Populations of all sorts of bees are declining at an alarming rate, and this endangers production of food for people and all creatures on earth. Surprisingly, individual gardeners can help with this problem significantly by making bee-friendly plant choices. In this article, we discuss the importance of planting ornamental, fruit and vegetable crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators. We also share information about the best flowers and other plants to choose to create a pollinator friendly bee garden. Read on to learn more about 17 best flowers for honey bees.
What You'll Learn Today
- 1 Is It A Good Idea To Attract Stinging Insects?
- 2 What Plants Do Bees Like?
- 3 17 Top Perennials & Annuals For Bees
- 3.1 1. Zinnia’s (Zinnia elegans)
- 3.2 2. Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus)
- 3.3 3. Salvia (Salvia)
- 3.4 4. Peonies (Paeonia)
- 3.5 5. Gayfeather (Liatris)
- 3.6 6. Cosmos (Compositae)
- 3.7 7. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)
- 3.8 8. Asters
- 3.9 9. Goldenrod (Solidago)
- 3.10 10. Milkweed (Asclepiadaceae)
- 3.11 11. Phlox (Phlox)
- 3.12 12. Sunflowers (Helianthus annus)
- 3.13 13. Bee Balm (Monardra didyma)
- 3.14 14. Coneflower (Echinacea)
- 3.15 15. Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium)
- 3.16 16. Pansies (Violaceae)
- 3.17 17. Stonecrop (Sedum)
- 4 Choose Trees & Bushes That Attract Bees
- 5 Bees & Other Pollinators Are Beneficial To Your Vegetable Garden
- 6 Maintain A Natural, Healthy Yard & Garden
Is It A Good Idea To Attract Stinging Insects?
While you might feel anxious about attracting potentially stinging bees to your yard, the fact is you have very little to fear. While there are some aggressive types of bees, they are in the minority. Most bees are happy to go about their business seeking out pollen and nectar and leaving you alone.
Additionally, there are many benefits to having bees in your yard. One excellent side-effect of attracting bees is that you also attract interesting beneficial insects, butterflies and hummingbirds.
What Plants Do Bees Like?
When choosing plants to attract bees, it’s important to understand that they need two types of flowers. They need both flowers that provide pollen and those that provide nectar. Just like us, bees need to have fuel for both energy and growth.
Nectar provides them with carbohydrates which give them fast energy. Pollen is the bees’ best source of protein for growth and strength.
Your secondary consideration will be choosing plants that will keep your garden in flower throughout the spring and summer and into the fall to provide pollen and nectar for bees, beneficial insects, butterflies and hummingbirds. To do this, you want to plant a mixture of perennial and annual plants.
Perennial plants are quite carefree because you plant them once and then they simply return on their own year-after-year. The downside of perennials is that they typically have a shorter bloom time that annuals.
For this reason, you’ll want to add in a mixture of annual plants which you must either start from seed or plant as seedlings every year. Annuals tend to have a specific but lengthy bloom time.
17 Top Perennials & Annuals For Bees
Here are some of the best annuals and perennials to plant to create an excellent bee and pollinator garden:
1. Zinnia’s (Zinnia elegans)
Zinnia’s are very easy to grow annual plants. They come in a wide range of heights, flower sizes and colors. It’s easy to grow zinnias from seed by sowing the seed directly into a prepared garden bed late in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.
Deadhead blooms throughout the summer to encourage abundant blooming from May through October. Grow zinnias in full sun in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 11.
2. Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus)
Snapdragons come in a wide variety of colors and are an excellent choice to provide pollen and nectar during the cooler seasons. The plants produce attractive tubular flowers on tall spikes that are a favorite with bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.
Snapdragons like well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter worked in. They bloom profusely during the cooler months, and can be encouraged to have a lengthier bloom time by deadheading.
The plants may grow to be 3 feet high with a spread as great as 18 inches. They begin blooming in May, but you can extend the blooming season with consistent deadheading and expect blooms through the month of August. Snapdragons enjoy full sun and will not do well even in light shade.
Snapdragons are perennials, but they are usually grown as annuals in cooler climates. These pretty flowers can be successfully grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 11.
3. Salvia (Salvia)
Salvia is also called sage. The sage we use as an herb is somewhat different in that it does not flower as much as its ornamental cousin.
Ornamental Salvia produces brightly colored flowers throughout the summer and into the autumn. Its flowers are especially attractive to bees and to hummingbirds.
Salvia may be grown as an annual or as a perennial. Salvia is drought resistant and very easy care, so when grown as a perennial, it needs very little attention. These plants do well in a full sun setting and provide dependable blooms from early in the summer through early in the autumn.
There are many different varieties available. Check to be certain that the type you buy is hardy in your climate. USDA hardiness ranges from zone 2 through zone 10.
