Drought Plants For
Bees and Pollinators

Early bumble bee - Bombus pratorum on lavender.Early bumble bee - Bombus pratorum on lavender.

Believe it or not, there are many excellent drought plants out there, that are highly attractive to pollinators. Initially, many people who find themselves with a dry or drought garden, may believe their options will be limited and their gardens will be dull.

However, drought landscapes and gardens do not have to be boring – they can even be truly inspiring and striking.  If nature has created certain conditions, then you'll find there are species that will thrive in those conditions.  "Nature abhors a vacuum" as they say!



By combining different textures, forms and colours, the effect created can be visually stunning.


Herbs, wildflowers and succulents especially, provide great options for gardeners wanting to attract bees to dry areas.   In general, if you have a dry garden, try to find plants that naturally thrive in drought conditions.  I have found it's far better to work with nature than against her, and much easier to select plants that thrive happily in such situations, rather than trying to water your plants every day!


Succulents

Above: Bumblebee foraging on sempervivum


Succulents, such as Sedums and Sempervivums are great drought resistant plants with some lovely varieties available that attract bees and other pollinators. 

Above: Bumblebee foraging on sedum. Some sedums can provide useful early autumn food for bees when other flowers are fading. A variety of bee species enjoy foraging on the flowers.

They are able to store water in their fleshy leaves and stems. Their compact heads ooze nectar during the late summer, and are loved by bees and other pollinating insects.


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Herbs

Many herbs can tolerate dry conditions. Try:

  • Lavender – lavender thrives in gritty, dry soils, and will buzz with bees in the summer.
  • Origanum, (Marjoram) – the culinary oregano can be enjoyed by both you and the bees!
  • Sage – both culinary and wild sages are not only good drought plants, they are also good bee plants too.
  • Thyme – low-growing thyme can also be grown on a green roof – although it may then be difficult for you to harvest some of it!
  • Rosemary – will provide valuable food for bees early in the year when other foraging opportunities are scarce.

I have a further page about herbs for bees here.


Wildflowers

Honey bee on <I>Solidago</I> - golden rod. A large patch grows wild in sandy soil on sand dunes, close to where I live.  Every year, it is visited by many pollinators.Honey bee on Solidago - golden rod. A large patch grows wild in sandy soil on sand dunes, close to where I live. Every year, it is visited by many pollinators.


Many wildflowers are well adapted to tolerate dry conditions, and thrive on low-nutrient soils.  Cultivated varieties are often available, from poppies and Solidago to Eryngium and toad flax. 


Stunning poppies growing in a dry, coastal area.Stunning poppies growing in a dry, coastal area.

Excellent drought plants that attract bees and other pollinators include:


Poppies

Cornflower
Candy tuft
Toadflax
Thistles
Bugle (Ajuga)
Rosa rugosa
Deadnettle
Selfheal
Teasels
Bird’s foot trefoil

Bumble bee foraging on poppy.Bumble bee foraging on poppy.

I have a further page about planting wildflowers for bees here, as well as some ideas for lawns. Local councils can help by creating a nectar corridor along highways - more ideas on this page.


Other drought tolerant plants to attract bees

Bees love sea holly, and it's great for dry, sandy gardening conditions, such as coastal areas.Bees love sea holly, and it's great for dry, sandy gardening conditions, such as coastal areas.

Beach aster
Achillea millefolium
Phacelia - Scorpion weed
Ceanothus repens
Eryngium - Sea Holly
Helianthemum - the rock rose
Verbascum


Above: Beach aster is also a useful plant for coastal, sandy areas. It provides good ground cover, and is easily divided and propogated further. It is enjoyed by a variety of bees, and is a good plant to share with friends and family.


Drought resistant ground cover and lawns

One of the easiest ways to deal with a lawn in drought conditions, is to allow clover to flourish. It will help to keep your lawn looking green, and bees love it!  Red clover is especially favoured, but I find white clover springs up naturally on mine. 

Later, after mowing, the clover makes an excellent nutritious compost for other plants.

Alternatively, again, why not cover your lawn area with low growing thyme plants?



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Plants for bees 
Here you'll find more lists of plants to attract bees, with a seasonal guide, including garden plants, wildflowers, herbs, trees, shrubs and even fruit and vegetables.



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