14 Best Flowers for Bees - Fill Your Garden With Bee-Friendly Plants - Garden Design (2022)

Suncredible® Yellow sunflower. Photo by: Proven Winners.

Which came first, the bee or the bee balm? While the question may be interesting to contemplate, it illustrates the vital partnership between plant and pollinator, and how one needs the other in order to survive.

Bee populations are declining rapidly in many regions of the country, with habitat loss being a primary cause. As gardeners, we can do our part to help keep these important pollinators well fed. Growing a diverse variety of flowering plants can satisfy the appetites of various bee species. Along with planting lots of flowers that attract bees, we can also improve the environment for bees by creating a safe haven in our gardens that they can call home.

‘Pardon My Cerise’ bee balm. Photo by Proven Winners.

BEE BALM

Plant type: Perennial
Bloom time: Midsummer to early fall
Flower color: Shades of red, pink, lavender, white, or purple. Also, spotted bee balm with pale yellow petals spotted with purple, with showy pink bracts.
Height: 1 to 3 feet tall
Zones: 3-8
Bee appeal: Dense clusters of small two-lipped flowers entice a broad range of pollinators, as do the aromatic green leaves.

Learn more about growing bee balm.

Photo by: Alexandr Golovkin / Shutterstock.

BLUE GLOBE ALLIUM

Plant type: Bulb
Bloom time: May to June
Flower color: Sky blue
Height: 1 to 2 feet tall
Zones: 4-8
Bee appeal: One of the best spring-blooming bulbs for bees, beckoning them from far and wide with its eye-catching orbs of blue flowers.

See more allium varieties.

Photo by: Roger Foley.

ORIENTAL POPPY

(Video) 12 Best Perennial Flowers for Your Garden 🌻🌹

Plant type: Perennial
Bloom time: June to July
Flower color: Orange, red, lavender or pink, usually with dark purple or black centers
Height: 2 to 4 feet tall
Zones: 5-7
Bee appeal: Bees forage on poppies not for the nectar, but for the protein-rich pollen, which these huge cup-shaped blooms produce in abundance, providing a welcome feast in late spring.

See more oriental poppy varieties.

PowWow Wild Berry Purple coneflower. Photo by: Proven Winners.

CONEFLOWER

Plant type: Perennial
Bloom time: Midsummer to fall
Flower color: Purple, white, yellow, orange, or pink, depending on the cultivar
Height: 2 to 5 feet tall
Zones: 3-9
Bee appeal: You’ll often see bees buzzing eagerly around the prominent central cones of these daisy-like flowers, visiting each floret to partake of its nectar and pollen. A long bloom period keeps bees well fed for months.

Learn how to grow and care for coneflower.

Photo by: RukiMedia / Shutterstock.

GREAT BLUE LOBELIA

Plant type: Perennial
Bloom time: August through September
Flower color: Blue to purple
Height: 2 to 3 feet tall
Zones: 4-9
Bee appeal: Showy spikes of blue flowers are magnets for bumblebees and other bee species including yellow-faced bees, sweat bees, and small carpenter bees.

See more lobelia varieties.

'Cat's Pajamas' catmint. Photo by: Proven Winners.

CATMINT

Plant type: Perennial
Bloom time: May through September
Flower color: Blue to purple
Height: 9 inches to 3 feet tall
Zones: 4-9
Bee appeal: Long blooming and prolific, making it an excellent source of nectar for honeybees and bumblebees from late spring until fall.

See more catmint varieties.

Sweet Romance® lavender. Photo by: Proven Winners.

LAVENDER

Plant type: Perennial herb
Bloom time: June through August
Flower color: Lavender-purple, pink, and white
Height: 2 to 3 feet tall
Zones: 5-9
Bee appeal: Sweetly fragrant, with spikes of tiny flowers just the right size for honeybees.

See more lavender varieties.

(Video) How to grow roses for beginners | Garden ideas

'Purple Dome' aster. Photo by: Richard Bloom.

NEW ENGLAND ASTER

Plant type: Perennial
Bloom time: August to October
Flower color: Deep purple with pale yellow center
Height: 3 to 5 feet tall
Zones: 3-7
Bee appeal: One of the last flowers to bloom in fall, making it an important late-season nectar source for native bees.

See more aster varieties.

Photo by: Janet Loughrey.

