You probably know that inviting bees to your garden helps to encourage pollination, which benefits all of your plants – and your neighbor's plants, too. Secretly, I also love bees because they add a bit of entertainment to the garden. The trick to getting bees to visit your plant beds is to add plenty of bee-friendly plants.
Bees are essential in any garden environment because as they pollinate your plants, it creates the rich harvest of fruits, seeds, flowers, and veggies that we all work for.
While it isn't hard to entice bees to visit, creating a bee-friendly environment takes more than just tossing some plants in the ground. You also want to make sure to avoid using too many chemicals that could harm or kill the bees. Herbicides and pesticides aren’t bee-friendly! Instead, you can use ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises to keep pests in check.
Let’s take a look at some bee-friendly plants you can put in your garden beds. Keep in mind that many of these have the added bonus of attracting other pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds, as well.
1. Bee Balm
As you might guess from the name, monarda, commonly called bee balm, is a magnet for all of the local bees in your area. Bee balm is a perennial in the mint family, and it produces flowers in a variety of colors. You can find bee balm plants that are red, pink, and purple. Bee balm produces beautiful blooms in the mid-summer until early fall.
Growing strawberries in your yard is a treat for everyone – insect, human, or otherwise. Whether you live alone or have kids, fresh strawberries scream summertime, and the bees love the petite white flowers on the plant.
Lavender is one of the most well-known herbs that you can grow. You might be surprised to learn that it's part of the mint family. Honey bees and bumble-bees (and humans, too) find the scent delicious and seek it out far and wide.
Not only do the flowers and attractive foliage encourage bees, but lavender also brings birds, hummingbirds, and butterflies to your garden beds. While lavender acts as an ornamental plant in many gardens and landscaping, it can also be used as a culinary herb and a medicinal herb.
4. Summer Squash
Zucchini and other members of the Cucurbita family attract all kinds of bees, which is good because you need bees to have a harvest. You might not realize it, but zucchini plants have male and female flowers. The bees need to take the pollen from the male flower and transfer it to the female flower for a fruit to grow.
It’s a good idea to plant other bee-friendly plants near zucchini. You won’t have a good harvest without plenty of pollinators around your plants.
Here is another veggie crop that is one of the best bee-friendly plants. You’ll notice dozens of flowers that pop up along the plant before it begins to grow cucumbers. Those flowers contain the nectar and pollen the bees want to find to bring back to their hives.
6. White Clover
Another top-notch bee-friendly plant for your garden is white clover. White clover is also known as Dutch clover, white trefoil, and creeping Trifolium. It’s a cool-season, perennial legume that grows well almost anywhere.
Long-tongued bees love to stop and visit white clover to collect pollen or suck out the nectar. It’s also loved by honey and bumble-bees, along with mason bees and Cuckoo bees.
7. Mahoniaor Oregon Grape
In the winter months, all species of bees struggle to find food. Planting mahonia helps the bees find some extra nutrition that they can use throughout all months. Mahonia is an evergreen shrub that produces lovely, bright yellow flowers throughout the winter.
Also known as Oregon grape, you can eat the fruit, though they taste nothing like a grape – they're quite bitter. The plant also reportedly has medicinal properties.
8. Pot Marigold
Also known as calendula, pot marigold is an annual flower that is native to the northern Mediterranean countries. That means it blooms once a year, and during that time, bees and other pollinators gather around this flower. You’ll notice that new flowers come on the plant once a month or so, and then you can add those petals to salads.
Calendula is also a powerful medicinal herb that is known for its ability to heal skin wounds and irritation.
Never heard of cotoneaster? It’s a versatile shrub that grows well in gardens and landscaping. Cotoneaster comes in a compact, upright shrub, as well as groundcovers and even larger hedge-like plants. Most of these plants create red berries in the fall that will continue to be there in the winter. Don't eat them, though – they're poisonous.
Cotoneaster shrubs do best in full sun and moist soil. At the same time, they tolerate drought well, and some do fine in the shade. Not only do bees of all kinds, such as bumble-bees and honey bees, love cotoneaster, but birds and butterflies are also attracted to this plant.
