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Choosing Bee Friendly Plants for Pots

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.

Container Plants for Pollinators (Including Bees)

Row of bee flowers in containers and pots image.

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

Can you share this space with stinging insects? Sure you can. Busy working bees rarely sting if unprovoked. Give them plenty of space and do not disturb their activity. Unless a bees 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. Various butterflies also visit the garden for a sip of sweet nectar.

Choosing Pots for Your Garden

Do you already have suitable pots or containers on hand? If so, you may simply need to ensure you have the best potted plants for bees in them. Any number of pots is fine.

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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.

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 pots.

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.

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.

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.

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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 garden to plant as you wish. You can even buy a set of 3 for a 3 tier garden.

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.

Flowers for bees in a half whiskey barrel container image.

Pollinator Container Gardening Flower Types

How do you choose the best plants for your bee garden pots? Perhaps you love the appearance of a certain flower. But, not every one is suitable for growing in containers.

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 .

Be sure to consider plant size. A large shrub may be great for bees 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.

A major advantage of container gardens is their portability. And, as you are providing the soil mixture – you have a bit more leniency growing conditions.

However, whether choosing annual flowers for bees or perennials. Growing conditions play a large role in the health and beauty of your garden.

Bee Flower Colors

Honey bees have short tongues and like flowers that are simple in shape. It is easier to gather nectar from them. Long vase shaped flowers good for are good for butterflies and hummingbirds. Those you will find all types of bees visiting these plants.

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.

Top Potted Plant Choices for Pollinators

Here is a list of some of the most popular flowers for bees that grow well in containers or planters. Some are annuals which bloom and disappear in a season. Others are perennials that will return year after year.

  • Agastache
  • Bee Balm
  • Blanket Flower
  • Borage
  • Cosmos (low growing variety)
  • Coneflowers
  • Gerbera
  • Herbs – (Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Mints)
  • Lantana
  • Lavender
  • Red Hot Poker
  • Sage
  • Salvia
  • Sedum
  • Sunflowers (small varieties)
  • Thyme
  • Verbena
  • Zinnia

There are a wide variety of shapes, designs and colors in pots and containers. Picking out a few bee friendly plants for bees or other pollinators is easy to do. The hardest part is decided when ones to pick.

As you are designed your yard or pollinator patio or balcony, 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 garden has several small water gardens where the bees visit to drink.

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