20 Flowering Shrubs For Bees

Updated: 16th February 2021



There are many wonderful flowering shrubs for bees, and shrubs provide efficient foraging opportunities for bees (lots of flowers in one place), they are great for doing a spot of bee-goggling. 

Here are 20 of my favourites – no doubt there will be a few you’d happily add to the list!  

This website receives many visitors from around the world – please check a shrub is suitable in your country (and not considered to be an invasive species) before including it in your garden.

Flowering Shrubs For Bees And Other Pollinators - A Few Notes

  • Look out for local plant fairs, and opportunities to swap with like-minded gardeners.
  • If you have any bee-friendly plants going spare, why not pass them on to friends, gardening clubs and neighbours?

Now for those shrubs!......

Berberis darwinnii - Darwin's barberry

Berberis darwinii is evergreen, and is one of my favourite flowering shrubs for bees, due to the mass of lovely orange flowers appreciated by bees and hoverflies alike, especially in early spring.  Early spring is when bumble bee queens are feeding frantically to build up their own energy, and provide food stores to raise the first workers.  Thus early sources of nectar and pollen help bumble bee queens establish their colonies. 

This shrub is also useful for creating a prickly barrier plant if you are concerned about security.

Red tailed bumble bee queen foraging on  orange flowers of BerberisThe orange flowers of Berberis provide food in spring. Above, a foraging Red tailed bumble bee queen.

The flowers are followed by decorative blue berries.  I was not sure whether the berries were attractive to birds, until I watched a blackbird snaffling a few – whether the berries are appealing to birds in all countries, I do not know. 

The leaves are small, and remind me of miniature holly (ilex)  leaves, although they are not so rigid.  Sometimes, this shrub will flower again later in the year, although from personal observation, the flowers are not so abundant for the second flush.

Buddleia / Buddleja - Butterfly bush

a bumble bee - Bombus lucorum (white tailed bumble bee - male) and a red admiral butterfly on the lilac flowers of a  butterfly bushBombus lucorum male and red admiral butterfly on Buddleia. The butterfly bush is also popular with bees.

It may be known as the 'butterfly bush' but the butterflies will often have to share it with bees, not to mention various pollinating flies and a few beetles!  You can read more bees, butterflies and Buddleia here.

Ceanothus - California lilac

Honey bee foraging on bluish purple California lilac.Honey bee foraging on California lilac.

Ceanothus is a superb evergreen flowering shrub for bees.  Honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees appreciate the lovely blue or blue and pinkish flowers.  I like the earlier flowering varieties as again, they provide food for bees when foraging opportunities may be limited.  However, if you have space, you can add a selection of different specimens to ensure extended flowering through spring to late summer.  I have a page with more detail about ceanothus and bees here.


Cotoneaster

Honey bee and bumble bee on the small pinkish flowers of Cotoneaster horizontalis.Honey bee and bumble bee on Cotoneaster horizontalis.

Cotoneasters can be trees or shrubs, and some are evergreen. For a flowering shrub.  I especially like Cotoneaster conspicuous ‘Decorus’ for attracting bees.  Cotoneaster flowers are followed by berries in autumn and winter, when hungry birds are especially grateful for them.


Clerodendrum bungei - Glory flower 

Bumble bee - probably a 'Garden bumble' - Bombus hortorum, on pink flowers of <I>Clerodendrum bungei</I>Bumble bee - Garden bumble bee Bombus hortorum on Clerodendrum bungei


If you are seeking a striking shrub to create impact in your flower border, this might be suitable.  It has large green leaves, with clusters of deep pink flowers that have long stamens. 

Butterflies rather like the flower heads too.  It's fairly trouble free, being pretty resistant to diseases, and provides flowers from August to October.

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' - Daphne

Honey bee worker with pollen baskets laden with orange pollen, foraging on pink Daphne flower.Honey bee worker foraging on Daphne.

Bees and butterflies love Daphne - to write that it has an absolutely divine fragrance may be an understatement!  The scent is quite strong too.  No wonder it can entice bees and even butterflies to forage on the pretty pink flowers...…...in January and February.  I kid you not!  Read more about Daphne I have watched honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies feeding on it in very cool temperatures.  The honey bees and butterflies arrived first!

