Updated: 28th January 2021
Here are over 30 fantastic garden flowers for bees (it was originally 30 - but I keep adding flowers to it!).
Please note: there is a separate page for bulbs and corms (including muscari, alliums etc).
Popular herbs, such as Oregano, Anise hyssop, Monarda (Bee balm) and Lavender are found on a separate page, herb planting for bees.
Here's the list:
Often overlooked and forgotten, this lovely cottage garden
annual has beautiful, scented flowers. It
is also long flowering, and easy to grow from seeds sown April to May. Bees love it!
I have the perennial Mountain cornflower - Centuarea montana, and love the silvery leaves and bees love the
Read more about growing cornflowers for bees, including scientific data on nectar and pollen provision.
Just like its wild thistle cousins, the plume thistle Cirsium rivulare - 'Atropurpureum' provides lots of nectar for bees during the summer, and is very attractive for honey bees, bumble bees, solitary species and butterflies.
Gorgeous, tall annual flowers on wonderful stems with feathery leaves. An absolute favourite with bees, providing plenty of nectar and pollen!
Sow them in seed trays in compost during Feb – March under cover, and transplant them into the flower border when danger of frost has passed, or sow them directly into the ground where they are to flower. Read about Cosmos bipinnatus.
Daisies of various types provide pollen for a range of bees, such as Davies’ colletes – (Colletes daviesanus) pictured above. These cheerful flowers are easy to grow.
Read more about dazzling daisies and bees.
Watch with delight as bumble bees crawl inside the gullet-type blossoms! In my experience, these are happy in partial shade, where they are still visited by bumble bees – and then help brighten up a shady corner.
I have the biennial foxgloves, but
apparently it is possible to get them as a short-lived perennial. I can’t say this is the best or most
efficient way to plant foxglove, but I simply threw the seeds into an informal
part of my garden, and was fortunate that some plants came up!
Echinacea has tall, sturdy stems and vibrant daisy-like blooms are a joy to look at, and are loved by bees and butterflies.
Flowers from late May or June onwards, and long flowering. Fantastic, low growing evergreen perennial, perfect for those dry spots in the garden, and sandy soils. Provides excellent ground cover.
Once a number are in full bloom,
one day you’ll notice many bees foraging on the open flowers.
Bumble bees are especially keen, but the flowers will also attract honey bees and solitary bees. Will tolerate a little shade, but
full sunshine to attract plenty of bees.
As an aside, Erigeron glaucus is related to Erigeron annus, and a study has shown1 provides pollen which contains all 10 essential protein amino acids for bees.
A wonderful cottage garden favourite! Look for the traditional, scented varieties - and I prefer taller stems rather than cultivated dwarf varieties. Bees and butterflies love them! Wallflowers are tolerant of poor soils too - or even little soil! I often see them growing out of old stone walls close to where I live! Give them full sun, although they will tolerate some light shade.
It's often described as a short lived perennial or biennial. Sow seeds from June to produce plants that can be bedded out in August/early autumn. You should see flowers the following spring. Plant them in a drift for a lovely, scented display buzzing with bees!
This plant grows wild in the local landscape where I live, and I know people who do indeed grow it in their gardens - and bees love it. It may be one I'll add to my garden in the future. It can grow in well drained soil, and it's great for sandy soil and dry conditions – if you
live in a coastal area, this could be perfect for your garden.
Plant it in full sun, and watch the bees land
on it from June onwards. Once the flowers are passed their best you can cut the stems, allow them to dry out, and spray them with silver or gold paint, ready to use in Christmas vases or the door wreath. Read more about Eryngium and bees.
Offering lots of nectar and a reasonable amount of pollen, corn marigolds are cheerful flowering plants, visited by a variety of bees, including Heriades truncorum (large-headed resin bee).
Pot marigold, Calendula officinalis, are useful for pollinators, and both have been scientifically assessed in their provision of food for pollinators. See Do Bees Like Marigolds?
One of my favourite garden flowers for bees! A fab herbaceous perennial visited by many bee species. Lovely open
flowers from May onwards. Different varieties will help you extend the
season. I have a purple geranium (a variety I think is called 'Brookside'), which blooms first (end May/beginning June onwards), and this one above, which blooms about 2 weeks later. Read more about Geraniums for bees.
