Updated: 11th February 2020
Here is a list of garden plants 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.
the bottom of this page you'll also find links to further lists of plants
for bees, including wildflowers, trees, hedgerows, shrubs, herbs, and
fruit and vegetables.
Please note also that some of these plants appear on other lists on this site, because some species arguably straddle more than one category (e.g. cornflowers and foxgloves may also be categorized with wildflowers, and I have a further page for herbs and one for shrubs).
When selecting plants, traditional varieties are best, rather than the highly cultivated, extra-frilly types. You can rarely go wrong with cottage garden flowers and flowering herbs. Also, remember to add a variety of flower shapes if you can. Learn more here.
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:
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.
Here is a list of winter / early flowering plants and shrubs for bees:
Daffodil (try native wild types - e.g. if you live in the UK, try Narcissus pseudonarcissus)
Flowering Currant (Ribes)
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Bluebell (Choose native varieties)
Cowslip (Choose native varieties)
Snakeshead (Fritillaria meleagris)
Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima, Lonicera purpusii)
Snowdrops (Galanthes) – single flowered varieties
Winter Heathers (Erica carnea)
Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)
Many plants which are beneficial to bees, such as Milkweed are also beneficial to other pollinators, such as the Monarch Butterfly pictured above, a species very much in need of our help!
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.
There is, however, a range of great seeds available, with some lovely varieties. Choose a native seed supplier and beware of illegal imports.
Polemonium (Jacob's Ladder)
Honey Suckle (Lonicera)
Passion Flower (Passiflora)
Sea Holly (Eryngium)
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.
Scorpion Weed (Phacelia)
Purple Loosestrife (note, in some countries this is considered invasive - please check your region)
Golden Rod (Solidago)
Scabious (Pincushion Flower)
Monarda (bee balm)
Sweet Sultan (Amberboa Muricata)
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
Common Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
I love to receive feedback, and was delighted to receive the following tip from Donna, in Kansas City:
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