CHIVES

Plant type: Herb
Bloom time: April to May
Flower color: Purple
Height: 12 to 18 inches tall
Zones: 3-7
Bee appeal: Early-blooming nectar-rich flowers are a banquet for bees emerging from dormancy in spring.

See more bee-friendly garden herbs.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

(Video) "Bee-Specific – Flowers and Plants That Attract Native Bees"

SUNFLOWER

Plant type: Annual or perennial
Bloom time: Summer through fall
Flower color: Yellow
Height: Up to 16 feet
Zones: 4-8 for perennial varieties
Bee appeal: In addition to being prolific nectar and pollen producers, sunflowers have also been shown to have bee-healing properties. Both wild bees and honeybees will self-medicate on sunflower pollen when ill or infected with pathogens. Be sure to plant open-pollinated sunflower varieties rather than hybrid types bred to be pollenless.

Learn how to .

Photo by: Nancy J. Ondra / Shutterstock.

STIFF GOLDENROD

Plant type: Perennial
Bloom time: August to October
Flower color: Pale yellow
Height: 3 to 5 feet
Zones: 3-9
Bee appeal: This native prairie plant is a staple on the menu for bees gathering food reserves for winter.

See more goldenrod varieties.

Photo by:rdp15 / Shutterstock.

BORAGE

Plant type: Annual
Bloom time: June to August
Flower color: Bright blue
Height: 1 to 3 feet
Bee appeal: Honeybees delight in these nectar-rich blue flowers, which can replenish their nectar within minutes after a bee consumes it, ensuring a steady supply of refills. The shallow, star-shaped blooms are also ideal food reservoirs for bees with short tongues.

‘Queen Lime Orange’. Photo courtesy of All America Selections.

ZINNIA

Plant type: Annual
Bloom time: Late spring until frost
Flower color: Various shades of orange, pink, purple, red, white and yellow
Height: 1 to 4 feet
Bee appeal: Honeybees and bumblebees flock to these colorful flowers, and many types of solitary bees as well. The nectar-rich central disk flowers are small enough that even tiny species of bees can collect food easily.

Learn how to .

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Photo by: Spotted Joe Pye weed. Photo by: Alan & Linda Detrick.

JOE PYE WEED

Plant type: Perennial
Bloom time: July to September
Flower color: Purple, dusky rose
Height: 6 to 8 feet
Zones: 3-8
Bee appeal: Honeybees go crazy for the large vanilla-scented flower heads of this statuesque native perennial, traveling from one floret to the next until they satisfy their nectar cravings.

Learn more about growing Joe Pye weed.

WHAT MAKES A FLOWER BEE FRIENDLY?

It provides a healthy diet. Flowers that attract bees provide abundant nectar and pollen, the only sources of carbohydrates and protein in a bee’s diet. While some bees, called “generalists,” aren’t picky about the type of flower, others are “specialists” and need pollen from particular plants.

It’s the right color. If you thought red or yellow was a bee’s favorite flower color, guess again. They actually see flowers in the blue and purple color spectrum better than other hues and are naturally attracted to them. (Interestingly, flowers in the blue-purple range produce the most nectar.) Bees can also see ultraviolet light, and many flowers have ultraviolet nectar guides that are invisible to us but lead bees right to their sweet treat.

It’s the perfect shape. Some bees prefer certain flowers because of their shape. Often these preferences are determined by the length of a bee’s tongue. For example, long-tongued bees seek out tubular, deep-throated blooms while short-tongued species visit flowers with easily accessible nectar, such as those in the daisy family.

It's just the right size. Sizewise, honeybees often flock to tiny flowers, while larger bees shun them because they are too small to support their weight.

It's single. Regardless of flower shape or size, avoid cultivars with showy double flowers. While attractive, they often make it more difficult for bees to access nectar and pollen than single flowers.

It’s chemical-free. Don't treat your flowers with pesticides, which are extremely toxic to honeybees and other beneficial insects. Instead, opt for eco-friendly treatments and apply them in early morning or at dusk when there are few bees around. Also, avoid buying plants pretreated with systemic chemicals that, even in small doses, can be harmful to bees.

It blooms at the right time. Although spring and summer may seem to be when bees are at their busiest, some early-emerging bees rely on pollen and nectar from late winter and very early spring blooms. In the fall, bees feast on late-blooming plants in preparation for winter hibernation.