Helenium - sneezeweed is a lovely tall perennial attractive to honey bees, bumble bees and solitary species. Give them full sun. Gorgeous in the border.
Pollinators are attracted to this pretty flower. Lots of lovely, bright shades of oranges and pinks available, and the flower itself is good for drying, and can be used in dried floral arrangements.
Flowers from late May or June onwards, and long, long flowering -especially if you cut the stems just before each of the little flowers has gone to seed (wait until there are just a couple of little flowers left at the top of the stem). They will then throw up more stems of flowers, hence extending the foraging opportunity for bees. A lovely, tall flower with spikes of pale pink or purple flowers.
seeds easily (plants can easily be transplanted or simply pulled out and given
to friends if you don’t want them. They may wilt for a while when transplanted, but water well, and they'll recover by showing new growth).
Fantastic herbaceous perennial and cottage garden favourite. Bumble bees in particular, love the flag
blossoms. Protect them from slugs using
a soil garlic drench, not slug pellets. Read more about lupins.
I especially like the Papaver somniferum for bees. Again, honey bees, solitary bees and bumble bees enjoy foraging on the pollen loaded anthers. Bumble bees can be heard vibrating their bodies against the anthers to release the pollen. Poppies need a sunny spot and will flower from May/June onwards.
Well known as a bee magnet, and very easy to grow from seed. You can sprinkle Phacelia seeds thinly on a prepared seed bed where they are to flower. You’ll be rewarded with lovely blue flowers for bees, and the happy buzzing sound of furry pollinators!
A must have for bees, providing early food when little else is available and they are desperate to gain their protein from pollen. Pulmonaria produces flowers anywhere between January and May, depending on your location.
honey bees and solitary bees – especially the hairy footed flower bee, will be
very grateful! Evergreen perennial, the pinky-blue flowers are accompanied by
Part of the sage and mint family of plants. Many ornamental varieties are popular with bees.
A magnet for bees and butterflies. I especially like the pastel pinks and blues. Grow it in full sun. Lovely flowers in the summer.
Provides lots of nectar for honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees from late summer onwards. Sedum spectabile - ice plant is an easy to grow succulent. Sunshine is best, although I have a patch which is in light shade at least for some of the day. Great for dry soil locations.
Mallows are great for bees of many species, and they look lovely in the border. Pictured above is Prairie Mallow, Sidalcea ‘Elsie Heugh’. A magnet for bees, this lovely plant has long stems of flowers that are sturdy, and don't need staking. Read more about Mallows.
Absolutely fantastic flowering plant for bees, hover flies and sweet little beetles! Honey bees, solitary bees of many types and bumble bees absolutely love Solidago. Yellow flowers from summer through to early autumn.
Providing nectar from delicate pinkish flowers on spikey stems, the flowers are especially helpful for wool carder bees, and if you are lucky, you will observe them collecting some of the hairs from the leaves for the building of their nests. Also popular with bumble bees and other solitary bees. Flowers from late May/June onwards, and long flowering. Go for the perennial variety and plant it in full sun.
Who can resist sunflowers? Well the bees can’t! So many varieties to choose from, and not merely the very large headed varieties!
Read more about Helianthus.
So easy to grow, this plant rambles along the ground nicely, producing an abundance of flowers ranging from sunshine yellow and orange to deep rusts and reds. I recommend the traditional, orange and orangey-red colours.
Long tongued bumble bees, such as Bombus hortorum, are especially partial to the nasturtium flower! The flowers are also edible for humans, of course, and each plant pops out so many flowers, I’m sure the bees won’t mind if you snaffle a few! They spread rapidly, or you can train them to climb. Just give them plenty of space.
One of my favourites, as it adds both height and softness to a border, with its slender stems and flowers at the top.
recommend this perennial, and if bees could cast votes, I reckon they would vote for this one too! Flowers from
summer through to autumn, and loved by bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Fabulous garden flowers for bees, and loved by other pollinators too. Stunning in the flower border, and an
abundance of colours available – from deep jewelled pinks and reds to amazing
acid green and rusty orange. Irresistible! Read more about growing Zinnias for bees.
1. Ghosh, S., Jeon, H. & Jung, C. Foraging behaviour and preference of pollen sources by honey bee (Apis mellifera) relative to protein contents. j ecology environ 44, 4 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41610-020-0149-9
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