Planning Gardens for the Bees

What’s the buzz? The sound of summer. Filling your garden with flowering plants that bees like is the perfect way to be a part of the cycle of nature. Bees are hardworking insects—pollinating our crops and flowers for us and feeding themselves and their community at the same time. And, don’t forget the honey—one of nature’s simplest pleasures.

To make your garden more bee-friendly, begin by including flowers with lots of nectar or pollen from the list below. Choose plants that provide food for the bees in every season—especially in fall when bees need plenty of nectar. Make your yard a safe place for bees by leaving a bit of undisturbed space for them where they can make their homes. Bumblebees nest in the ground and the smaller, blue orchard bees make homes in existing holes. Provide a fresh source of water and most importantly, don’t use anything stronger than an insecticidal soap on plants since bees are especially sensitive to chemicals. If you don’t want bees near front entrances or patios, try to avoid planting their favorite flowers in these areas. Humans, as well as bees, will appreciate the bounty of an August garden.

Bumblebee
The American Bumblebee is a familiar and fuzzy, black- and yellow-striped bee. Bumblebees are known as ‘buzz’ pollinators. When looking for nectar in flowers, they vibrate their muscles to release the pollen. These large bees are important pollinators of crops and wildflowers.   

Blue Orchard Bee
The Blue Orchard Bee is native to North America and plays a crucial role as a pollinator for fruit trees. They are busy in the spring and like to work in cooler temperatures than most bees. They are fun to watch and they rarely sting.  

Bee-friendly plants
SPRING
These flowers feed the first bees including bumblebee queens and the smaller orchard bees. Crocus: Early-blooming flowers draw the first bees to its nectar. Plant bulbs in fall for colorful, spring blooming flowers in all shades of purple, pink, yellow, blue and white.

Crocus (crocus species and hybrids)  
Flowering Crabapple ‘Prairie Fire’ (Malus)
Hellebore (Helleborus)
Lupine (Lupinus)
Foxglove (Digitalis purpureum)
Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientalis)
Rhododendron

SUMMER
Flowers that bloom in the warm, summer months attract the largest number of bees. Dahlia:  The stately ‘Bishop of Llandaff is one of the red beauties in the Dahlia family. Vibrant flowers appear in late June-July gardens—perfect for attracting large numbers of bees. Butterfly weed (Asclepsias): Butterflies such as swallowtails love this one, as well as bees. It is in the milkweed family with clusters of orange flowers that bloom in mid-summer. Deer-resistant.

Yarrow (Achillea)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Ligularia (Ligularia)
Butterfly weed (Asclepsias)
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
Weigela ‘Weigela florida’
Herbs: Smaller bees pollinate these flowers. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Spearmint (Mentha spicata), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Thyme (Thymus), Borage (Borago officianalis)
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
Cranesbill Geranium
Dead Nettle (Lamium)
Globe Thistle (Echinops)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Salvia (Salvia x superba)
Catmint (Nepeta)
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

AUTUMN
Make sure to have fall-blooming flowers in the garden when cool weather brings out the bees in numbers.

Aster (Aster species and hybrids)
Goldenrod (Solidago)
Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida)
Leopard Plant (Ligularia)
Stonecrop (Sedum)
Sneezeweed (Helenium)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Blue Mist shrub (Caryopteris): This woody perennial has some of the bluest flowers around. Bumblebees search out these small, blue puffs. This sub-shrub matures from 3’ to 4’ tall.


What’s the buzz? The sound of summer. Filling your garden with flowering plants that bees like is the perfect way to a part of the cycle of nature. Bees are hardworking insects—pollinating our crops and flowers for us and feeding themselves and their community at the same time. And, don’t forget the honey—one of nature’s simplest pleasures.