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Drought Tolerant Plants for Bees-Easy to Grow

One of the easiest ways to help pollinators is by choosing plants that provide food. However, we must match our plants to our growing conditions. This can be challenging if you have an area that is especially dry.  But this does not mean that you can not have a bee friendly garden. Check out these drought tolerant plants for bees . This will give you some great ideas for your garden plan.

Honey bee foraging on coneflower during drought conditions image.

Best Drought Resistant Plants for Bees and Pollinators

Gardens large and small are designed for our enjoyment and to beautify our outdoor spaces. But that does not mean they can not benefit wildlife too. When we can combine our enjoyment with providing food for hungry bees – that’s a win-win for everyone.

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Being a beekeeper, I always have a focus on honey bees. However, they are not the only ones that can benefit from a stable food supply during times of dry weather.

Bee Garden Design Tips

When planting for bees, it is good to create plant groupings.  Instead of having 1 plant of 20 different types, create block planting.  Use multiples such as -having 4 plants of of each type and maybe 5 different varieties in one bed.

This is especially attractive to honey bees-in part due to flower fidelity.  Honey bees enjoy gathering food from the same type of plant during a given time period.

It is also easier for the bees to find the food source when planted in blocks of similar color or type.  Bees see flowers in a different way than humans and an area with multiple plants of the same kind are easier to locate.

image of drought tolerant plants for bees

However, the bees are not that picky and will be glad of any available food source. It is not just about nectar, some bee friendly plants provide pollen that bees use to feed and raise baby bees.

Other flowers produce nectar. Nectar is collected and used by honey bees to make honey! And, some blooms provide both nectar and pollen to visiting pollinators. Both types of food are needed for healthy, well fed bee families.

Best Drought Resistant Flowers for Bees

The items in this list of drought tolerant plants for pollinators will fit well in any garden designed to attract bees. Keep them away from busy walkways and the honey bees will gladly share the garden with respectful visitors.

  • Asters
  • Bee Balm
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Catmint
  • Coneflower
  • Goldenrod
  • Rudbeckia
  • Salvia
  • Sedum

In addition to choosing plants that fit your growing conditions, it is good to have a few that withstand hardships too. Any region may experience a time with a lack of rainfall even in a normal year.

Our bees and pollinators really suffer during times of food storage. This is why it is a good idea to choose a few flowers that can withstand dry conditions and still produce bee food.

Asters

Asters (Aster spp.) come in many different varieties and colors. Though most are small, they provide food for bees late in the season when many other plants have gone to seed.

These dependable little flowers are hardy and easy to grow.  They thrive in sunny locations. You may notice many wild types growing along roadsides and in fields.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) is an interesting plant.  We know it must be attractive to bees – it even has the word “bee” in its common name. 

Bee Balm has unusual frilly blooms and comes in several colors.  It is suitable for sunny locations to partial shade.

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a very drought tolerant plant.  Once established it requires no maintenance from the gardener.

Happiest in a sunny spot, Butterfly Weed is also a host plant for monarch butterflies. These plants die back to the ground in Winter and grow again in the Spring.

Catmint

Catmint (Nepeta spp.) is a great addition to the bee garden due to its long bloom time.  This mint can provide food for pollinators over several months. 

It is available in several different types and a variety of sizes and spreads. Some types have an upright growth habit – others are lower growing.

Happy in full sun, this plant is a mint so give it space. And, you may have some kitty cat visitors.

Picture of goldenrod, bee balm and butterfly weed drought tolerant bee plants image.

Coneflowers

Coneflower (Echinacea spp.) is one of the most well-known bee friendly plants.  Choose the common purple coneflowers if you are just learning about gardening. 

These dependable flowers provide food for bees early in the season.  They are also a seed source for birds in late Fall and Winter. 

In my region, purple coneflowers are easy to over Winter and often need thinned after several years.  The more modern cultivars are also hardy but they are slower to reproduce.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) is a native flower that is often noticed in the wild.  In Fall, the tall plants come alive with brilliant yellow blooms.  Look closely and you will see bees of many kinds working the blooms.

Because it blooms at the same time as Ragweed, Goldenrod is often blamed for allergies. 

However, the pollen from Goldenrod is heavy and not wind borne.  It does not cause your itchy eyes or stuffy nose.

Many varieties are available. This plant makes a beautiful background specimen for a backyard garden.

Rudbeckia – Black-Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta) is also known as Black-Eyed Susan.  This daisy like flower is very similar in appearance to coneflowers. 

Growing in clump-like fashion, the plants will quickly double in size. Providing food for many pollinators, they do best in a sunny spot.

Salvia

Salvia (Salvia spp.) also known as Sages, are available in many varieties and make an excellent addition to any pollinator garden. 

This nectar rich plant is easy to grow in full sun but can take partial shade.  It provides nectar over a long period to many hungry bees.

The old-world varieties are better suited for honey bees than the more modern cultivars. However, hummingbirds will enjoy all varieties.

Most Salvias need very little water but grow best in well drained soil. Some varieties will also do well in large containers.

Honey bee on drought resistant sedum flower image.

Sedum

Sedum (Sedum spp.) is a member of the succulent family.  It is very drought-tolerant and has thick fleshy leaves. 

Dying back to the ground during Winter, each Spring sees new growth emerge. This is a mounding plant that will fit into any location and does well in containers.

If you have a problem growing things, Sedum is the plant for you. Seeming to thrive on neglect, Sedum comes alive with late Summer blooms.  

The colorful compact blooms are very attractive to bees, wasps and other pollinating insects.  One of the most popular varieties is “Autumn Joy”. 

However, you have several types to choose from that vary in leaf color and bloom color.  Sedum is another valued plant that provides badly needed late season food.

Drought Tolerant Shrubs that Attract Bees

There are many types of shrubs that attract bees and some of them are drought tolerant. One word of caution – some shrubs that benefit pollinators are also invasive.

Before choosing a bee loving shrub for your garden, consider the growing conditions and suitability of the plant.

Vitex Shrubs a Bee Favorite

Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) is an ornamental shrub that can grow to be a small tree. It likes full sun and is very drought tolerant once established.

A deciduous shrub, vitex is covered in purple and white flowers in late Summer. This is a time in many regions when few plants are blooming making vitex very attractive to bees.

Purple vitex shrub in bloom in bee garden image.

Bayberry – Wax Myrtle

Bayberry ((Myrica pensylvanica), also called Wax Myrtle is a very drought tolerant plant. Native to the Eastern sections of the US, it grows well in a variety of soil conditions including along the coast.

Do not confuse this plant with Barberry (an invasive shrub that has thorns). Bayberry is attractive to bees and produces grayish berries that can be used in crafting and feed wildlife too!

A Final Word of Plants for Bees that are Drought Resistant

Drought tolerant flowering plants for bees can be an important part of any garden design.  In times of normal rainfall, these plants will produce abundant bee food If you have a lot of space, there are some bee friendly trees to consider too.

Regardless of your climate, having a few plants that will still provide some food all season long is a plus.

A well designed bee friendly garden include a wide variety of plant types including some for all growing conditions. Add a few drought tolerant flowers plants for hungry bees in your area.

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