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30 Flowers for a Bee-Friendly Garden

Updated on April 3, 2018
Honeybees are not native to the USA.
Honeybees are not native to the USA. | Source

A bee is said to make three journeys in order to bring one drop of nectar to the hive; 25,000 foraging trips are said to be necessary to gather the raw material for one pound of honey.

A honeybee will visit 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip, and a hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles to collect 1 kg of honey. During the average worker bee's lifetime, she will produce only about 1/12th teaspoon of honey and it takes one ounce of honey to fuel a bees' flight around the world.

Give the bees a hand by planting flowers, trees and bushes that will make these trips easier, and provide all the nectar they need to create a thriving, healthy, productive hive.

Some flowers produce more nectar than others, others are great honey flowers, and some just intoxicate the bees. Choose a variety of plants that flower at different times so there is always a snack available when bees are out and about.

A rule of thumb: Native plants will attract native bees and exotic plants will attract the honeybees.

Snowdrop | Source
Crocus | Source
Arabis | Source
Forget-Me-Not | Source
Borage | Source
Campanula | Source
Catmint | Source
Hollyhock | Source
Lemon "Bee" Balm
Lemon "Bee" Balm | Source
Delphinium | Source
Clematis | Source

Flowers - High Nectar Producers

Snowdrops - Winter jewels, undaunted by snow, these little blooms last a long time. They are lovely in patches of woodland under deciduous trees. Plant in the fall so they have a long growing period.

Crocus - The most common crocus's used are the white, yellow and purple variety. Plant in the fall and breathe a sigh of relief in the spring when they show up to let you know that the long winter has come to an end. Easy to grow and care for, and can be naturalized in the lawn.

Arabis or Rock Cress - Wonderful splash of white, crimson or purple in the spring as it covers a bank or tumbles over a wall. Used in rock gardens, it's an extremely easy plant to grow. Keep the plants in check by cutting back the stems after flowering.

Forget-Me-Not - Little clusters that hide beneath the tulips and wallflowers, these are a wonderful addition for an April bloom. Easy to care for, all they need is well drained soil and a watering can if the weather is dry. For a change, try the white or pink variety.

Borage - Not only a bee attracting flower, but a lovely herb to have in the garden. Borage likes open, sunny areas with light and dry, well-drained soil. Seed in the garden or singly in pots in the spring for summer flowers and sow in the autumn for spring flowers.

Wallflower - Easily grown from seed, these plants cannot tolerate extreme heat and humidity. Given a sunny, airy spot in a mild climate, though, wallflowers produce bright blossoms over a long period of time.

Campanula - Well known for bearing massive clumps of flowers, a splendid show in your garden from June to July. Slugs are their biggest threat and putting down crushed eggshells should help with this problem. Easy to grow in well-drained soil, these little beauties do well in both sun and light shade.

Mauve Catmint - Not only with the bees love you for this one, the cat will adore you as well. Flourishing well in sandy, stony and chalky soil, these plants love full sun. These easy to grow plants will stay in flower from spring to early autumn. Don't cut the stems in autumn, wait until the new shoots start in the spring to remove old growth.

Thyme - Sow seeds inside in March and move outside once the danger of frost has passed. Plant in full sun, with light and well-drained soil, preferably alkaline.

Hollyhock - Sown inside in March or outside after the last frost, hollyhocks may need staking because of their height. They need rich, deep soil and full sun.

Scilla - Grown from a bulb, scilla should be planted four inches deep in the early fall. Give them an open, sunny spot, and they will multiply rapidly. The foliage is attractive and the growing habits are neat, making it an excellent plant to use as a border or edging plant.

Cleome - Growing great from seeds, cleome should be sown in the garden in the spring. They like full sun or light shade and an average soil. Do not pinch back as the seedlings grow. Frequent watering and application of liquid fertilizer will benefit the plants.

