Why Planting Flowers for Bees is a Good Idea
Do you enjoy spending a relaxing afternoon thumbing through seed catalogs. I do. I am always wanting to try new varieties of plants. And being a beekeeper, I like to choose the best flowers for bees. Plant selection is one of the easiest parts of bee friendly gardening .
Why am I so interested in selecting flowers with bees in mind? I am a beekeeper and always aware of the needs of my honey bees.
My motto is “if I have to dig a hole to plant something – it better feed my bees!” Thankfully, many other people want to help feed bees and other pollinators too!
Seed shopping is a fun part of bee flower garden planning. I love the bright colors and whimsical names in the seed catalogs.
My garden may not be quite as beautiful but it will provide nectar and pollen for many pollinators.
How Flowers Help Bees
Honey bees are not the only ones that benefit from blooming plants. Bumble Bees, Wasps, Butterflies, Moths, Hummingbirds and many other pollinators visit the garden.
Their goal is to collect sugary plant nectar. Nectar is produced by many flowering plants.
Many insects use nectar for food. Honey bees gather nectar and make it into honey. A special food that is suitable for long term storage.
There is another way that flowers help bees – they produce pollen. Pollen is as important to bees as nectar.
Pollen is protein. Without sufficient pollen, no new baby bees can be raised.
Do Flowers Need Bees?
Not all plants need bees . Some are pollinated by the wind. Their light weight pollen is easily carried on the wind to other flowers of the same kind.
Other plants require insects for good pollination. These flowering plants have evolved to promote pollination. They provide something that bees need – nectar or pollen.
While the bees are sucking up nectar, their fuzzy bodies collect pollen and move it from bloom to bloom.
The result is pollination and the plant is now able to produce seed or fruit. These flowers are visited and pollinated – resulting in seed formation and more flowers.
Flowers that attract pollinators will make more seed and have more plants like themselves in the seasons to come.
Who Can Help Grow Flowers for Bees?
Almost everyone! You don’t have to live in an area with wide-open spaces to plant flowers.
Suburban gardeners and city municipalities often create plantings to benefit bees. These gardens help control run-off water, add beauty to the area and feed bees.
If you have a problem area in your yard, creating a Rain Garden can provide food for area bees.
Roof gardens can provide much needed flowers for bees in a city environment. And a few pots on a windowsill helps a hungry bee find food.
Many State Highway Departments have programs to plant strips of wildflowers that add food, shelter and beauty to the landscape.
What Flowers Can I Plant for Bees?
Every blooming flower that produces nectar or pollen counts. And, if you have room a variety of flowers for bees and butterflies you will promote better bee health.
Do all blooming plants feed honey bees? No, they do not. Not every blossom feeds bees, it may not provide nectar or pollen.
Today, many new plant varieties are developed for a showy display. These hybridized plants have double flowers with massive blooms and many petals.
But fancy blooms are not the best plants for bees, butterflies etc. Take the time to walk past the new hybrids and look at some of the older more simple flowers.
Some of the best flowers for bees have single flowers. This is because the single flower plant invests more energy in nectar production and less in petal formation.
Which Flowers do Bees Like?
Honey bees will forage on any nectar or pollen producing plants. But yes, they do have color preferences.
Honey bees find flowers that are blue, purple and yellow most appealing.
Choosing seed varieties of flowers for bees does not have to be difficult. You can purchase a meadow mix. See this mix on Amazon.
A large selection of various flower seeds will feed honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies, humming birds and more – for less than $20 !
Bee loves weeds too! Before you decide to spray weed killer, consider leaving them for a few weeks. And always choose the least harmful spray to use.
When to Plant Flowers for Bees?
The best time to plant flowers that attract bees will depend on several factors. Of course, your climate plays a role in planting or seed starting.
Also, some varieties of plants bloom the first year and others take up to 2 years before blooms appear.
Choose a variety of plants with different bloom times. Even better are varieties that have a long bloom cycle. Your goal is to provide food throughout the season.
Plan your bee garden to bloom in stages throughout the Summer. This increases nutritional variety in the honey bee diet.
This blooming cycle can last well into Fall – when one stops blooming others begin.
Check out these ideas – Choosing Flowers that Attract Bees.
Wildflowers Provide Food for Bees Too
Of course, honey bee colonies have been providing for themselves for thousands of years. It is not only human provided plants that supply their need.
Take the native flora into account. Do you have native nectar producing plants blooming in May and June?
If so don’t try to compete, choose flowers that honey bees like with bloom times in July – September.
In this way, you are supplementing the natural food sources. Of course, this applies to all pollinators not just honey bees.
My Favorite Flowers For Honey Bees
Aren’t you tired of all that grass? Leave some natural areas for the bees when you can. If you have enough space (or even a few pots), create a bee friendly garden.
A mix of annual and perennial flowers is good. Chose flowers that you love and flowers that honey bees and other pollinators can enjoy.
I love sunflowers. The enormous flowers we see are actually made up of hundreds of tiny flowers. Honey bees enjoy foraging on the individual flower segments.
Seeds produced in the fall are also a treat for birds. Not all sunflowers provide pollen ! Read the seed packet, some new varieties are pollen-less.
Rudbeckia Goldstrum is a variety of cone flower that boasts a bright yellow display.
This is one of the flowers that honey bees love that can be grown in a large mass. In the fall, birds will feast on the seeds.
Rudbeckia Goldstrum can be a perennial in some areas. I have several areas that reseed each year but I would not term mine as aggressive.
Native to the United States, Horsemint (Monarda punctate) is a long blooming perennial. This sun loving plant is a beneficial flower to plant for bees.
It is a favorite of other pollinators as well. Mint has been known to have a mind of its own. Plant it in a pot or corral it in.
Flowering Trees Feed Bees
Blooming trees can provide large amounts of nectar in one season. Many are available for purchase. Find one that grows well in your climate.
One of my favorites is the Tulip Poplar Tree. This large tree is native to my area. It grows very tall and has large flowers in April.
Another tree that is native to my area is the Red Maple. Red Maples bloom very early in the year and are important for colony buildup.
To learn more about choosing trees that attract bees check out my post – Best Flowering Trees for Bees.
I Love Little Bee Gardens Too!
In my little gardens, I love to plant zinnias, daisies, asters and Echinacea. Searching through the seed catalogs and finding flowers that honey bees like is a fun part of beekeeping.
Some plants can be purchased ready to bloom from your local garden center.
Read the labels and ask questions to ensure those plants have not been treated with anything toxic to bees.
Most catalogs have sections of plants preferred by pollinators. Many seeds are easily started inside and transferred outside later.
By choosing perennial flowers, you will be building a honey bee sanctuary that will grow over time.
They provide pollinator food each year. But don’t overlook the annuals that are beneficial as well.
Whether you are a beekeeper, nature lover or gardener, try to choose flowers that bees like – this year.