This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure.
As the beautiful blooms of Summer begin to fade, you may feel that the season of collecting food is over for bees. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Honey bees are working tirelessly to collect pollen and nectar for Winter. Adding Fall pollinator plants to your garden provides beneficial nutrition for a wide number of insect species. Here are 8 of the best Fall flowers for bees to consider planting this season.
The bee friendly garden is most helpful to pollinators when it continues a variety of blooming plants. Each one provides different nutrition in the nectar and pollen – both resources that bees collect constantly.
Characteristics of Bee-Friendly Fall Flowers
While we dream of the cooler days to come, our bees are hard at work. For honey bee colonies, late Summer into Fall is a critical time to store food.
Also, those insects that don’t overwinter as a family-but hibernate (such as the Queen Bumble Bee), will be out looking for a last bit of nutrition.
What things should you look for when choosing good Fall flowers for the bees? Well of course, you must also consider climate and growing conditions. A struggling unhealthy plant will not look good or produce much nectar or pollen.
Beyond that consider:
- nectar, pollen or both
- bright colors
- long bloom period
Some plants produce pollen, others produce nectar (in varying amounts) and some flowers have both! As you choose bee plants, learn about their characteristics and try to include a wide variety.
We love to see bright colors in our gardens and so do bees. While I have seen many of my honey bees enjoying white flowers – it doesn’t hurt to choose more color.
Bees see flowers differently than we do with our human eyes. But, they seem particularly attracted to shades of blue, purple and yellow.
Top 8 Fall Flowers for Bees
- Black-eyed Susan
- Bee Balm
- Joe Pye Weed
- Japanese Anemones
- New England Asters
1. Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
This plant is one of the most important fall blooming flowers for pollinators. Providing large amounts of both nectar and pollen, this native plant does it all.
In some regions of the country, Goldenrod is available in such abundance that it can even produce a honey crop.
While Goldenrod honey has a reputation of smelling like dirty gym socks while the bees are gathering nectar – it is a good honey that some folks enjoy and bees can use it.
North America boasts over 100 different species of goldenrod and you can find commercial cultivars too.
Choose a tall species if you want to create a mass planting as a backdrop in your pollinator garden. The shorter types of goldenrod can be used anywhere in the garden.
Full sun is great but this plant is not picky about soil. Mine grows well in partial shade. Showy yellow flowers in late season will attract many bees to the area.
Goldenrod is often blamed for late season allergies. This is not true in most cases. Ragweed is the allergy culprit instead.
2. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Goldstrum)
This is an easy to recognize perennial plant that begins to bloom in mid Summer. New blooms continue into the fall-lasting weeks at a time.
Their bright yellow daisy like flowers brighten up any area and mine actually bloom well in partial shade.
Bees enjoy visiting the blooms for nectar and the seeds produced help feed birds. There is one caution I must mention.
This plant is not aggressive but it will spread by seed. I keep mine contained to one area of the garden.
3. Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.)
Asters are a popular choice for fall gardens and many of them are attractive to bees. With daisy like flower shapes in a wide range of colors, they make a beautiful display.
Hairy Leafcup (Smallanthus uvedalius) This weed-like plant is a native wildflower that I recently found in my backyard. This tall yellow member of the aster family is attractive to bees and other pollinators.
This plant is less well known but asters in general are major fall flowers for bees.
There are many types of asters and some are suitable for every region of the United States. Species are available that do well from wetland restoration to dry forest edges.
Many are small stature plants that often go unnoticed. Others can reach heights over 6 feet. All play an important role in feeding pollinators.
4. Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)
A constant favorite in the bee garden, bee balm feeds pollinators all season long. Thankfully, the vibrant red, pink or purple flowers continue to bloom well into Fall.
The deep flower shapes are especially attractive to humming birds and bumble bees with a longer tongue than honey bees.
5. Joe Pye Weed – (Eupatorium purpureum)
This is one weed that is not unwanted in any garden. It was reportedly named after a New England herb doctor. He used the plant to create medicines to treat common ailments.
Joe Pye weed grows wild along the banks of the streams. If you do not have any locally, you can buy seeds and grow your own.
The tall plants are great to use as a background feature. They can be planted in Spring or Fall and like moist soil and partial shade.
In late Summer and into Fall, bees, butterflies and other pollinators are attracted to the sweet nectar.
6. Sedums (Sedum spp.)
Sedum plants are a staple of any garden in zones 3 to 8. These long-lived perennials have thick succulent leaves and can thrive with minimal watering.
One of my favorites and easiest to grow is Sedum Autumn Joy – Stonecrop (Hylotelephium telephium).
In late Summer and into Fall, pink flowers appear. Honey bees, bumble bees and other insects collect nectar from the flower clusters. Sedums bloom for a long time and continue to provide nectar until frost in most locations.
7. Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis)
Also called, Windflowers, Japanese anemones are a delightful addition to any Fall pollinator garden. A herbaceous perennial it is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).
Native to parts of China they can grow up to 2 1/2 feet tall. Their simple flower shape is very attractive to bees during the September to November bloom time.
8. New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
A native wildflower, New England asters are also grown for landscaping use. They burst into colorful deep purple flowers with golden centers during Fall.
A wide range of bee species are attracted to the blooms looking for important food resources before Winter.
Your bee pollinator garden is most important during these last few weeks. There are many helpful, books on plants for feeding bees and other resources to give you ideas on what to plant.
Save money by purchasing Autumn blooming flower seeds that will help add variety to your garden too.
Fall Flowers: Why They Matter for Bees
Honey bees survive Winter as a colony. They do not hibernate but generate enough heat for survival by consuming stored honey.
On a warm Winter day, some workers may take advantage of a winter plant in bloom if they are available. But, the colony works hard during Fall to store food.
It is not just nectar that they need. They also gather flower pollen to store in the comb as bee bread.
It will be used in January to begin rearing baby bees. Therefore, having flowers that provide both nectar and pollen is important.
If your area has a long dry summer season, pollinators in your area may experience a nectar dearth. Providing a few special food plants can be very helpful to hungry bees.
For managed honey bee colonies, beekeepers are responsible for feeding their bees in Fall if the are low on stored food. But, natural nectar and pollen is always best.
Native Autumn Flowers
It is important to remember that not every flower provides food for bees. Try to include some native non-hybrid varieties. Some of the flowers at the local markets are bred for beauty but may not yield ample pollen.
Some people say that planting for bees is not worthwhile unless you have large fields. I don’t agree. I believe that even a small resource can help, every bloom counts. Even the smallest backyard can provide a tasty meal to a hungry bee.
Don’t be afraid to show off your bee garden. Put out a pollinator friendly sign and encourage neighbors to do the same.
Check with local gardening agencies in your area to learn exactly which plants do best in your climate. And plant a few fall flowers for bees to enjoy before the Winter cold arrives.