Is Clematis good for bees? As with other flowering plants and shrub, it depends which variety you buy.
I have to admit, I have made my own mistakes with Clematis, causing me to be cautious, and as you'll see from my notes below, only after some research do I propose particular varieties.
In my experience, despite wanting to select a bee-friendly Clematis, it is actually very easy to get it wrong. I also see some recommendations on various websites, that I am personally unconvinced about.
So, I wish to state upfront: if you want to be absolutely certain of their nectar and pollen value, personally I think there are better climbing plants for bees and pollinators.
I have experimented with supposedly bee-friendly varieties of Clematis, yet have seen little evidence of interest from bees.
Still, if you are very much attached to having Clematis in your garden, here are several varieties you could try - but I'm not promising they'll be favourites with pollinators.
However, if you have experience with any of the following, and wish to report success, I'd be grateful if you would contact me.
Clematis tangutica - 'Bill MacKenzie'
Some people report that Clematis tangutica - 'Bill MacKenzie' is visited by bees and pollinators.
It is a vigorous grower that can reach 10 - 15 ft, so you'll need plenty of space and good structural support for this climber, which flowers July - September.
The flowers are followed by an abundance of long-lasting silky flowerheads.
(Update May 2023: Since writing this piece, I have had feedback from a visitor regarding Clematis tangutica - please see below for comment).
2. Clematis cirrhosa - evergreen clematis
The first time I tried Clematis in my garden was, as I write, about 20 years ago. I selected a winter-flowering evergreen, Clematis cirrhosa.
In theory, it could provide food for bees and pollinators in winter.
However, it is rather vigorous, although some varieties more so than others.
Depending on which Clematis cirrhosa you choose, they may begin to flower from around November to February.
However, experience is a great teacher, and nowadays I would be much more careful in my choice of plants for a small garden like ours. Personally, I would only choose this if I had a good, sturdy wall, perhaps one I was keen to cover. There are no 'spare walls' in my garden.
Eventually, I had to get rid of it. I now have other climbers, including another Clematis - see below!
3. Clematis Montana - possibly certain varieties
Firstly, I want to state that I have one variety of Clematis montana in my garden, and it's growing over a wooden arch. Its presence in my garden pre-dates this website.
It's a lovely climber that flowers in spring, and was sold to me complete with a 'wildlife and pollinator friendly' tag.
But I have yet to see a single bee visit a flower, despite being an observer of all things 'bee' in my garden.
Believe me, I have actively looked out for such an event. At most, I have seen a few hover flies visiting the pretty blooms every now and then.
The problem is, I am now so attached to the plant I can hardly bring myself to cut it down. I remind myself that I have other bee-friendly climbers (e.g. Jasmine) and so can allow myself this treat.
Yet I know that if it should ever be replaced, it will be with something that is a reliable provider of nectar and / or pollen for bees.
However, apparently, there are a couple of genuinely bee-friendly varieties of this lovely climber, and perhaps I was just unlucky - or so I understand from very reputable sources.
That said, I cannot give you my personal guarantee. But, if you are keen to add this climber into your garden, you could consider Clematis montana 'Fragrant Spring' - as suggested by the name, it has scented flowers, which may help to attract pollinators.
I might add that my own Clematis montana has no fragrance at all.
4. Clematis Diana's Delight
This summer - early autumn flowering Clematis is said to provide pollen for bees.
The large flowers change from violet or purple, then to blue. It can reach around 6.5ft in height.
5. Clematis heracleifolia - tube clematis
Clematis can actually be climbers, shrubs or scramblers.
If you'd like to try something a bit different, then Clematis heracleifolia is a deciduous, scrambling sub-shrub, with clusters of blue, tubular flowers.
Despite it's name, I have found no evidence to suggest that Clematis Bee's Jubilee is attractive to bees or pollinators.
I am grateful to John from the UK for providing this feedback:
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