My article on honey bees foraging in cool temperatures may also be of interest.


Escallonia
- Red claws

bumble bee foraging on pinkish red Escallonia flowersEscallonia is a favourite for bees.


Escallonia
is available with white flowers as well as deep crimson red.  I only have experience of the red varieties, which have lovely flowers from spring through to summer (quite long flowering), and evergreen, glossy leaves. 

I have a further page about EscalloniaOur neighbour has a good sized shrub, and Escallonia features in a number of public planting schemes around the area in which I live.  It's quite tolerant of a variety of soils as long as they are well drained.  It likes sunshine, but I note my neighbour's shrub is in shade for part of the day.  Great as a hedgerow plant.



Hebe

tiny solitary bee on white hebe flowerHebe attracts all kinds of bees.

Many flowering hebes are fantastic for bees and other pollinators, including hoverflies and butterflies.  This particular shrub pictured above, gets covered in bees and hoverflies, and the variety may be 'Charming White'. 

Many varieties are available however,  offering purple, blue and white flowers – but not all hebes are flowering, so be careful in your selection.  Otherwise, a 'must have' flowering shrub for pollinators!

Hydrangea - selected species

Bumble bees foraging on Hydrangea paniculata - side viewBumble bees love Hydrangea paniculata

Some hydrangea offer apparently nothing of value to pollinators in terms of nectar and pollen – they are decorative only.  However, there are a few which are loved by pollinators, and Hydrangea paniculata 'Confetti' (above) is one of those.  I have watched honey bees and bumble bees foraging on ours, and I love the soft clumps of white blooms.  A wonderful flowering shrub for bees! Choose your hydrangea shrub carefully to ensure you select one that offers value to pollinators.

Hypericum - St. John's Wort

bumble bee on yellow Hypericum flowers. The hypericum flowers have long anthersHypericum flowers provide an abundance of pollen for bees.


Just look at all that pollen the bumble bee has gathered on its hind legs! Yes, this cheery flowering shrub provides absolutely loads of pollen for a variety of species of bees! 

Bees love Hypericum, and so do bees. Wonderful varieties are available, such as Hypericum perforatum.   I especially adore the varieties with lots and lots of long anthers loaded with pollen, and find it especially amusing when a large bumble bee bounces on to a flower head, as if it’s their equivalent of jumping onto a springy bed! 

The flowers are followed by decorative yellow ‘hip’ type capsules for some species, or green or reddish/brownish berries for others.  We also have the wild variety in our garden.  It pops up here and there, and produces fewer, smaller flowers than the cultivated forms, but the bees visit it nevertheless.


Ligustrum vulgare - Common Privet

Privet:  Ligustrum vulgare (Common privet) - and also Ligustrum ovalifolium 'Aureum' provide food for a variety of pollinators.

small bee on white common privet flower - Ligustrum vulgareLigustrum vulgare is sometimes overlooked, but this shrub make a useful addition to the wildlife hedge.

It's an understated shrub in my view,  but the white flowers are visited by bees, hoverflies and butterflies.  This bushy flowering shrub is often used as a barrier hedge.  It has small dark berries after flowering. 

Please note: Ligustrum vulgare is considered an invasive species in some parts of the world, so please check before planting.


Leptospermum scoparium
- Manuka Tree or New Zealand Tea Tree

Bumble bee on pink flowers of manuka bush.Bumble bee on manuka bush.

Leptospermum scoparium is evergreen, and is the shrub from which honey bees make Manuka honey. The manuka shrub is an absolutely wonderful flowering shrub for bees, and I recommend it heartily. 

Bumble bees and various solitary bees love it too, and I have noticed that a little later, when the bumble bees and honey bees stop visiting so frequently, the hoverflies arrive.  Quite long flowering from late Spring.

However, it needs a sheltered spot and plenty of sunshine.  We originally had 2 of these – one was in a more exposed position and didn’t survive.  The other is against a sunny, warm wall of our house.  The pink flowers are lovely, and are surely dripping with nectar as it gets covered in bees!


Mahonia (various)

2 Honey bees on yellow  <I>Mahonia aquifolium</I> flowersHoney bees on Mahonia aquifolium

Various Mahonias provide food for bees in winter. Mahonia japonica is especially popular, but I also like Mahonia aquifolium, as do bumble bees and honey bees.  

