Flowers to grow in a Bee Friendly Garden

Flowers to grow in a Bee Friendly Garden
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Bees will be attracted to some flowers more than others

Attracting bees and other pollinators to your garden is as simple as planting the right flowers, bushes, and trees. These will be plants that have nectar and pollen accessible to bees and are planted in a strategy that ensures blossoms throughout the seasons.

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Flowers to grow in a Bee Friendly Garden

Bees love foraging on Bluebells in spring

Plan to have forage flowers blooming all year long

Honey bees do not exactly hibernate. If there is forage about and the weather warm and dry enough, they can be flying around in the depths of winter. Planning for flowers in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, will help your local bees and other pollinators to survive year-round. Here are some ideas on flowers and plants that are rich in bee food:

Spring

Hazel, Crocus, Tansy, Daphne, Witch Hazel, Anemone, Willow, Dandelion, Ivy (Hedera helix), Gooseberry, Bluebell, Elm, Gorse, tulip-tree, Mahonia japonica, old species Tulips (modern varieties have pollen grains that are too large), Hellebore, Forget-me-knots

Late Spring

Raspberry, Blackberry, Tulip-tree, Oil-seed Rape, White Clover, Flowering Quince, Sweet Chestnut, Apple, Cherry, Black currant, Red currant, Autumn-sown Broad bean, Hawthorn, Sycamore, Comfrey, Kale, Crab apple, Rosemary

Summer

This is a great seed mix that also happens to be deer-proof

Viper’s Bugloss, Globe Thistle, Willowherb (Fireweed), Melissa Balm, Thyme, Heather, Sunflowers, Borage, Poppy, Rudbeckia, Lavender, Catnip, Mint, Sage, Coriander (Cilantro), Squash, Pot Marigolds, Foxglove, Geranium, Hollyhock, Clematis, Milkweed, Wild Rose, Spring-sown Broad bean, Oak (for Honeydew), Blackberry, Marjoram, White Byrony, Cornflower, Linden, Medicinal Valerian, Lacy Phacelia, Germander Speedwell, Gladiolus, Angelica, Single Dalias, Fennel, Delphinium

Autumn

Aster, Goldenrod, Blackberry, Alliums (both garden varieties such as onion and garlic as well as ornamentals), Anemone, Chrysanthemum, Cosmos, Anise Hyssop, Viper’s Bugloss, Mahonia Japonica, Hemp Agrimony, Lemon Verbena, Verbena Bonariensis, Ivy (Hedera helix), Hebe, Sedum Spectabile, Delphinium, Heather

Winter

Ivy (Hedera helix), Winter Heathers, Snowdrops, Crocus, Cyclamen, Primroses, Strawberry tree, Mahonia, Fatsia japonica, Winter-flowering honeysuckle

Flowers to grow in a Bee Friendly Garden

Why are honeybees important?

Honey bees are far more important to people’s everyday lives than most of us know. Aside from their obvious products of honey and beeswax it’s also said that one in three bites of food we eat exists due to their work as pollinators. The list of their culinary accomplishments include strawberries, coffee, almonds, apples and lemons to name a few. While these fruits may be the product of their direct pollination work, it’s also through their indirect work of pollinating vegetable flowers to create seed that we can be thankful for food such as carrots, cabbages and onions.

Yet honey bees around the world are disappearing from their hives at a worrying rate. The phenomena blamed for their demise has been called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) but having a name for the it doesn’t mean that we know the exact cause. Fingers have been pointed at various factors including lack of forage, inbreeding, commercial pesticides, climate change, parasites, and disease.

Flowers to grow in a Bee Friendly Garden

Other ways you can help support Honey Bees

It may seem like an overwhelming problem but there are many important things that you can do as an individual to help save bees. Simple decisions such as purchasing organic produce and local honey can make a huge impact as can planting flowers that encourage wildlife.

Avoiding the use of household pesticides and herbicides is another way to ensure that your local bees aren’t poisoned and telling friends and neighbours helps to spread the word. While governments and scientists debate on how we can save the bees you can already be out there making a difference.

Flowers to grow in a Bee Friendly Garden

Some flowers don’t produce food for bees

While there are many ways to encourage honey bee populations, probably the most satisfying way is growing plants that produce nectar and pollen. By planting flowers attractive to bees you’ll be sure to have immediate impact since you’ll be able to see the bees hard at work in your garden. Honey bees fly up to 1.5 miles to collect food so even if you don’t know of a hive in your immediate vicinity you can be sure that there will one further afield that will find your garden.

Knowing which plants and flowers are best for honey bees is probably the most confusing part in planning a garden for them. You’d initially think that it’s big colourful and showy flowers to go for but these are usually the least appropriate. Flowers with a lot of petals present obstacles to bees getting in to collect food and these highly bred flowers sometimes lack the parts that actually produce nectar and pollen.

Also, many modern flower varieties have been bred for their aesthetic qualities and often lack the right type of nectar or pollen. Tulips are a good example of this since older varieties produce pollen perfect for early spring foraging but most of the modern varieties produce pollen grains that are too large for honey bees to collect.

