Bushes for Bees: How to Choose Flowering Shrubs

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Choosing the Best Bushes for Bees

When selecting new plants for your yard, it is a good time to give bee friendly gardening some thought. Even small areas can become a bee oasis when the right variety of plants are chosen. Flowering shrubs can provide large amounts of food to hungry bees. In designing your outdoor living space, consider planting bushes for bees.

image of blooming mahonia bush with honey bee

There are many bushes or shrubs that provide food and shelter for insects. Many of them near your home grow wild with no extra care.

Take note of them as you notice them in bloom. What types of bees or pollinators do you see? Perhaps you can add more of them in your space.

Native shrubs are always a good choice because they are adapted to your area and require no pampering.

Why Plant Bushes that Bees Like?

If you are not a beekeeper, you may wonder why you should consider planting bushes for bees or flowering shrubs that attract pollinators?

Of course, these landscape plants can add value and beauty to your outdoor space. They can be a natural living privacy fence for your backyard.

Some bushes produce fruit that can be used for jellies, jams and more. Berry bushes feed both bees and the people who love bees.

image of flowering bushes that feed bees

Flowering Shrubs Feed Bees and Other Pollinators

Many flowering shrubs provide food for hungry bees, butterflies and other pollinators. This can be especially beneficial to bees if the bloom occurs at a time when other nectar sources are sparse.

A large bush in bloom can provide a lot of food for hungry insects. Bees collect both nectar and pollen. Some bushes produce both types of food for hungry bees.

  • nectar
  • pollen

Honey bees use plant nectar to make honey. Honey is stored in the hive to use for Winter food.

But, pollen is important to bees too! Bees need pollen to raise young bees. They collect pollen from blooming plants of all types.

Large Bushes Provide Pollinator Habitat

Beyond the food provided by the blooms of shrubs, they also provide nesting materials for some pollinators. Several varieties of birds enjoy nesting in tall bushes.

Also, these plants provide important habitat for many types of insects and wildlife. A variety of birds, bugs and small animals can enjoy the bushes in your bee garden.

image of white flowering black berry bush

Native Shrubs for Honey Bees

Enough though honey bees are not native to the US, they can benefit from many of the native shrubs that provide food for bees and other pollinators.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia)

picture of oregon grape shrub in bloom

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.

A popular shrub in landscaping, both native and cultivated types are available. The wild type is often used in reforestation projects.

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.

picture of a pussy willow shrub with honey bee on bloom

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.

Berry Bushes Provide Food for Pollinators

In addition to providing food for pollinators, this berry bushes often provide edible fruit. They do not require a lot of space. Some can even be grown in containers.

Black Berries and Raspberries

Berry bushes, such as black berries and raspberries are available in wild and cultivated varieties. They are relatively easy to grow and adapt to most locations.

If thorns are a concern for you, thornless varieties are available. These do tend to grow rather tall and need a fence or backdrop to lean on. Give this variety a try .

Honey bees are attracted to the blooms, as well as, other types of bees. Also, the hollow or pithy stems provide nesting sites for some species of caterpillars

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 and are grown to produce a crop. Native varieties and cultivars are avaialable so you should be able to find one that fits into any garden space.

picture of honey bee gathering nectar from blueberry bush blossom

One of the best bee friendly shrubs, the blueberry bush 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.

Final Thoughts on Planting Bushes That Help Bees

There are many good reason to consider planting a few bushes or flowering shrubs for bees in your yard or bee garden.

In addition to providing food and shelter for pollinators, many of them also contribute to the beauty of the landscape.

Though the pollination efforts of insects, food for wildlife is also increased by having shrubs that produce fruit.

Consider including a couple in your next gardening project. Providing a variety of food sources is a great way to help save bees.

Beekeeper Charlotte

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