Lavender - Sow seeds in the spring or take cuttings in the summer. Lavender needs well-drained soil and full sun. It does particularly well in raised beds. A beautiful plant when massed or even used as a low flowering shrub. Lavender should be cut back in the fall and mulched heavily in winter.

Lemon Balm - Slow to germinate, this lovely herb is also a favorite of bees. Grow in any moist soil with full sun and mid-day shade. Divide the plant or take stem cuttings in the spring or autumn. Leaves can be picked anytime, but are best when flowers begin to open, making sure you are careful of your buzzing friends.

Delphinium - These take a lot of effort, but are well worth the effort. The flower spike is so big it needs protection from wind and rain, but it also needs full sun and a rich, light soil that is very high in fertility. You can encourage a second blooming period by cutting back the flowering stalks, but never cut the leaves.

Clematis - Although adapts to many different conditions, clematis prefer it's head in the sun and it's feet in the shade. In other words, plant clematis where their roots will be in the shade and the vines have access to sun. Sun is more important than shade and mulch can always be used to protect the roots.

These are some plants and flowers to get you started on your 'bee friendly' garden. Visit your local greenhouse or visit the nearest agricultural center. There are many more out there that bees love and that will attract them profusely.

A Thing to Note: Bees are not specifically attracted to fragrant flowers, and they show a marked preference for blue flowers (which are often scentless).

Plants to Attract Bees

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Clover Flower
Clover Flower | Source
Alfalfa Flower
Alfalfa Flower | Source
Mustard Flower
Mustard Flower | Source
Common Buckwheat Flower
Common Buckwheat Flower | Source
Flowering Velvet Mesquite Catkins
Flowering Velvet Mesquite Catkins | Source
Goldenrod | Source

Important Honey Plants

The following are not garden flowers, but they should be mentioned just because of the abundance of nectar that they offer to our bee community.

Generally considered a weed by urban gardeners, they play an important part not only in the bees lives, but ours as well.

Clover - Not only for bees but - Canada's Agricultural and Agri-food says: "Prairie clovers, native legumes of the Canadian prairies, might be more widely planted in Canadian pastures in a few years. The plants are loaded with traits that support healthy livestock herds and the environment. Not only that but are also sweet-smelling and pretty – producing purple or white flowers in the mid-summer.

Alfalfa - Natural alfalfa is safe for the bees... But is this? According to Canadian Biotechnology Action Network: "Organic food and farming in the U.S. and Canada is under immediate threat from GMalfalfa. Conventional farmers will also lose their markets."

Mustard - Bees love this flower, but did you know that Canada's Agricultural and Agri-foods says: "Mustard seed (Brassica spp.) is an annual, cool season crop that can be grown in a short growing season, commonly in rotation with small grains. A relative of canola, mustard seed has the advantage of being more tolerant to drought, heat, and frost.

Read more @ Canada's Mustard Seed Industry

Buckwheat - Bees and buckwheat, this is an interesting plant. Canada's Agricultural and Agri-foods says: "Despite its name, buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is not a cereal grain, but rather a fruit or nut. Buckwheat is a broad leaf plant that grows well under a wide range of soil conditions. The root system of buckwheat is less extensive than that of a true cereal grain plant. Read more @ Canada's Buckwheat Industry

Mesquite- Controversy abound, I am leaving this one up to Wikipedia. According to them: "This tree's flowers provide a nectar source for bees to produce mesquite honey (monofloral honey), which has a characteristic flavor." Read more @ Wikipedia

Goldenrod - Considered a weed by some, a flower by others, bees don't care, they love them. Check this out, Ontario Wildflowers says:

"Goldenrods are very challenging to learn to identify. The features that distinguish them are often very subtle, or occur in several species. To compound all these difficulties, some Goldenrods have conflicting common names."


Pesticides & Fertilizers

The use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers can not only be harmful to the bees, but harmful to your children and pets.

Use a good organic fertilizer, or a compost bin.