4. Peonies (Paeonia)
Peonies are very popular perennials that are beautiful in any bee or pollinator garden. These plants grow into small bushes that will return year-after-year, sometimes for as long as a century. There are many cultivars, and it’s important that you choose the variety that will do well in your climate.
It can take a while for peonies to establish themselves and begin to bloom, but be patient, when they do begin blooming they are heavy bloomers and attract bees and a wide variety of pollinators.
Peonies are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8. They attain a height ranging from 1 to 3 feet with a spread as wide as 3 feet peonies bloom from May through June in a full to partial sun setting.
5. Gayfeather (Liatris)
Gayfeather is also called Blazing Star. This is a grass-like plant that produces tall spikes topped by thick, pinkish purple flower heads. The blooms start at the top of the spikes and then gradually bloom down the spike.
Bees are quite fond of Gay Feathers, and this perennial plant can grow to be 3 to 4 feet high with a spread of approximately 1 foot. Gay Feather blooms from the month of July through September in a full sun setting in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8.
6. Cosmos (Compositae)
Cosmos is another perennial wildflower that grows on its own across the meadows of South and North America. These pretty flowers are available in a wide variety of colors and are an excellent choice for pollinator gardens with poor soil and in hot, dry climates.
Cosmos have rather blowsy flowers that somewhat resemble poppies. They come in shades ranging from white to pink to purple and even some yellow. These plants may grow to a height ranging from 1 foot to 7 feet. They have a spread ranging from 18 inches to 30 inches. Cosmos bloom during the months of June, July and August in a full sun setting.
Cosmos may be planted as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 11. They may also be grown as an annual in colder climates.
7. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)
Black-eyed Susan is another wildflower that grows in abundance throughout the midwestern prairies of the United States. These daisy-like flowers have bright yellow petals and dark centers (eyes).
Black-eyed Susan blooms from early in the summer through early autumn, producing a great deal of nectar for the enjoyment of pollinators.
Black-eyed Susan is an excellent choice for naturalizing in a sunny meadow. These perennial plants thrive in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9. They grow to a height ranging from 1 foot to 3 feet. Each plant has a spread of approximately 1 1/2 feet.
Asters are a wonderful choice for any garden. They are beautiful and varied. Asters may range in height from between 1 foot to 6 feet high. Plants bloom prolifically with blossoms ranging in width from 1 inch to 4 inches and colors including:
You can grow asters for purposes ranging from groundcover to tall, temporary privacy hedge, depending upon the cultivar you choose. In any event, your friendly pollinators will love them.
Asters are hardy in USDA hardiness zones ranging from 3 through 10. They bloom throughout the months of July, August and September. These plants enjoy full sun, but can tolerate some high shade.
9. Goldenrod (Solidago)
Goldenrod is a prairie and meadow plant that is sometimes confused with ragweed. You needn’t fear, though, these plants do not produce the abundance of pollen that causes allergy symptoms for people. They do produce good pollen for bees, however.
These perennial plants can grow to a height ranging from 1 foot to 6 feet with a spread of 3 feet. Goldenrod grows and blooms abundantly throughout mid summer and into mid autumn.
This plant grows happily in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9. A full sun setting is preferable, but the plant can tolerate partial shade.
10. Milkweed (Asclepiadaceae)
Milkweed is an excellent addition to any pollinator garden. Bees love it, and it is also an essential food source for Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars. This is why these plants are sometimes called Butterfly Weed.
Milkweed is, as the name suggests, a weed that contains a thick, white sap. This rugged native perennial plant can do quite well in poor soil.
The plants can grow to be 2 to 5 feet high with a spread as great as 2 feet. They bloom throughout the summer months and do well in full sun to partial shade.
Milkweed is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9 and thrives in sunny meadows.
11. Phlox (Phlox)
Phlox produces brightly colored disk-like flowers in a wide range of colors. The plant is also available in a wide range of forms. Phlox may be grown as a creeping groundcover, a border plant or an upright specimen plant. These versatile plants bloom abundantly and are attractive to all sorts of pollinators.
These perennials are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9. Depending upon the variety you choose you can expect growth ranging from 8 inches to 4 feet. Plants may have a spread ranging from 1 foot to 2 feet. Phlox blooms from early in the spring to early in the autumn. These plants prefer full sun, but can do well in partial shade.
12. Sunflowers (Helianthus annus)
Sunflowers are annuals that come in a wide variety of heights, sizes and shades of yellow, orange, brown and even maroon.
Most varieties are tall, erect and produce a few broad, large, blooms. Some varieties are branching and produce smaller blooms. All sunflowers produce an abundance of seeds for birds to enjoy and a great deal of nectar for pollinators.
Plants may grow to a height ranging from 3 feet to 10 feet high. Blooms may be as wide as 18 inches. Sunflowers bloom during the hottest months of the summer, July and August.
