Bees Love Japanese Anemones - A Lovely Autumn Flowering Plant For Bees

As I write, it’s October.  Some of the flowers in my garden remain in bloom, although they are mostly past their best.  Still hanging on is the lovely Japanese anemone.

I love to watch bees on Japanese anemone, and indeed I captured what I hope will be some nice video footage contrasting the foraging styles of bumble bees and honey bees when visiting a large patch of it in my garden.   I hope to add it to this page later.

In contrast with honey bees, bumble bees make a loud buzzing sound as they shake the abundant pollen from the anthers of the flower.  Honey bees are quiet in comparison, yet their hind legs are laden with pollen nevertheless. 

Both types of bees seem to be very keen on the Japanese anemone in my garden, and the clump of pink flowers on tall, willowy (yet fairly sturdy) stems provide lots of pollen for bees from late July-August through September and into October. 

This is ideal timing for queen bumble bees needing to build up their food reserves ready for hibernation, and for worker honey bees foraging for the hive or nest.

Bumble bees like Japanese anemones too.  Buff tailed bumble bee on pink Japanese anemoneBumble bees like Japanese anemones too.

Other pollinators feed on Japanese anemones too, notably hover flies.

hover flies and honey bee sharing Japanese anemoneApparently, hover flies don’t mind sharing a flower head with a bee.

Growing Japanese Anemones For Bees

Japanese anemones are fantastic for bees especially as they provide lots of pollen.  However, I feel it is important to warn you from my own experience:  this plant can be a bit thuggish in the garden to say the least, spreading rapidly through shoots that can quickly take over an area before you can say ‘Jack Flash!’.

I first purchased a couple of sprigs at a plant fair several years ago, and without asking too many questions.  I had seen them in gardens, knew they were loved by bees, and merrily set about adding them to our flower border. 

I was initially very pleased when the sprigs quickly established themselves and produced flowers the following year, but must admit, I was not quite prepared for how rapidly they would spread – taking into account that my garden is rather small.

That’s not to say that I would necessarily advise against this plant, especially if:

  • It is not considered invasive in your country.

  • You have a large flower border to fill and you need something that will spread quickly and provide some height.

  • You want a herbaceous perennial for your flower border.

  • You have an enclosed border or large container that is appropriate for this plant.

  • You have time to keep on top of it, so that you can keep removing growth and control it so that it does not spread too rapidly.

  • You want a mass of pretty blooms that feed the bees over a long period and through the autumn.

Flowers of Japanese anemone look very pretty standing tall above the foliage.Flowers of Japanese anemone look very pretty standing tall above the foliage.

Other than that, in my experience, Japanese anemone is easy to care for.  I simply planted the couple of sprigs into the soil and left it at that. It's pretty adaptable to most soil conditions (although it's not keen on very wet soil) and likes sunshine but is happy in partial shade.

The plant dies back in the winter, and new growth appears late Spring, with a fairly tall, roundish clump of leaves.  Later, the plant throws up pretty flower stalks that stand tall above the foliage.

Which Japanese Anemone Varieties Do Bees Like?

Growing in my garden, I have Anemone hupehensis - 'Hadspen Abundance'.

I also love Anemone hupehensisjaponica 'Prinz Heinrich'. 

Whilst I don't have this variety in my garden, I have seen it elsewhere - hence I was able to take photographs.  In comparison with the variety in my own garden, it's a deeper pink and has more petals which are slightly elongated.  

Honey bee foraging on Japanese Anemone hupehensis -  japonica 'Prinz Heinrich' - a pink variety that I have growing in my garden.Anemone hupehensis - japonica 'Prinz Heinrich' is also attractive to bees.

Other varieties you could try:

  • Anemone hupehensis 'Bowles's Pink' - Japanese anemone 'Bowles's Pink'

  • Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Pamina' - Japanese anemone 'Pamina'

  • Anemone hupehensis 'Praecox' Japanese anemone 'Praecox'
  • Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Splendens' - Japanese anemone 'Splendens'.

A white variety, Anemone × hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'.A white variety, Anemone × hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'.

If you want a white variety, try Anemone × hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'.

I have certainly witnessed hover flies feeding on them, although I am not sure how popular they are with bees. 

Hover fly on white Japanese anemone.Hover fly on white Japanese anemone.

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