Plants For Bees

Updated: 29th January 2021

Here is a list of garden plants and shrubs for bees that will provide forage for at least one species of bee. Many of these plants will attract honey bees and different types of bumble bees as well as solitary bees.


If you are short of space, see my tips about gardening for bees in small spaces

Most people can accomodate at least a few of these flowers to attract bees and butterflies into their gardens, even if only in pots dotted around the yard. 

At the bottom of this page you'll also find links to further lists of plants for bees, shrubs, herbs, and more.

beautiful bumble bee on deep pink coloured Scabious (Pincushion Flower).Beautiful bumble bee on Scabious (Pincushion Flower).

Since first writing this page several years ago, I have also added my page of over 30 Fantastic Garden Flowers For Bees - in alphabetical order, and with more photographs.

The following lists are grouped by seasons - scroll down, or click on one of these links to jump straight to the list of garden plants:


LATE WINTER - SPRING GARDEN PLANTS
SPRING - SUMMER GARDEN PLANTS
SUMMER – AUTUMN GARDEN PLANTS
AUTUMN - WINTER GARDEN PLANTS


LATE WINTER - EARLY SPRING GARDEN PLANTS FOR BEES


Gingery coloured Hairy Footed Flower Bee (male) on pinkish-purply Pulmonaria.Hairy Footed Flower Bee (male) on Pulmonaria.

Due to variations in climate and conditions, flowering times may differ from region to region, and this may also affect foraging, as well as the distribution of different bee species.  Contrary to popular misconception, honey bees may be seen foraging in cooler temperatures during January and February. 

Bumble bees, with their furry coats, may also be found foraging on cooler days.  In fact, bumble bees are increasingly being seen to forage during the cool winter months in some countries, meaning that late and very early flowering plants are vital for bumble bees.

Honey bee on white winter heather flowerAbove: honey bee (Apils mellifera) on winter heather.

Here is a list of winter / early flowering plants and shrubs for bees:

Daphne
Mahonia
Winter Aconite
Crocus
Sweet box
Daffodil (try native wild types - e.g. if you live in the UK, try Narcissus pseudonarcissus)
Genista
Dicentra
Pulmonaria (Lungwort)
Gorse (Ulex)
Rosemary (Rosemarinus)
Flowering Currant (Ribes)
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Bluebell (Choose native varieties)
Cowslip (Choose native varieties)
Snakeshead (Fritillaria meleagris)
Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima, Lonicera purpusii)
Bugle (Ajuga)
Ground Ivy
Snowdrops (Galanthes) – single flowered varieties
Winter Heathers (Erica carnea)
Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)



SPRING - SUMMER GARDEN PLANTS FOR BEES


During the Spring and Summer, all types of bees (and other pollinating insects) are rearing their broods.

A typical honey bee colony may consist of around 50,000 to 60,000 workers, as well as having larvae to feed.

Bumble bee colonies may be fragile - fewer than half survive, and solitary bees are in need of undisturbed nesting sites, as food is gathered for storing in egg cells to feed newly developing larvae.

Plenty of bee friendly plants are therefore vital during the Spring and summer to ensure survival of  colonies.

Many of these plants will also attract and benefit a range of other pollinators.  For example, Milkweed is vital for Monarch butterflies.  It's worth following the planting instructions very carefully to help ensure success, because some varieties have quite fussy requirements. I recommend Milkweed Asclepias tuberosa as a variety that is tolerant of dry and moist soil, but please note, it does need a lot of sunshine. 

Bumble bees on yellow wallflowersBumble bees love wallflowers.

There is, however, a range of great seeds available, with some lovely varieties.  Choose a native seed supplier and beware of illegal imports. 

Poppy (Papaver)
Polemonium (Jacob's Ladder)
Foxglove (Digitalis)
Bistort
Crane’s-bill (Geranium)
Chives
Bugle (Ajuga)
Borage officinalis
Comfrey (Malus)
Honey Suckle (Lonicera)
Delphinum (Lakrspur)
Potentilla (Cinquefoil)
Passion Flower (Passiflora)
Muscari
Thyme
Sweetpea (Lathyrus)
Campanula
Lupin (Lupinus)
Rosa rugosa
Sea Holly (Eryngium)
Columbine (Aquilegia)
Penstemon
Salvia
Wallflowers
Hebe
Allium
Agapanthus
Sweet Pea



SUMMER – AUTUMN GARDEN PLANTS FOR BEES

Red and black Bloomed furrow bee (male) on Solidago (golden rod).Bloomed furrow bee (male) on Solidago (golden rod). Solidago is popular with a range of solitary bees, bumble bees, and is also visited by honey bees.

During the late summer and autumn, these plants will continue to feed late developing broods, as well as those bees that have already developed into working adults.

Hollyhock
Scorpion Weed (Phacelia)
Dahlia
Purple Loosestrife (note, in some countries this is considered invasive - please check your region
Sedum
Golden Rod (Solidago)
Cornflower
Verbena bonariensis
Veronica
Zinnia
Nasturtium
Salvia
Prairie mallow
Verbascum
Scabious (Pincushion Flower)
Sneezeweed

2 Bumble bees and a fly on yellow HelianthusBumble bees on Helianthus

Sunflower (Helianthus) 
Watermint
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum)
Lavender
Nepeta (Catmint)
Bugle (Ajuga)
Bergenia
Rudbeckia
Cosmos
Monarda (bee balm)
Erigeron (Fleabane)
Salvia (Sage) 
Oregano (Origanum)
Bergamot
Sweet Sultan (Amberboa Muricata)
Japanese anemone
Mint (Mentha)
Echinacea (coneflower)

painted lady orange, white, light brown and black butterfly on deep pink Coneflower - <i>Echinacea</>Coneflower - Echinacea are attractive to bees and will also be visited by butterflies.


AUTUMN - WINTER GARDEN PLANTS FOR BEES


Ivy (hedera helix) is loathed by some, but it is one of the few plants for bees that aid survival of the late foragers.  The pollination of ivy then allows berries to develop, thus feeding a number of birds over the winter months, as well as providing excellent shelter.  A wall or fence with ivy growing up over it will accommodate more wildlife than without it.  Late autumn flowering fruits and food crops may also provide a good source of nectar and pollen for bees.


Ivy hedera helix
Autumn raspberries
Viburnum
Common Heather (Calluna vulgaris)












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