Clay Soil Plants for Bees
Bumble bee on escallonia.
Clay soil can be very challenging even without the conundrum of how to fill it with plants that will benefit bees and other pollinators.
In a garden I owned some years ago, I spent a two years, a lot of energy, many hours and a
small fortune on conditioners and composts, trying to
break up the heavy, wet clay in order to improve it.
Bombus pascuorum - common carder bumble bee flying toward purple loosetrife.
However, the truth of the matter was that I had little time for
gardening back then, and also very limited knowledge. At that time, it
would have been far better had I simply stuck with plants that are happy
in wet conditions. I could have saved myself quite a bit of money, and
hours of work.
Of course, if you have the time, energy, money
and preferably all of these, there are actions you can take to resolve
the issue, even going as far as installing drainage systems.
However, that could prove costly and unnecessary. There are plenty of clay soil tolerant plants that attract bees
and other pollinators. You may be surprised at how many plants will
tolerate it - indeed, I only mention a handful here. Also, please check the suitability of these plants in your own region and country.
On the other hand, if things are so bad you could almost consider supplying a pottery works, you may need to take action to improve
it, in order that anything will grow, but first of all, I would consult a specialist organisation to see whether that's necessary.
Examples of good clay soil plants that attract bees, include:
Anthophora plumipes - hairy-footed flower bee female on Pulmonaria.
- Campanula trachelium; Campanula latifolia
- Astrantia major 'Lars'
- Veronicastrum virginicum 'Pointed Finger'
- Various geranium flowers, including Geranium sylvaticum 'Birch Lilac'; Geranium palustre; Geranium × magnificum
Leafcutter bee on geranium.
- Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'
Apis mellifera - honey bee on Solidago.
- Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm'
- Helenium 'Rubinzwerg'
- Bergenia pacumbis
- Nepeta × faassenii 'Kit Cat'; Nepeta racemosa
- Dahlia 'Yellow Hammer' (Sin/dwb)
Bumble bee on hosta flower.
Shrubs and Trees for Clay Soil
Consider these options:
- Hypericum calycinum; Hypericum × hidcoteense 'Hidcote' (great for pollen)
Bombus terrestris - buff-tailed bumble bee on hypericum.
- Malus (crab apple)
- Fuchsia: Fuchsia 'Globosa'; Fuchsia 'Other Fellow'; Fuchsia'Katrina Thompsen'
- Viburnum tinus 'Variegatum' (v)
- Erica × darleyensis 'Epe'; Erica × darleyensis f. albiflora 'White Glow'; Erica × darleyensis 'Katia' (PBR) (Winter Belles Series); Erica cinerea 'Knap Hill Pink'
Apis mellifera - honey bee on Erica.
- Ribes nigrum 'Ben Sarek' (B); Ribes sanguineum 'Brocklebankii'
- Cornus amomum 'Blue Cloud'
- Salix caprea
- Pyracantha rogersiana; Pyracantha atalantioides
- Hebe × andersonii
- Hydrangea paniculata 'Kyushu'
Bombus terrestris - buff-tailed bumble bee on Hydrangea paniculata.
- Mahonia (excellent early source of food for bees). You could try: Mahonia × media 'Charity'; Mahonia × media 'Charity'; Mahonia × media 'Lionel Fortescue'; Mahonia × media 'Underway'; Mahonia oiwakensis subsp. lomariifolia
- Escallonia rubra
- Cotoneaster: Cotoneaster horizontalis, Cotoneaster lacteus: Cotoneaster conspicuous
- Buddleja davidii 'île de France'; Buddleja davidii 'Harlequin' (v);
- Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Bagatelle'; Berberis thunbergii 'Green Carpet' ; Berberis thunbergii
Bombus lapidarius - red-tailed bumble bee on Berberis.
in these conditions is hard work - I know! However, before you spend a
great deal of money on resolving the issue, trialling a few of these
plants may be a good idea.
Plants for bees
More plants for bees on this link, including garden plants, herbs, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, hedgerows and even fruit and veg!
More problem places!
Want to know about suitable plants for pollinators in a shade garden or a drought area? Take a look at this link.
Free plants for bees!
Plants need not cost a fortune! See these oft-neglected tips for getting plants for free, or nearly free!
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