  • Early-season bloomers: Crocus, hyacinth, primrose, hellebore, maples, redbuds, willows, oaks, and dandelion
  • Late-season bloomers: Potentilla, viburnum, aster, sunflower, goldenrod

BEE GARDEN DESIGN TIPS

Photo by: FooTToo / Shutterstock.

Beyond planting colorful flowers, there are other things you can do to keep bees abuzz in your garden. Here are tips for creating the ultimate pollinator paradise:

Provide a comfortable home. Not all bees colonize in hives like the super-social honeybee. Bumblebees nest in holes in the ground and need bare areas of unmulched soil where they can dig their underground tunnels. Certain species of solitary bees make their homes in aboveground tunnels or cavities in hollow-stemmed plants and dead wood.

You can purchase a “bee hotel” for these hole-nesting bees—a birdhouse-like structure consisting of hollow reeds or cardboard tubes—or make your own with these steps from Michigan State University Extension. (Here's a fun bee hotel coloring page for budding young gardeners to enjoy.)

Make sure they have access to water. Create a small bee watering station by placing a shallow, wide dish in the garden filled with clean water and a few stones the bees can stand on. A birdbath with a few smooth rocks in it will also do the trick. Another option is to buy a gravity-fed water dispenser designed especially for bees.

Plant a bee lawn that includes low-growing flowering plants as well as turf grass. Dutch white clover (Trifolium repens), creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum), and native violas (Viola spp.) are examples of plants that benefit pollinators and will flower in a mowed lawn. Even dandelions can be an asset if you're trying to attract bees and other pollinating insects.

Grow some herbs. Many pollinators, especially bees, are drawn to herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, because of their intense scent.

Include a mix of native and non-native plants. Native bees are more likely to be attracted to the native flowers they are familiar with, but non-native plants such as catmint, zinnias, and lavender can also be irresistible to bees, especially if they produce a lot of nectar. By filling your garden with a variety—including annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, ground covers, vegetables, and herbs— you’ll attract a greater diversity of bee species. (See more on native plants.)

Keep in mind that most plants that attract bees will require full sun for at least half of the day. If you don’t have a sun garden, plant your bee flowers in containers and place them on a sunny patio or balcony.

Learn more: How to Keep Mason Bees.

(Video) 8 Best Fall Blooming Perennials for Adding Color to Your Garden 🌼✅

FAQs

What plants bees like the most? ›

What to plant to encourage bees
  • Annual flowers: calendula, marigold, sunflowers, poppies, cosmos, hollyhocks, fox gloves, echium, clover, nasturtiums.
  • Perennials: comfrey, dahlias, echinacea, geraniums, aquilegia, gladiolus.
  • Shrubs: Californian lilac, buddleia, echium.
  • Climbers: honeysuckle, clematis.

What Colour flowers do bees like best? ›

Bees are especially attracted to blue, purple, and yellow flowers. Avoid double petaled flowers, as bees find it difficult to access the nectar.

How do you make a bee-friendly garden? ›

One of the simplest ways to attract bees to visit your garden is by growing flowers rich in pollen and nectar – perennial plants are great, but don't discount flowering annuals, shrubs and trees, too.

What colors attract bees? ›

They can also see blue-green, blue, violet, and “bee's purple.” Bee's purple is a combination of yellow and ultraviolet light. That's why humans can't see it. The most likely colors to attract bees, according to scientists, are PURPLE, VIOLET and BLUE.

What plant makes the best honey? ›

Some of the plants that are most attractive to bees and produce high quality honey are the flowers of blackberries, fruit and citrus trees, herbs (like rosemary, borage and sage), flowering bushes, clover and other wild flowers and, in the case of Monte-Bellaria, lavender.

Do bees like lavender? ›

While both bumblebees (Bombus spp.) and honey bees (Apis mellifera) are attracted to lavender (Lavandula spp.), the plant is more popular among bumblebees.

Is lavender good for bees? ›

Lavender is a classic bee plant and a fantastic plant for every garden for many reasons. When in flower it looks and smells wonderful. It's a great source of nectar for butterflies and bees. It's semi-evergreen so it has a structure and a presence through the winter.

How can I be bee friendly? ›

How to bee friendly
  1. Grow your bee friendly garden. Plant a range of flowers in your garden so bees have access to nectar from March to October. ...
  2. Treat bees to some sugar and let it 'bee' A tired bee really does like a tiny hit of sugar (never honey!) ...
  3. Get to know bees in the UK. ...
  4. Eat sustainable honey.

