Bee Friendly Potted Plants

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A beautiful garden of nectar-rich flowers provides food for many types of pollinators. Of course, bees benefit but not just honey bees. Other pollinators such as: solitary bees, butterflies, moths and more will visit your blooming paradise. Not everyone has good soil for an outside garden. No worries. You can still help feed hungry bees. Learn how to choose bee friendly plants for pots and containers.

Row of bee flowers in containers and pots image.

Container Plants for Pollinators (Including Bees)

There are many benefits of creating a pollinator friendly container garden. In addition to the foraging opportunities for these beneficial insects, you can have a place of simple beauty to enjoy outside.

And, you may be surprised at the large selection of potted flowers for bees and butterflies. They are looking for food that will help sustain them throughout their short insect lives.

When gardening with containers, we must consider that you may be working with limited space. Many compact flowering plants are well-suited for containers.

What if you or someone you love has a great fear of bees? Can you share this space with stinging insects? Sure you can. Busy working honey bees rarely sting if unprovoked.

Give them enough space and do not disturb their activity. Unless a bee’s nest is close by, they do not mind your company.

A lovely garden space will also invite other types of nature in for a closer look. Hummingbird feeders are a nice addition and in normal cases hummingbirds do not conflict with bees.

Choosing Pots

Don’t feel that you must have a large space filled with flowers to make a difference. Of course, the more you have-the more bloom opportunity you have to decorate your space.

Larger pots are more expensive. But, they offer so much variety that they are worth the price tag if your budget allows. In fact, it seems that we often start out with a small pot and then wish we had a larger one.

If your chosen pots do not have drainage holes, add some. Unless you are growing bog plants, the soil must drain well or you risk disease or plant death.

In a large container, you can create a mini bee friendly garden with several nectar rich flowers in each one. The space allows you more choice when selecting bee flowers that do well in containers.

Colorful garden of flowers for bees in containers image.

Planting the Containers

Choose good quality potting soil for your container garden. This is not always easy to do as some of the products labeled as “soil” at the local garden centers are a joke.

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Look for a good mid-level quality mix. The cheapest soil mixes are often not suitable for use as a growing medium alone.

Newspaper can be used to line the bottom of the pot to prevent soil loss through drainage holes. The addition of several layers of gravel or similar material in the bottom aids in drainage.

This prevents soggy soil and diseased plants. In single containers, fill with potting soil up to within 6 inches of the top.

Stacked Planters Add Interest

If you have the space, stacked whisky barrels (or similar pots) can create a very interesting display. You need 2 half barrels – one large and one smaller.

Place a pot (upside down) in the larger barrel. The bottom of the pot should be about 12 inches shorter than top of the large container.

Add some type of medium in the large barrel around the inverted pot. This can be gravel or cut up pool noodles to aid in drainage and reduce soil needed.

Set the smaller whisky barrel on top of the inverted pot. Now you have a 2-tier pollinator garden to plant as you wish. You can even buy a set of 3 for a 3 tier garden.

Flowers for bees in a half whiskey barrel container image.

Potted Flowers for Bees

How do you choose the best flowering plants for your container bee garden? Certainly your personal preference should play a role. Do you love the appearance of a certain flower?

This can be a good starting point. But, not every plant is suitable for growing in containers. In general, we desire those that are somewhat compact and will not grow too tall.

Not to worry, there are thousands of blooming flowers to consider. Try to include a variety of nectar and pollen rich flowers. Not all blooming plants produce nectar or pollen!

Select flowers that are known to attract bees by providing the food that they need. If shopping at a local store, you may see a bee displayed on the plant tag .

Compact Container Plants

Don’t forget to consider mature plant size. A large flower bush for bees may be a great idea -but do you have a large enough pot to allow the shrub to thrive?

Stressed plants do not reach their potential in growth or nectar production. They tend to look straggly and may turn over in windy situations.

Growing Conditions

Growing conditions play a large role in the health and beauty of your garden. A major advantage of container gardens is their portability.

And, as you are providing the soil mixture – you have a bit more leniency in growing conditions.

Bees do love sun. Place your potted plants for bees in full sun when possible and use flowers suitable for that environment. At least half a day of sun with some shade in the afternoon works well in most situations.

However, whether choosing annual flowers for bees or perennials, consider which ones do best in your zone.

If you are designing a display in the yard, consider some inground plants for a backdrop. Native shrubs are easy to grow and provide abundant food for many insects.

Annuals are easier in some ways to grow in a pot because they only live for one season. This allows you to easily rotate using different ones for your garden space.

But, perennials offer the benefit of coming back next year – so you must think about those best suited for your hardiness zone.

Flower Colors

Honey bees have a short tongue. Flower shapes that are simple are most attractive. It is easier to gather nectar from them.

Long vase shaped flowers good for are good for butterflies and hummingbirds. Though you will find all types of bees visiting these plants.

Even honey bees collect some nourishment from longer flowers due to extra floral nectaries around the base of the flower.

Insect foragers collect food from any available source but they do have preferences. Bees tend to like flowers that are blue, purple, yellow and white. While butterflies are more attracted to red, yellow, orange and pink blooms.

If you love to watch pollinators at night. White blooms that smell sweet are loved by night pollinators such as bats and moths. The fragrance is enjoyed by all visitors.

Top Bee Friendly Container Plants

Here is a list of some of the most popular potted plants for bees that do well in planters or containers.

  • Agastache
  • Bee Balm
  • Blanket Flower
  • Borage
  • Cosmos (low growing variety)
  • Coneflowers
  • Echinacea
  • Gerbera
  • Herb Plants – (Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Mints)
  • Hyssop
  • Lantana
  • Lavender
  • Monarda
  • Penstemon
  • Phlox
  • Red Hot Poker
  • Sage
  • Salvia
  • Sedum
  • Sunflowers bees visit (some varieties)
  • Thyme
  • Verbena
  • Yarrow
  • Zinnias

Included in this list are a wide variety of shapes, designs and colors. You should be able to choose several that will do well in a container garden on your balcony or patio -regardless of the zone.

Supplement Your Potted Bee Garden

As you are designing your bee garden area. Another great idea is to think about creating a water source for bees. Insects need water, as well as, food.

This is especially true during the heat of summer. My backyard has several small water gardens where the bees visit to drink. In fact, I have several containers with lotus flowers – outside the pond area.

For a small space, a little bee waterer is a cute project for the kids to make. If you have the room, a slightly larger water station can be a nice addition to your garden theme.

Food and water are all located in one area. The bees will love it.

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