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Flowers That Attract Bees-How to Choose the Best

Considering some new plants for the garden? Part of the delight of bee friendly gardening is deciding what to plant. In most locations, it is very to easy to add a few special plants that provide flowers for bees. This is an easy way to help all pollinators. Flowers that attract bees will also feed butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and other insects.

Garden filled with flowers that attract bees image.

Planting Flowers That Attract Bees

Is it time to think of some new ideas for your garden?  Whether you have a large space or just a few pots, you can make a difference.

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Choosing flowers that attract honey bees to your garden is a wise choice for any homeowner. It is a joy to watch bees gathering pollen and nectar.

And, if you have a vegetable garden or home orchard, you will enjoy increased crop yield due to pollination.

You don’t have to be a Master Gardener to grow flowers that bees like.  Adding just a few to your garden, lawn or stoop will make some bees very happy. 

Lavender in field plant flowers that attract bees image.

Wild Flowers That Attract Honey Bees

You may wonder why you need to plant for bees? Don’t wild flowers and native plants attract bees and provide food and cover ?

Yes, they do. Unless you live in the city, you can likely look around and see many plants and flowers of all sizes.

Honey bees see flowers and plants differently that humans. Their special sight abilities and olfactory cues help them find useful plants.

A passion flower that has attracted honey bees to nectar image.

One important consideration is that not all blooming flowers produce pollen or nectar. And many wild plants have a short bloom time.

This is the situation at my home.  In April, I have so many blooming plants that the bees cant possibly keep up.  But when hot, dry July arrives, I am in a nectar desert.

Think seasonally, create a bloom window that lasts all season. Include some plants that produce Fall flowers for bees too!

Attract Bees to Small Garden Areas

Don’t have a large bee garden or back yard? No problem. You do not have to have a large area. Every drop of nectar counts – use the space that you have available to plant a few blooming flowers.

A vegetable garden can be of great benefit to bees but it does not have to be a large space. If you do have an idea for a large vegetable garden in your front yard – I say go for it! What’s wrong with that?

Ok, its not for everyone I understand. But I sometimes think we need to move away from manicured lawns and live in a more natural state. Until then, lets find of way to sneak in a few pollen and nectar rich plants.

List of Container Flowers Bees Find Attractive

  1. Crocus
  2. Bee Balm
  3. Sedums
  4. Echinacea
  5. Borage
  6. Mints
  7. Lavender
  8. Lantana
  9. Verbena
  10. Coneflowers
  11. Catmint
  12. Red Hot Pokers
  13. Small Sunflower Varieties
  14. Agastache
  15. Blueberries (container varieties)

Don’t despair if you only have room for a few potted plants. Gardening in pots is a great way to make use of bee friendly flowers.

Research the ways container gardening can make a good contribution to nectar and pollen supply. This is an easy way for city dwellers to provide a much needed food supply to urban honey bees.  Bees fly-so rooftop gardens must seem like the best buffet bar ever!

Help Bees By Providing a Diverse Food Source

Honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinators benefit from a variety of nectar and pollen sources.  Each type of flowering plant that produces nectar or pollen contains different vitamins, minerals etc.

Healthy bees need diversity in food sources.  This is why commercial hives used for pollination sometimes suffer poor health. 

There may be plenty of food available but it is all the same. Our mono agriculture system plants large plots of one thing.  Mix it up and choose bee friendly flowers of different kinds.

Think outside the box – or pot – and do some creative bee garden design. Create a groups of flowering plants in different locations in your backyard.

Make your own flower seed balls with the kids and have fun placing them around the area. These will create new and diverse plants for bees.

Choose a wide variety of flowers that attract bees or butterflies for different parts of your landscape – create a rain garden in high wash areas.

If you have an area that is hard to mow or maintain, is it a great place for a mini meadow of wildflowers?  Plant selection is not limited to small plants.

Do you have room for a small pond of water garden? These can provide a place for water loving plants for bees.

You do not need a lot of space to add a few perennials bees love to the garden. These plants return year after year – that’s a good investment.

Trees that produce nectar are a valuable bee forage solution. Of course, not everyone has room for trees but if you do, consider planting a couple of trees for the bees.

Flowers Provide Pollen to Attract Bees

It’s not just about nectar.  Bees need a variety of pollen resources too.  Pollen is an essential protein source for bees.  

Daffodils are not really great plants to attract bees. Early blooming daffodils are beautiful harbingers of Spring but produce no nectar and not a lot of pollen.

Remember that blooms don’t always mean food for bees, some varieties of plants have been bred to lack pollen!

Bees are at the mercy of the natural bloom cycle and environmental pressures. In these situations, even a few flowers that attract bees to your garden can make a big difference.