Companion planting will go a long way to keep those pests away and let the ladybugs & spiders keep the rest of the pest population in check.

Create a "Bee Bath"

Birds aren't the only ones that need clean, fresh water. Make it easier for your bees to access fresh water by filling a shallow container of water with twigs or pebbles for bees to land on while drinking.

Make sure the container is maintained, keeping it full of fresh water, so they know they can return to the same spot every day for a drink.

Some people are deathly scared of bees and avoid them at all costs.

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Apple Blossom
Apple Blossom | Source
Pear Blossom
Pear Blossom | Source
Plum Blossom
Plum Blossom | Source
Cherry Blossom
Cherry Blossom | Source

Honey Trees for Honey Bees

Few things are lovelier than the blossoming of fruit trees in the spring. These lovely flowers pull the bees to their life giving nectar.

The most common fruit trees that attract bees are the apple tree, pear tree, plum tree and cherry tree.

Thinking of apple trees reminds me of when I was little. We had apple trees in our yard. Mom would hound us to get fallen apples off the ground. If we didn't get them in time, or we missed one, the yellow jackets would come along and get 'drunk' off the rotten fruit.

Sounds like a good time for them, but for myself, it was run from the bees time. Stinging anything that they landed on in their drunken stupor, from rocks to sticks to me...

Other trees that bees are attracted to and are nice for ornamental trees are acacia trees or bushes, maple trees, willow trees, linden trees and locust trees.

5 Reasons You Want Bees in the Garden

  1. All creatures eat plants that are dependent on pollinators.
  2. Vegetables, herbs, fruits, and nuts need pollinators to reproduce.
  3. You will triple your yield of fruit and veggies in your garden.
  4. If bees are busy outside, they are less likely to come in your house (except by accident).
  5. You don't need a large garden, just a tiny flower pot or patch of flowers can provide valuable pollinator habitat.

Although bears do like honey, they prefer to eat the bee larvae.
Although bears do like honey, they prefer to eat the bee larvae. | Source

Single Bloom vs. Double Bloom

Double headed flowers might be showy, but they produce much less nectar and make it more difficult for bees to access the pollen.

Make it easier for your bees by planting single headed flowers, like marigolds or daisies. These are naturally designed to provide your bees with the best access and the most nectar.

Plant Native Flowers

Native flowers are uniquely adapted to your region and will help feed your bees. They also aid in bringing more bees to your garden because they are natural attractants to the local buzzing community.

Check out your regional botanic gardens and plant nurseries for which ones are best to use in your area. There are also a lot of sources online where you can find seeds for wildflowers that grow in your area.

Bee Awareness - Test Your Knowledge

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Sunflower | Source
Passion Flower
Passion Flower | Source
English Ivy
English Ivy | Source
Willow Flower
Willow Flower | Source

Intoxicate the Bees

These lovely plants are said to be intoxicating to the bees.

The finest wine for the bees, without the drunken stupor, these flowers are sure to make your bees especially happy.

Sunflower - These spectacular flowers that symbolize the sun are wonderful to use as the back of a border. Yellow or golden blooms come late in the summer and early autumn.

Easy to grow, with no special soil requirements. The clumps should be lifted and divided every 3 years to keep the plant from deteriorating with age and to prevent exhaustion.

Passion Flower - Not an easy garden flower to grow, but where they are natural, bees absolutely love them. Grown indoors, they can be put out in a sheltered area on the deck for a special bee treat.

English Ivy - This Old World woody climber has been naturalized in the United States. It has evergreen, glossy leaves, which may be heart-shaped, kidney-shaped or three-lobed, often with variegated patterns.

Avoid hot, dry, sunny, windy locations in all climates. In warm climates grow on walls, fences, pergolas, cascading. In cold climates use as a ground cover in sheltered locations.

Willow Flower - Although they don't look like much, bees are especially attracted to the unassuming willow flower. Having a willow tree in your yard is a special treat for the bees and they will reward you with happy buzzing throughout the flowering season.