One of the best bee-friendly garden shrubs to add to your landscaping is a rhododendron bush. These hardy plants grow clusters of spring-blooming, bell-shaped flowers. The shrubs also have evergreen foliage. This bush is a member of the Ericaceae family of plants. They’re a relative to azaleas, heathers, blueberries, arbutus trees, and more. All of those plants are beautiful and attract bees.
Bumble-bees prefer rhododendrons more than other bees, but mason bees, miner bees, and wool carder bees also enjoy the fragrance. You can find thousands of different cultivars for your landscaping with a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors. Some even bloom at various times throughout the spring, allowing you to stagger bloom times for the maximum beauty.
Who doesn’t love the scent of honeysuckle? That’s why it’s in so many perfumes and body sprays. Honeysuckle is a popular garden plant that is highly perfumed.
There is nothing like sitting near climbing honeysuckle, smelling the aroma drifting by. That’s why it’s so loved for draping pergolas and arches. Bees happen to think it smells pretty good as well, which is one of the reasons they frequent this plant.
12. Butterfly Bushes
These bushes are known for being large, fast-growing, deciduous shrubs. They produce lilac-pink or purple flowers that attract bees and butterflies to your garden. The fragrance is irresistible to bees, making it a top bee-friendly plant. It really can go anywhere on your property!
13. Viper’s Bugloss
You might not have heard of viper's bugloss, but the Bumblebee Conservation Trust lists it as one of the ultimate plants if you want to attract bumble-bees. The flowers bloom from June to September, providing bees with the vital nectar that they need for their colonies. During these months, its when they need the most food.
In the late winter and early spring, bees depend on crocuses to provide them with nectar throughout the cold winter months. They’re a bright flower that attracts attention and look great in every garden.
If you’re looking for a delicate flower to add to your garden beds, pollinating insects love bluebells. These flowers bloom in the early spring, and you can find bluebells covering entire fields. Those fields are usually overrun with bees who dance between the flowers, along with hoverflies and butterflies.
Growing sunflowers is a treat for adults and kids alike. Plus, there are so many different varieties of sunflowers that you’ll never get tired of growing them and seeing what comes out of your hard work.
Sunflowers are, in general, great for attracting bees, birds, and butterflies. That makes them a must-have plant for any garden. With their height, they make fantastic borders!
Here is an iconic plant that millions have in their gardens. What is more romantic than a rose bush? Even bees are unable to resist the delicate, sweet smell of a rose. No matter the color or variety that you select for your garden, the bees will flock to your plant.
18. Echinacea or Purple Coneflower
Whether you call it echinacea or purple coneflower, these are sure to bring all the bees to the yard. The purple-rose flowers develop into a cone as they start to fall towards the ground, hence the name.
This plant is loved not only because it's a garden staple and bee-friendly, but echinacea also has potent medicinal uses. That makes it a multi-purposeful plant you need to have in your garden.
19. Anise Hyssop
Anise hyssop is an herbaceous perennial plant that comes back each spring. It blooms well throughout the spring and summer. This herb acts as a nectar source for bees, especially when other plants are gone for the year. Not only do bees like anise, but hummingbirds and butterflies enjoy it as well.
20. Borage or Star Flower
Here is another critical bee-friendly plant that almost everyone could grow in their garden. Borage is a vital plant for bees, and we're seeing a resurgence of people planting them solely to feed their local pollinators.
When in bloom, borage has a blue and purple color flower that will brighten up your garden.
If you want a glamorous flower for your garden, look no further than the dahlias. They’re a head-turner, and they make everyone stop by your garden and give them a good sniff. Dahlias draw a crowd when they come into full bloom each mid-to-late summer. Those blooms stay alive until the first frost in the fall.
Bring Bees to Your Yard
Bees play a vital role in our ecosystem, and while they might give you a bit of a worry at times, seeing bees in your garden is an indication of the health of your plants and environment. Without bees, we would lose dozens of plants that we use every day. Planting bee-friendly plants throughout your garden is one small step to encouraging these pollinators to stop by and continue to reproduce.