Consider Native Flowers In Your Region

In upstate South Carolina and many other parts of the country, there is a major blooming season.  This is a season of plenty when the bees have an abundant supply of nectar producing flowers.

This nectar is necessary for the bees to make honey for later use. If you are a beekeeper, it is important to learn about the seasonal bloom in your region. Don’t try to compete – plant flowers that will attract honey bees during the rest of the season.

Native Flowers that Feed Bees:

  1. Blueberry
  2. Blackberry Bushes
  3. Red Bud Trees
  4. Henbit
  5. Dandelion
  6. Vetch
  7. Tulip Poplar
  8. Goldenrod
  9. Bee Balm
  10. Borage
  11. Common Choke Cherry
  12. Oregon Grape
  13. Blue Columbine
  14. Common Yarrow
  15. Dotted Blazing Star- Liatris

These are some of the most common honey plants in my region but yours may be different. Also check the climate and soil requirements for any plants who want to include in your bee gardens.

And don’t try to compete with nature. Plant flowers that feed bees during the times of the year when the natural bloom is not abundant.

I could have 200 beehives on site during this heavy flow. But there are some times of the year when the site might not feed more than 20 hives.

The takeaway point is that most flowering bee plants do not bloom all summer long. Planting flowers that attract bees may help small colonies in peril through a time of need.

Also, if we provide nectar producing flowers that bloom throughout the summer this is better than having all of them bloom at once.  It avoids the bee colonies having to deal with “feast or famine”.

Lotus flowers attracting bees to the blooms image.

Flowers that Provide Pollen for Bees

Avoid plants that have been highly hybridized. These are the extra fancy specimens we often see in garden centers. These plants are developed to look beautiful and not produce seed. (Some homeowners dislike messy seed pods).

While this may look great in your garden, these plants produce much less to no pollen. Bees need nectar but be sure to include some pollen producing plants too.

Pollen Producing Flowering Plants

  1. Red Maple
  2. Grey Alder
  3. Cherry
  4. Plum
  5. Raspberry
  6. Willow
  7. Zinnia

Where to Use Plants that Don’t Attract Bees

No matter how bee friendly you are, there will be some situations in the garden where bee visitors are not quite as welcomed.

That’s okay. Plant flowers that attract bees well away from narrow sidewalks and play areas.  Give the bees plenty of room to work.

The bees attracted to the flowers may feel threatened with foot traffic constantly going past. Choose from my list of flowers that repel bees or are less attractive to insect for these areas.

Leave plenty of walking space in your garden.   This reduces the chance of accidental stinging. Most bees do not want to sting you.

As long as the foraging bees feel safe, you can safely observe them as they work.

You are unlikely to experience a bee sting if you remain calm. Honey bees are not aggressive away from the hive. But, they will defend themselves.  Observe from a distance and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Autumn joy flowers attracting honey bees with nectar image.

Where to Purchase Bee Friendly Plants

Your local garden center is a great place to begin your search when planting flowers that attract bees. Even if there selection is small, they will be familiar with growing conditions in your area.  

Another great resource is online ordering with its great variety. When ordering flowers seed or plants online – always check the reviews of the seller.

Starting annual flowers from seed is a great way to enjoy the full gardening experience and it is not as difficult as you may think. For perennials, shrubs, trees – purchasing started plants is the better way to go.

Everyone can play a role in helping bees and other pollinators. You do not have to be a beekeeper or have a large plot of land to help save the bees.

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  1. Marion T. Etheredgde says:

    I want bees and flowers in my garden.

  2. NEWBIE HERE!!! lol

    I’m just learning to plant for the Bees. So I’m trying to plant as many trees, flowers, and bushes for the Bees as I can that they like. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I have an acre and a half now.


  3. Choose a variety of simple flowers (avoid new hybrids if possible). Trying to choose flowers that bloom all Summer or varieties that stagger their bloom time would be part of a good plan too.

  4. The dynamite plant that is a go to for me is the Annual, Cleome.(Spider Flower). Stay away from the newer varieties and plant the Queen series. They readily reseed, produce a good nectar flow during the heat of summer. Deheading will produce additional blooms. I dehead on a rotational basis every couple of weeks to keep the Honeybees happy !

  5. I was wondering if you know of any experiments about what flowers attract the most bees. It is specifically for a research project. Thank you!

  6. I have read that blue, purple and yellow flowers are most attractive to bees. And, that bees like the simple flat blossom best because it is easier for them to harvest the nectar!

  7. Will Carolina jasmine attract bees so much that planting on a stair handrail is unwise? Greenville sc

  8. Depends on the frequency of use by humans. The plant doesnt bloom all year or course and some years the bees have so much other food – they don’t visit it. But it might not be the best idea to have the plant where people might put down their hand.

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