Sunflowers do exceptionally well in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 10. Even so, if you have 3 or 4 warm spring and summer months, you can grow sunflowers successfully.
13. Bee Balm (Monardra didyma)
Bee Balm is a North American wildflower. This perennial plant can grow to be 4 feet high. Its flowers are bright colored and tubular and provide bees with a great deal of nectar. You can deadhead your Bee Balm after the first bloom to encourage more blooms.
Because there are more than 50 different cultivars of Bee Balm, the plant comes in many different colors with varying qualities. For example, if you live in a damp area you could choose a Bee Balm cultivar that is resistant to mildew.
Because it is a member of the mint family, Bee Balm spreads easily on its own when kept as a perennial. These plants are drought resistant and deer resistant.
Bee Balm blooms from July through September and enjoys full sun. Even so, the plant can tolerate light shade and is generally winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9.
14. Coneflower (Echinacea)
Coneflower is similar in structure to Black-eyed Susan, but these plants are taller, and they produce pinkish-purple blooms. Their centers are tall and cone-shaped and provide a great deal of seed for birds.
Coneflower is a very rugged choice in that it is deer resistant and quite drought tolerant. If you leave the flowers to stand through the winter, they provide interest to your garden and food for birds and wildlife.
Coneflower is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9. These perennial plants can grow to a height ranging from 2 to 3 feet with a spread of approximately 2 feet. These sun loving perennials bloom abundantly from June through October.
15. Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium)
Joe Pye weed is an excellent source of both pollen and nectar. This hardy plant produces extremely attractive pink and purple flowers. The stems are very thick and strong, and the flowers are quite large. The plant is not especially drought hardy, and produces more flowers with ample water.
This perennial grows well in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8. The plants can grow to be 6 to 8 feet tall with a spread of approximately 3 feet. Joe Pye weed blooms from mid-summer through early autumn.
16. Pansies (Violaceae)
Pansies are a very popular, easy to grow annual that can do well as a container plant or planted into the flower bed. They make an excellent choice for low garden borders or lining a path.
These plants are not drought tolerant, and need regular watering to survive and thrive. Low growing pansies attain a height and width no greater than 8 inches. Pansies bloom from early in the spring through mid-fall. They do well in partial shade, but they can tolerate some sun if they are kept well watered.
While they are technically perennials, they are usually grown as annuals. Pansies are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8.
17. Stonecrop (Sedum)
Stonecrop is a perennial succulent plant that provides an abundance of flowers to attract pollinators, and their fleshy leaves also change colors with the seasons to provide visual interest.
As with all succulents, sedum likes lots of sun and will do well in any well-draining soil. In fact, soil that is too rich will cause leggy growth and toppling.
Sedum can grow to a height ranging from 4 inches to 2 feet. Each plant can spread to a width of 1 to 2 feet. Sedum blooms from May through August in full sun.
There are numerous varieties of stonecrop succulents, and they are generally winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9.
Choose Trees & Bushes That Attract Bees
Birds love berries, and bees love the nectar and pollen provided by berry bush blooms. Plant a variety of berries throughout your yard and garden including, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. All of your wildlife will enjoy the fruits of these plants.
The blooms of fruit trees also provide a great deal of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators. Popular, easy to grow fruit trees include cherry, peach and apple.
Bees & Other Pollinators Are Beneficial To Your Vegetable Garden
Your veggie garden also provides nourishment for bees, who will in turn pollinate your vegetables. Plant squash, zucchini, pumpkins and cucumbers, along with tomatoes to attract and nourish bees and gain help from these pollinators in growing healthy abundant crops.
Your herb garden will also provide a great deal of attraction for bees and other pollinators. Popular herb plants for bees include lavender, basil and mint. Dill is a good choice to attract and nourish butterflies, especially Monarchs.
Plants That Make Honey Bees Happy
Variety Ensures Success
Choose a wide variety of plants that bloom at different times of the growing season. In this way you’ll have something on offer for bees and other pollinators from early in the spring until mid-autumn. It’s especially important to provide some food for them during the late autumn months to help them get through the winter.
When choosing plants for bees and other pollinators, be sure to include several types of plants that are native to your area. These are more likely to support your native fauna.
When deciding how and where to plant your bee and pollinator selections, it’s a good idea to group flowers together. This provides a block of color and attraction for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Maintain A Natural, Healthy Yard & Garden
Just say no to pesticides! There’s no point in attracting bees and other beneficial fauna to your yard if you then coat your plants with pesticides that will kill them.
A healthy, well-maintained yard and garden will attract enough natural predators and garden helpers to keep pest insects at bay. If you do need to use some sort of deterrent against pest insects, look into natural sources such as neem oil, diatomaceous earth, insecticidal soap and others.
Remember to keep your garden well cared for and well maintained to encourage abundant blooms, healthy growth and attraction for bees and pollinators of all sorts.