What smells do bees hate? ›

Bees also have a distaste for lavender oil, citronella oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, lemon, and lime. These are all topical defenses you can add to your skin to keep bees away. Unlike other flying insects, bees are not attracted to the scent of humans; they are just curious by nature.

How do you attract bees to a bee house? ›

Summary. Having a bee house in your garden is a fun family activity that also helps native bees. To attract bees to a bee house you should provide good housing, provide a mud source, plant a pollinator garden, and use an attractant spray.

What purple flower do bees like? ›

The purple coneflower, also known as echinacea, is one of the biggest bee attractors. Drawn to the wildflower for its color, bees forage on both the nectar and the pollen that the plant produces. It blooms for a long period during mid-summer to fall, providing many months of nectar for the bees.

What color flowers are bees not attracted to? ›

Color. Bees are attracted to a variety of bright colors, but blue, yellow and purple flowers are the most attractive to bees. Avoid flowers with those bloom colors and opt for flowers with red blooms. Bees do not see red -- it appears black to them -- so red flowers do not attract bees.

Do bees like pink? ›

Bees are attracted to flowers based on the color, shape, and texture. They prefer flowers that are white, blue, yellow, and pink in color. They also find flowers with easy access to pollen and nectar attractive.

What smell attracts bees? ›

The blossoms that appear along this energetic vine are pink and fragrant, and they appear in late summer and autumn. Herbs can also be attractive to pollinators. Add plants in the mint family, including peppermint, lavender, basil, and oregano. Bees also like rosemary, sage, thyme, chamomile, marjoram, and bee balm.

How do bees see humans? ›

Bees are trichromatic like humans, which means that they have photoreceptors that can perceive three main colours and the colours between them. Human trichromatic vision is based on red, blue, and green. Bees' three colours are ultraviolet light, blue, and green.

Do bees remember you? ›

Well we don't all look alike to them, according to a new study that shows honeybees, who have 0.01% of the neurons that humans do, can recognize and remember individual human faces. For humans, identifying faces is critical to functioning in everyday life.

Does honey expire? ›

In general, honey doesn't spoil. However, it can go bad if it's contaminated or incorrectly stored. If your honey has visible mold, or if it smells fermented or "off," then it's time to toss it.

Which color honey is best? ›

There is a relationship between the colour and the flavour of the honey. One rule of thumb is that pale and clear honeys have a soft, delicate taste, while honey with a dark colour tends to have a sharper, more pronounced taste.

What honey is sweetest? ›

Locust honey and Tupelo honey were found to be the sweetest of those tested. This data correlated with the average fructose percentage in those honeys, which ranged from 37.73% for a sweetness score of 114.16 (Aster) and 39.10 for a sweetness score of 115.90 (Eucalyptus - European).

What plants are bad for bees? ›

Rhododendron from the heath family (Ericaceae) is poisonous to bees and humans. It contains an andromedotoxin. Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) also contains an andromedotoxin which can poison humans. California buckeye (Aesculus californica) – has caused losses of honey bee colonies throughout its range.

Are geraniums bee friendly? ›

Not to be confused with the gaudy Pelargonium, geraniums are hardy perennials that come in a broad range of colours, but most are moderately attractive to short-tongued bees.

Do white roses attract bees? ›

Yes, roses attract bees! In fact, these little buzzing insects are perhaps the most common rose pollinator. So, if someone in your household has a bee allergy, don't plant roses.

What scares away bees? ›

Pennyroyal, neem, mint, cloves, eucalyptus, and citronella all have strong smells that deter bees. Red germaniums and red marigolds are among the few bee repellent plants that produce flowers. Bees do not see the color red and will flock to these flowers, thinking that they have pollen.

Why are there no bees in my garden 2022? ›

Bees cannot thrive in unseasonably hot or cold weather, or conditions that are too wet or dry. Shorter winters, like winter 2020/2021, are both good and bad for the bees, Kelly adds.

Does lemon balm attract bees? ›

Lemon balm is a great plant to use as a border to a garden because not only will it emit its fragrant lemony odor when brushed, but it will attract bees into the garden.

Can bees smell lavender? ›

Bees like lavender and will be attracted to the smell and bright purple color of the lavender flowers. Bees will visit lavender to collect nectar to make honey. All varieties of lavender will attract bees including French, English and Italian lavender.

