that reach a smaller stature. Tending to be under 4 feet tall, dwarfs normally have a slightly smaller bloom. They are a good choice for smaller spaces and do not require stacking.
Colorful sunflowers are mostly newer hybrids. They are grown for their unique color combination.
Having the same flower style as traditional sunflowers, they come in a variety of unusual colors. Pale yellow or white is popular, as well as, pink or deep red.
Care for Your Sunflower Bee Garden
These plants do best in soil that is light and not compacted. This is because their roots like to spread out.
Heavy clay soil will not produce the best plant. While they appreciate slightly acidic soil, they can do well in alkaline soil too.
With the word “sun” in the name, you must know that this is not a shade plant. Sunflowers need sun and lots of it.
Giving your flowers at least 8 hours of sun each day is the very best location.
Hot weather is good for sunflower. Plant your sunflower seeds after all danger of frost is over. These plants like warm temperatures. Heat is good.
Even though they can stand drought conditions once established, sunflowers can be heavy feeders. Working organic material in the soil is a great way to encourage them as is using liquid fertilizer.
Especially for the tall varieties, you may need to consider some type of support. Those large flower heads can make the plant “top heavy” especially in windy weather.
Planting them in a group also helps them provide support for each other.
How Sunflowers Help Bees
The sunflowers in your garden can help bees and other pollinators by providing food. Nectar is a sweet liquid substance secreted by flowers to attract bees. Bees use this watery plant nectar to make honey .
Many blooming flowers rely on insect pollination. When bees collect pollen, or nectar, they inadvertently move pollen from one flower to another. Honey bees use pollen as a protein source to raise young bees.
Choosing the Best Sunflower Variety for Your Bee Garden
Are all sunflowers equally good for bees? No, they are not.
Just like other types of plants, some will produce more bee food than others. And some varieties produce little or none.
There are even some types of plants that repel bees because they do not need insects for pollination.
Due to the desire to avoid the mess of pollen and for those with allergies as well, some of the newer types of sunflowers are pollenless.
They will look great in your garden but they are not beneficial to pollinators.
Here is a list of the best sunflower flower varieties for bees to use in your backyard garden.
When buying seeds, always try for organic as these will not have a pesticide covering.
Good Sunflower Plants for Bees
- Lemon Queen
- Mammoth Grey Stripe
- Black Russian
- Henry Wilde
- Autumn Beauty
- Evening Sun
- Velvet Queen
Even the small teddy bear variety (Sungold) provides some pollen if you only have a small space in your bee friendly garden.
The most popular sunflower grown for bees is Lemon Queen. Grab some seeds and participate in The Great Sunflower Project.
It’s a wonderful way to enjoy gardening and benefit the pollinators in your area.
If you have a larger area, consider planting a variety of sunflowers to add color to your landscape and feed some bees.