Everyone can help bees and other pollinators – you don’t have to own a beehive. When selecting new plants for your yard, give some thought to shrubs that provide nectar or pollen. Even small areas can become a bee oasis when the right variety of plants are chosen. While designing your outdoor living space, consider planting various flowering shrubs for bees to provide extra foraging opportunities.
Best Shrubs for Bees and Butterflies
You will find a wide selection of shrubs that provide much needed pollen and nectar for bees. Some also provide food and shelter for other insects.
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In order to create a bee garden with the best benefit, first consider the bloom plants you already have in your area. 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. Or if you see many food sources blooming at the same time, search for one that blooms later or earlier.
This gives the bees an opportunity to forager over a longer period of time. Don’t forget the native flowering shrubs in your region. They are always a good choice because they are adapted to your area and require no pampering.
Planting for Bees Provides Homeowner Benefits
If you are not a beekeeper, you may wonder why you should consider planting bushes for bees or flowering shrubs that attract pollinators? You might like helping bees but what’s in it for you?
These landscape plants can add value and beauty to your outdoor space. They can be a natural living privacy fence for your backyard too.
Some bushes produce fruit that can be used for jellies, jams and more. Berry bushes feed both bees and the people who love bees.
How Shrubs Help Bees
Compared to a flower, a large bush in bloom can provide a lot of food for hungry insects. These plants provide 2 types of food that honey bees need.
Plant nectar is collected and bees use it to make honey. Honey is stored in the hive to use for Winter food.
But, nectar is not the only important food. Bees need pollen too. Some bushes produce both types of food for hungry bees. Others only provide nectar or pollen.
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.
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. Some are found across the entire US, while others only grow in certain regions.
You may be surprised to find many of the native flowering shrubs in your region. They tend to blend into the background for most of the year. Many are available for purchase at local nurseries.
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.
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. This is during a time when few other food sources are available.
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 can be a very important source of early Spring food for bees and other pollinators too. They are often one of the earliest food sources.
Male and female blooms appear on different plants. Both types of blooms produce nectar that is valued by pollinators.
However, only male willow blooms produce pollen for bees. 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. While the fancy hybrids such as weeping willows are of little value to pollinators.
Berry Bushes Provide Food for Pollinators
One of the best things about planting berry bushes is that you can feed the bees and yourself! Many varieties (but not all) produce edible fruit.
They do not require a lot of space – though some may need a trellis. 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. This beautiful garden trellis is great to hold thornless black berry bushes.
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.
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.
Other Bee Friendly Shrubs
Of course, there are hundreds more bushes or shrub that flower and benefit bees and pollinators. Here are just a few more.
- Buddleia / Buddleja – Butterfly bush
- Ceanothus – California lilac
- Clethra – Ruby Spice
- Holly – Ilex spp
- Hypericum – St. John’s Wort
- Ligustrum vulgare – Common Privet
- Pyracantha Orange Glow
- Rosa – Roses but only some varieties (check the grower label)
- Weigela (some varieties)
Not Every Bush is a Friend to Bees
While many flowering plants are attract to bees, this is not true for all. Some flowers even repel honey bees. These are good choices for walkways and other high foot traffic areas. And while not a big problem, there are flowering plants toxic to bees as well.
Final Thoughts on Planting Bushes That Help Bees
There are many good reasons to consider planting a few bushes or flowering shrubs for bees in your yard or bee garden. Consider including a couple in your next gardening project. Providing a variety of food sources is a great way to help save bees. And if you have the space, check out these best trees for bees!