Which lavender do bees like best? ›

Research suggests that the larger lavender cultivars are the best for bees. You can find varieties from fragrant white to luscious dark purple. Look for the hardier and less picky Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandin x intermedia cultivars for individual plants or to make a lovely hedge.

Do bees like mint? ›

Bees and other beneficial insects absolutely love mint flowers, and it doesn't matter if it's peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, apple mint, or catmint (also known as catnip), horsemint, wild mint, or even lemon balm (which is also in the mint family).

Do bees prefer certain flowers? ›

Some bees prefer certain flowers because of their shape. Often these preferences are determined by the length of a bee's tongue. For example, long-tongued bees seek out tubular, deep-throated blooms while short-tongued species visit flowers with easily accessible nectar, such as those in the daisy family.

What are bumble bees favorite flower? ›

urticifolia, a flowering plant in the mint family, was the plant most strongly selected by three of five bumble bee species surveyed. Other commonly selected flowers included thickstem asters and Ryderberg's penstemon, a flower in the snapdragon family.

Do all flowers attract bees? ›

While many flowering plants attract bees, you can choose flowers -- based on certain characteristics, such as scent, color or bloom shape -- that do not attract bees.

What smell do bees hate? ›

Bees also have a distaste for lavender oil, citronella oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, lemon, and lime. These are all topical defenses you can add to your skin to keep bees away. Unlike other flying insects, bees are not attracted to the scent of humans; they are just curious by nature.

What plants are bad for bees? ›

Rhododendron from the heath family (Ericaceae) is poisonous to bees and humans. It contains an andromedotoxin. Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) also contains an andromedotoxin which can poison humans. California buckeye (Aesculus californica) – has caused losses of honey bee colonies throughout its range.

What color are bees not attracted to? ›

Bees are not alone in their dislike of dark colors. Red triggers a similar response, as bees see red as black. If you want to avoid being stung by bees, avoid wearing dark colors. Wear something light instead, like white, pale, or tan.

Is lavender good for bees? ›

Lavender is a classic bee plant and a fantastic plant for every garden for many reasons. When in flower it looks and smells wonderful. It's a great source of nectar for butterflies and bees. It's semi-evergreen so it has a structure and a presence through the winter.

What attracts bees to humans? ›

Bees are attracted to bright colors and certain smells. In most cases, they set their sights on flowers. However, they will investigate a human if you resemble a flower. Brightly colored clothing and sticky hands are perfect triggers for busy bees.

What flowers do you send when someone dies? ›

Lilies (and white stargazer lilies in particular) are a safe and popular choice, representing innocence, purity and sympathy. Or you could pick a flower that has a strong symbolic meaning. As the name suggests, forget-me-nots symbolise everlasting remembrance.

Do bees like hydrangeas? ›

The fertile flowers of hydrangeas are small and insignificant and not as showy to our eyes but are heavily frequented by bees.

Do bees like hibiscus? ›

Hibiscus is one of the many flower species that produce nectar. This nectar attracts bees, hummingbirds, bats, and other potential pollinators to the flowers.

Does sugar water attract bees? ›

Putting sugar syrup out in the open doesn't only feed your bees, it feeds bees from other hives. Then they all go back home and bring their friends back for the free meal, and now you've got lots of bees on your back patio.

What smell attracts bees? ›

The blossoms that appear along this energetic vine are pink and fragrant, and they appear in late summer and autumn. Herbs can also be attractive to pollinators. Add plants in the mint family, including peppermint, lavender, basil, and oregano. Bees also like rosemary, sage, thyme, chamomile, marjoram, and bee balm.

Do bees like purple flowers? ›

Fragrant purple, violet or white flowers will attract bees, but you'll enjoy the lovely fragrance in the landscape as well. Grow these annuals in the garden or a container in full sun and moist well-drained soil.

What plants keep yellow jackets away? ›

Plants That Repel Wasps
  • Lemongrass. Lemongrass is great at repelling flying insects including wasps, especially yellow jackets. ...
  • Spearmint. Wasps aren't fans of mint's strong fragrance. ...
  • Thyme. Thyme is another great option for repelling wasps. ...
  • Clove Tree. ...
  • Trumpet Flowers. ...
  • Geraniums.
12 Jul 2021

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