Here is a list of garden plants for bees that provide forage for at least one species of bee. Many of these plants will attract honey bees and different types of bumblebees and solitary bees.
Most people can accomodate at least a few of these flowers to attract bees and butterflies into their gardens, even if only in pots. At the bottom of this page you'll find links to further lists of plants for bees, including wildflowers, trees, hedgerows, shrubs, herbs, and fruit and vegetables - many of which make great bee plants as well as putting food on our plates!
Please note also that some of these plants appear on other bee plant lists on this site, because some species arguably straddle more than one category (e.g. cornflowers and foxgloves may also be categorized as wildflowers).
When selecting plants, traditional variaties are best, rather than the highly cultivated, extra-frilly types. Also, please ask your garden centre or store whether any plants you purchase have been cultivated using neonicotinoid pesticides.
In the US, plants bought from garden nurseries and stores has revealed some may be contaminated with pesticides:
"many of the seedlings and plants sold in nurseries and garden stores across the U.S. have been pre-treated with neonicotinoids at much higher doses than are used on farms, where levels of neonicotinoid use are already raising concerns among beekeepers and researchers studying the decline of pollinator populations".
This scenario may even be true for Europe, Australia, New Zealand and so on.
The following bee plant lists are grouped by seasons - scroll down, or click on one of these links to jump straight to the list of garden plants:
LATE WINTER - SPRING GARDEN PLANTS FOR BEES
Due to variations in climate and conditions, flowering times may differ from region to region, and this may also affect foraging, as well as the distribution of different bee species. For example, Italian strains of honey bees will forage on crocus flowers, but in very cool weather, may be deterred from foraging in the first place. Bumblebees, on the other hand, with their furry coats, can often be found foraging on cooler days. In fact, bumblebees are increasingly being seen to forage during the cool winter months, meaning that late and very early flowering plants are vital for bumblebees.
Daffodil (try native wild types - e.g. if you live in the UK, try Narcissus pseudonarcissus)
Flowering Currant (Ribes)
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Bluebell (Choose native varieties)
Cowslip (Choose native varieties)
Snakeshead (Fritillaria meleagris)
Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima, Lonicera purpusii)
Barberry (Berberis) (Lamium)
Snowdrops (Galanthes) – single flowered varieties
Winter Heathers (Erica carnea)
Lenten rose ( Helleborus orientalis)
SPRING - SUMMER GARDEN PLANTS FOR BEES
During the Spring and Summer, all types of bees (and other pollinating insects) are rearing their broods.
A typical honey bee colony may consist of around 50,000 to 60,000 workers, as well as larvae to feed.
Bumblebee colonies may be fragile - fewer than half survive, and solitary bees are in need of undisturbed nesting sites, as food is gathered for storing in egg cells to feed newly developing larvae.
Plenty of bee friendly plants are therefore vital during the Spring and summer to ensure survival of the colony.
Forget-me-not (Myosotis)- pictured above
Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus acris)
Honey Suckle (Lonicera)
Passion Flower (Passiflora)
Sea Holly (Eryngium)
SUMMER – AUTUMN GARDEN PLANTS FOR BEES
During the late summer and autumn, these plants will continue to feed late developing broods, as well as those bees that have already developed into working adults.
Note that himalayan balsam (pictured left) is a controversial plant in the UK, where it is not native, however, pollinators adore it for the ample nectar it provides. It is thought that it may be invasive, but please see my page about native versus non native plants for further information.
On the other hand, Scorpion Weed is also not native to the UK, but many do enjoy growing it in the garden. It also attracts bees and other pollinators.
I would definitely encourage you to grow cornflowers, solidago, lavender and scabious in your garden. They are great bee attracting plants!
Scorpion Weed (Phacelia tanacetifolia)
Golden Rod (Solidago)
Red Hot Poker (Knifophia)
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens)
Raspberry (especially the Autumn raspberry)
AUTUMN - WINTER GARDEN PLANTS FOR BEES
Ivy (hedera helix) is loathed by some, but it is one of the few plants for bees that aid survival of the late foragers. The pollination of ivy then allows berries to develop, thus feeding a number of birds over the winter months, as well as providing excellent shelter. Research has shown that trees with ivy growing up them accomodate more wildlife than those without. Instead of assuming that all ivy must be cut away, it is better to be pragmatic about it. Investigate first whether it is really causing any damage. Most healthy trees can withstand at least some ivy growth before being cut back. The wildlife will appreciate it!
Ivy hedera helix
Common Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
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