Pyracantha - Firethorn

Firethorn - Pyracantha - gets covered in bees, and the gorgeous berries are adored by birds.  Thorny, so it’s a good barrier shrub if you are concerned about security.  Can tolerate some shade. 

Try Pyracantha rogersiana, Pyracantha atalantioides, Pyracantha 'Golden Charmer' or Pyracantha 'Orange Glow'  - but there are other bee-friendly varieties are available.   

Prunus spinosa - Blackthorn, Sloes

Often seen in wild hedgerows, Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) - sloes, provides a good source of nectar and pollen for bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees, butterflies and moths.  Can be a shrub or tree, and is ideal for wildlife garden. 

White flowers in spring, and very valuable source of food when foraging opportunities are otherwise limited.  A good, thorny hedge.

Ribes sanguineum - Flowering Currant

I especially find ‘Brocklebankii’ appealing.  It has lovely pink flowers and soft green leaves.  If you are wanting to add 'softeness' to your border, this would be a very good choice, along with Spirea japonica (mentioned below).

A wonderful shrub for a cottage garden.  The flowers of 'brocklebankii' provide food for bees  in spring.   

Other varieties to consider are Koja, King Edward VII, Pulborough Scarlet or 'Tydeman's White', which has paler pink flowers, or 'White Icicle - Ubric' which is creamy white, and is also attractive for bees.

Rosa - Roses (certain types)

female painted mining bee on a pale pink wild rose.  Her hind legs are laden with pollen and lots of pollen can be seen on the anthers of the rose flower, making it a fabulous offering for beesPainted mining bee - Andrena furcata - female, foraging on a wild rose


Not all roses are beneficial for bees, but they certainly like wild roses, and Rosa rugosa and a number of others.  Rosa rugosa is simply one of my favourite of all flowering shrubs for bees. 

The roses are deliciously fragrant, and are visite by honey bees, bumble bees and a wide range of solitary bees of various species, like the painted mining bee pictured above.  Having a fabulous rose shrub like this provides the opportunity to see species you may not be so familiar with.  The beautiful open blooms are perfect for bee-goggling and the nectar and pollen laden flowers are irresistible for our buzzing friends.

I especially love to hear the loud buzz from bumble bees as they ‘buzz pollinate’ to release the ample pollen – i.e. vibrate their flight muscles rapidly against the anthers.  The lovely fragrant pink or white flowers are followed by gorgeous fat, decorative rose hips. 

If you are concerned about intruders, this is a great flowering shrub to choose, because it’s prickly, but it will need plenty of sunshine.

Spirea japonica

Bumble bees on pink Spirea japonica.  This shrub has dense clusters of soft, small pink blooms.Bumble bees love Spirea japonica.

Various pink flowered varieties are widely available and attractive to bees.  We have this shrub (variety – ‘Magic Carpet’ in our front garden border, and it gets covered in bees and hoverflies of all types for about a couple of weeks or so in mid-summer.  

I love the soft appearance of the flowers.  I give it a clip in autumn to keep the shrub a moderate size, but do follow the instructions for pruning for the specimen you select.


Sarcococca confusa and Sarcococca hookeriana - Sweet Box 

honey bee on a small, delicate white flower of the Sweet box flower, which has quite long, white anthers tipped with pollen at the ends.Sweet box has a lovely fragrance and is attractive to bees


This wonderful fragrant shrub provides pollen for bees from January to February, when you may see hungry honey bees topping up with food for the colony on dry days.  The flowers of Sweet Box may be small and relatively inconspicuous, but if you plant it close to a path, you will benefit from the lovely, delicious scent as you walk by.

Viburnum opulus - guelder rose

Guelder rose shrub featuring lovely loose clumps of red, glossy berries.Guelder rose features lovely red berries through late autumn into winter - these are loved by birds.

A superb flowering shrub for bees, Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus), is perfect for a wildlife garden, as the gorgeous white flowers are enjoyed by bees and hoverflies, and the lovely red berries are an important food source for a variety of finches and thrushes.  It quite likes damp but well drained soil.  It will tolerate some shade.

Further information:  see my page notes on flowers loved by bees.



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