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How to Make a Rain Garden for Bees

Little spaces can make a big difference to hungry pollinators. When these areas can be utilized to help bees and other pollinators – that’s a win-win situation. Learning how to make a rain garden for bees is one way to put a small space to good use.

Add a Pollinator Rain Garden to Your Landscape

Collection of bee friendly plants in rain garden design image.

Often we think of bee friendly gardening as an effort that requires acres of land – this is not always the case. What a great way to use a “trouble spot” in your yard, reduce erosion and feed bees.

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We live in a world with less and less wild, natural areas. This results in fewer food source plants for bees.  We can help pollinators by increasing bee habitat areas.

What is a Rain Garden ?

A rain garden is a planting of shrubs, perennials and flowers in a small depression in a problem area of the yard. The goal of the rain garden is to slow down moving water – allowing it to sink into the soil.

Many homeowners have problems with erosion. This may be a hillside or slope that gets a lot of runoff water during heavy rain. These areas channel water and wash away soil.

Areas with storm water runoff can ruin your landscaping. Even rain water from roof and driveways create wash areas.

Will a Rain Garden Encourage Mosquitoes?

A good rain garden design allows a place to slow down moving water. It also prevents large areas of standing water. If properly constructed, mosquitoes will not breed in your garden.

It is not a wetland and the area will be dry most of the time. All of the collected water should be absorbed into the soil within 48 hours.

Rain Garden Design

For those of you who live in urban areas, storm water management is a critical task. Choosing the proper plants, mulch and rock structures to slow running water are an important part of rain garden design.

The more runoff water the area receives – the larger rocks you need. Small rocks can be washed away while larger ones stay put. Your rain garden plants need sturdy roots too! This helps hold the soil.

Standing rain water in yard image.

A good design means less mowing in difficult places-consider plantings for any area that you don’t want to mow.   A good book about sustainable landscaping helps you get off to a good start.

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And best of all, adding just a few new blooming plants will add more nutrition for our bees. Nectar and important pollen for bee food is important.

Start by building a berm to hold the plants in place, then create discrete swells in the landscape to channel run off water into your rain garden area.

Anytime you can use natives your gardening chores will be easier. Depending on the size of your garden spot, having a couple of native shrubs that feed bees make great backdrops.

Then you can fill in the area in front of the shrubs with mid-sized and smaller plants that bloom for a long season.

Create a bee habitat rain garden design featuring plants of different heights provides depth and creates a sense of space.

Instead of mulch, which tends to wash away – consider pine needles or other types of mulch material.

Regardless of your garden layout, you will not be happy with the results unless you have the right plants.

Making a Rain Garden in Clay Soil

If you live in a region with clay soil, drainage and gardening in general can be more challenging. Soil that does not drain well may require a larger garden area to handle the incoming water.

Another option is to mix some compost and sand into the top few inches of the soil before planting. This aids in drainage until the plants begin to grow and create tunnels in the soil for drainage.

Bee on yellow flower in garden image.

Best Plants For Your Rain Garden for Bees !

The number of planting options are almost endless and limited only by your gardening zone.  Know your zone. Plants that are suited for a dry warm climate in Arizona may not do well in Maine !

When we use native plants and perennials that attract bees to create pollinator gardens, that’s even better!

Choosing plants that are suited to your climate is important because you want the garden to look pretty year round.  

To help bees, your rain garden plants should bloom over a long period of time.  Bees like plants that provide nectar, pollen or both!

Common Plants to Include for Pollinators

  • Serviceberry Shrubs
  • Steeplebush-Meadowsweet
  • Oregon Grape
  • Purple Coneflowers
  • Milkweed
  • Joe-Pye Weed
  • Ironweed
  • Fireweed
  • Goldenrod
  • Coreopsis
  • Anise-Hyssop

Check with local gardening centers in your region for help with plant selection.  You should be able to find a good selection of different colors to compliment any garden design.

If you live in a dry region with periodic flash floods, look for plants that can handle drought conditions too!

Your efforts contribute to pollinator health and honey bees are not the only ones who will benefit. Butterflies, hummingbirds, moths and many solitary bees and wasps need good nectar sources.

Watering colorful bee plants with a water can image.

Flower Gardens Benefit All Pollinators

The decline of honey bees and other pollinators is the subject of many news stories.  As more acreage is developed for housing and businesses, natural habitat is lost.  

This results in a lack of food for beneficial insects. Concerned citizens nationwide are looking for ways to help our troubled insects.

Honey bees, Bumblebees and other insects can benefit from an increase in available flowering plants. And, yes – you can make a difference!

Enhance Bee Habitat

One small garden may seem unimportant.  However if everyone in the neighborhood participates by adding blooming plants and reducing erosion, this can make quite an impact on the area.

Make a big difference.  Choose pollinator friendly plants that will help bees for all your landscaping projects. And in some spaces, you may use plants that benefits the bees and you too.

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  1. Sandra King says:

    I live in Montana and am putting in raised vegetable beds. This morning I went outside and a lot of bees leaning on my organic soil bags. I let them crawl on my fingers and hands. As I look around, there are honey bee’s all over. I placed them on my currant bushes and dandelions but noticed they aren’t collecting pollen and see no pollen on their back legs. They are acting unusual. I don’t use any fertilizer or pesticides. Have they lost their queen or have they been exposed to something else? I’m concerned and my yard has more bee’s than I have ever seen. I am interested in becoming a beekeeper and have much to learn before starting a hive. Please can you help me with my questions? Thank you so very much. I love bee’s and actually they seem to like me.

  2. Charlotte Anderson says:

    Was it a cool morning? It’s possible they were attracted to some smell on the soil and got chilled. If so, they should be okay once they warm up.

  3. Sandra King says:

    I think they were hungry. Can I put a flat dish of organic sugar water out for them since there aren’t many flowering plants yet?

  4. Charlotte Anderson says:

    Yes, just plain sugar water mixed 1:1 with water and a few pebbles or safe places to land. But you may have more visitors than you want!

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