Flowers to grow in a Bee Friendly Garden

Wildflowers are the best flowers for bees

Wildflowers are one of the most important sources of year-round forage and by planting them you are encouraging a host of wildlife in addition to honey bees. Buying a good wild flower seed mix will ensure that the varieties that grow will be the right ones and that you’ll have blossoms all year long. Vipers Bugloss, Meadowsweet, Field Poppies, Yarrow and Evening Primrose are some of the flowers you’ll find in these mixes and though they aren’t as flamboyant as conventional garden flowers they have their own special beauty and charm.

Support the Bees

Supporting the future of bees means we’re protecting a future for people and animals alike. Everyone and anyone can help stop the disappearance of these incredibly important creatures but both awareness and action are needed from a grassroots level up. Whether you become a beekeeper yourself, petition the government for protection of bees, buy organic or simply plant nectar and pollen-rich flowers, you’ll be making a difference for both the world and for your community.

Flowers to grow in a Bee Friendly Garden

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20 Discussion to this post

  1. Jo says:

    I try to think of bees when I'm considering a purchase for the garden. I try to buy single flowers now instead of doubles, I actually prefer more simple flowers actually so I think it suits me as well as them.

  2. You wouldn't really think of it as a bee plant but I had 3 100 foot rows of lima beans last year and the area sounded like a bee hive, they went nuts over the little flowers. I think beans are self pollinating but they must put out a good bee food.

    • Bees LOVE beans Sunnybrook! I've just had a google and apparently Lima beans do self-pollinate but when bees are around helping in the pollination-party then your crops will be all the more bountiful.

  3. I have found the best way to feed the bees with plantings around my neck of the woods is really volume. Honey bees anyway bumblers are solitary, but honey bees will often pass up small pockets of flowers to hit the "three 100 foot rows of lima beans" Ala Sunnybrook above. Also flowering trees even the non decorative types are a huge boon for honey bees.

    Aren't strawberries self pollinating now?

    • It makes sense that they like large swathes of plants…when a bee finds a good supply they come back to the hive and tell the rest of their sisters about it with a 'waggle-dance'.

      Strawberries can be self-pollinating but their yields aren't great if insects aren't helping them along. Also, if they're not pollinated by bees (or by hand) then the fruits tend to be a bit deformed looking – no doubt from a plant fertilising itself (inbreeding).

  4. Akannie says:

    We have lots of flowering plants and vegetables and fruits around here…thanks you for a lovely post–I'm going to copy and paste that list of seasonal stuff so I have a guide!

  5. I've already started planting…though I don't think I'll be putting any O.S.R. in my garden…the farmers plant enough of that for all of us!!

    Obviously none of us know why the bees are less prolific, but I bet all that concrete we keep laying and all these 'fancy' low maintenance gardens aren't helping any!!!

    • I'm not a huge fan of oil seed rape but the bees LOVE it. Unfortunately the honey it produces tends to crystallise so beekeepers aren't as fond of it either.

      And I think you may be on to something with your theory on modern "gardening" 😉

  6. Fran says:

    Great post. By helping the bees we are helping ourselves too, which is why my allotment association have given me permission to keep bees on my allotment. I am having some lessons on the farm at work with the detainees and the detainees are also building me a hive (there are some advantages to working in a detention centre!!!. Still raining here, no let up yet! xxx

    • Slave labour…cool! 😉 Joking aside, that's a marvelous way to get inmates involved in something both engaging and beneficial for society. I'll bet they're having a lot of fun helping you out too!

      So when are you planning on placing the hive on the allotment? I know how excited you must be! 🙂

  7. I hope I'm doing my bit Tanya – every year my bee-friendly plants increase – they are also Elaine friendly – it is what gardening is all about for me.

  8. Great post Tanya. X

  9. Kay says:

    You mentioned kale. Forgive my ignorance but mine doesn't flower. What am I missing?

  10. rae says:

    I didn't see Echium on the list. The most unusual feature of Echium vulgare is the protection of the nectar inside the flower from vaporization (when it’s hot) or flushing away (when it rains). Additionally this plant produces nectar throughout the day unlike most plants which produce ectar for a short period of time. If the bees have a good access to Echium they can collect between 12-20 lbs of nectar a day. The honey does not crystllize for 9-15 months.

    • A. Sanborn says:

      Is – ECHIUM VULGARE –

      a PERENNIAL? If so, what ZONE? Is it an INVASIVE? I have a 250 sq. ft. bed next to another 125 sq. ft. bed that we created for BEES & BUTTERFLIES last season. Now I’m concerned that maybe the Joe Pye Weed, Echinacea, Globe Thistle, Yarrow Rudebeckia, Lemon Thyme, etc… weren’t good choices? Maybe these aren’t large enough planting beds either.

      My Zone is 3 to 4 with a tempermental 5… if one’s fortunate, which I have been blessed! I’d love some imput from other BEE GARDENERS?

  11. Michelle Martinez says:

    Thanks rae. I found some Echium on Pinterest to add to my For the Honey Bees board. Nice list of plants for all seasons Tanya! I will be adding them to my board as well. Thank You all!

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