Only the Queen in the hive lays eggs.
Only the Queen in the hive lays eggs. | Source

Give Bees a Home

Every single species of bees are beneficial to plants, from the smallest the size (the head of a pin), to the fat bumble bee. Some live below the ground and some live above it.

Give the bees a home in your garden to keep them safe and close to their food source. You can buy them already made or you can make them yourself.

If you want to provide more than one home above ground, make sure you paint them different colors to keep rivalry among the clans down.

Strawberry Flower
Strawberry Flower | Source
Raspberry Flower
Raspberry Flower | Source
Blackberry Flower
Blackberry Flower | Source
Golden Currant Flowers
Golden Currant Flowers
Gooseberry Flowers
Gooseberry Flowers | Source

Berry Flowers Bring Bees

Strawberries - Great in the garden, great in baskets, strawberries are an all time favorite berry for most people. Early bearing aka June bearing and ever-bearing varieties are both available for planting in your garden. Grow a few plants of borage near the strawberries to give them some added benefit while growing.

Blackberries - The flowers of blackberries are very attractive to their primary pollinators, honeybees. Some varieties require cross pollination, so this make blackberries a great berry to grow when farming bees. The bees will benefit from the blackberry flowers and you will benefit with the bees helping you produce more blackberries. Place the bees in or near the field of blackberries.

Raspberries - Another great bee friendly flower. Not only will the bees appreciate these being in the garden, you will benefit from the abundant fruit that is produced by the raspberry bushes.

A note about Raspberries - Black and purple varieties of raspberries should be planted well away from raspberries, as much as 600 feet is advised to lessen the possibility of virus diseases. Blackberries, as well, should not be planted near raspberries. Raspberries planted near potatoes will make potatoes more susceptible to blight.

Loganberries - These lovely little gems are a uniquely home-grown berry. Ending up an accidental cross between a raspberry and blackberry, loganberries are a little more tart than a regular raspberry. These have not yet been cultivated commercially with any great interest, but have gained a popularity in urban gardens.

Gooseberries - These in particular are great for the bees, they flower early, giving the bees a good source of nectar in the early summer. It is also an ideal fruit for the small garden, easy to grow and a producer of a large amount of fruit. Gooseberry bushes are great for cooler areas and tolerate partial shade conditions well. The shape of the bush is easy to train and they make great plants for container gardening.

Planning & Maintenance: Bee Friendly Garden

Miscellaneous Trivia

  • The honeybee has been around for 30 million years.
  • Mason bees are not destructive insects. They only use holes found in nature or provided by man.

  • The buzzing from the honeybee's wings is from 11,400 strokes per minute.
  • Six mason bees will pollinate one fruit tree, compared to 10,000 honeybees.
  • Honeybees communicate by "dancing", giving directions and distances to flowers.
  • Female Mason bees determine whether to lay male or female eggs.
  • Honeybees are not born knowing how to make honey; younger bees are taught by the older ones.
  • Each Mason bee nesting tube has five or six eggs. These eggs are separated by a mud wall from it's food supply.
  • Honeybees are the only insect that produce food eaten by man.
  • Fifteen to 35 trips are needed to collect sufficient nectar and pollen to feed each Mason bee larva.

Thank you for stopping by!
Thank you for stopping by! | Source


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    Post Comment
    • Eco-Lhee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thank you very much!

    • sunflowerforests profile image


      7 years ago from The light in the forest of doubt.

      This article is just packed full of useful information and beautiful pictures. Great job. Voted up.

    • Eco-Lhee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thank you for the vote up, pin and the lovely comment. I am fortunate to live in an area where there are an abundance of bees. I too, had never thought of putting water out for the bees, and will be putting it out this year for sure!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

      Hadn't thought of putting out water for bees. Great suggestion! I put it out for other critters in a similar fashion. Hope the bees are getting a few sips, too. Pinned & voted up. Enjoyed your hub!


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