If you enjoy gardening as much as I do, you are always on the lookout for new plants that may help bees. This is a season long activity for gardeners. Don’t think the bloom is over come September. Our bee friendly gardens still have a job to do. Hungry bees are still looking for food. I can’t think of a better reason for including some fall blooming flowers for bees in your garden or backyard.
Fall Blooming Flowers for Bees
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, such as the Queen Bumble Bee, will still be looking for food.
Some natural nectar sources will become available at the weather cools. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help out too. Choosing some flowers for bees that bloom into the late season is a good thing.
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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. Of course, these should be started in the Spring or some varieties are planted in the Fall but bloom next year.
Bees Need Winter Food
Worker bees toil diligently on warm days to gather plant nectar and make honey to store for Winter. The colony must have a good store of honey before cold arrives and kills all the food producing flowers.
This is how the honey bees survive Winter as a colony. Honey bees do not hibernate. They maintain enough heat for survival inside the hive by consuming stored honey.
Bees also gather flower pollen to store. It will be used in January to begin rearing baby bees. Therefore, having flowers that provide both nectar and pollen is important.
As with any gardening activity, the exact plants chosen will be determined by your climate. Thankfully, many plants do well in more than 1 region.
Of course Fall isn’t the only time your garden can benefit bees. If your area has a long dry summer season, pollinators in your area may experience a nectar dearth. Providing a few special nectar plants can be very helpful.
In this case, having flowers that attract bees in your garden is even more important to provide food when natural native sources may be lacking.
Some of the best Fall blooming plants for pollinators are also colorful. This makes them pretty for us to enjoy and the color attracts bees too.
Of course, bees are not the only pollinators that will benefit from your garden. You will be helping birds, moths and butterflies as well.
Autumn Flowers that Provide Nectar or Pollen or Both
Good bee plants give so much to hungry insects. Some of them produce nectar while others are good pollen producers. And, a few provide both types of bee food. Another issue to consider is the dependability of food. Hardy plants are good food sources regardless of less than perfect growing conditions.
- Black-eyed Susan
- Hairy Leafcup – Aster Family
- Joe Pye Weed
- Sedum Autumn Joy – Stonecrop
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.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
This plant is one of the most important fall blooming flowers for pollinators. Providing large amounts of both nectar and pollen for hungry pollinators, 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 which the bees are gathering nectar – it is a good honey that some folks enjoy and bees can use for Winter food.
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.
Hairy Leafcup (Smallanthus uvedalius)
The 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.
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.
Sedum Autumn Joy – Stonecrop (Hylotelephium telephium)
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.
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.
Fall Pollinator Plants
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. When it comes to providing a resource rich bee-friendly garden, 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.
Of course those other flower favorites of bees: borage, bee balm, late season annuals, etc can help close out the nectar season. But, some will end their bloom time before others.
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.