Flowers for bees: 15 flowers that attract bees to the garden
Lots of flowers are beautiful to look at but are of no help to bees. Here are our top 15 bee-friendly flowers that the pollinators will love.
Lots of gardeners are passionate about supporting bees, both for their delicious honey and because they play a vital role as pollinators in the spread and survival of so many plant species. To thank the bees for all their hard work, we can provide them with a colourful, flowering garden full of the food they need to survive. But be aware that not every flower is a bee-friendly plant; in fact, some flowers may even scare off pollinators. Learn what makes a bee-friendly flower and which types of flowers to plant in your bee-friendly garden.
Flowers are always good for bees, aren’t they? In fact, this is a widely held misconception. Particularly cultivated ornamental plants, such as geraniums (Pelargonium), roses (Rosa), and dahlias (Dahlia), can be problematic for bees. Although these flowers attract insects with their sweet scent, their lush double flowers either block the way to the valuable nectar or produce so little that it is not enough to nourish the bees. Single, open flowers are best for bees, ideally with a long flowering period to provide the beneficial insects with a supply of food all year round.
With their large yellow, white, or pink flower heads that shine brightly in the sun, it’s no wonder that bees love yarrow (Achillea). The plant’s numerous small flowers are not only an eye-catcher in the garden, but also a magnet for all kinds of beneficial insects. The plant, which can grow up to 120cm tall, is not only attractive but also very easy to grow. Find out more about the most beautiful yarrow species and varieties.
Dahlias (Dahlia) are popular flowers that are well known because there is such a wide range of dahlia varieties, shapes, and colours. But do bees like dahlias? Well, yes but not all dahlias are suitable for bees: while dahlias with single-petals and open flowerheads provide enough food for the hardworking helpers and are widely beloved, many ornamental dahlia varieties are useless to bees. Although their scent attracts insects, the densely packed, almost spherical flowers prevent bees from reaching nectar and pollen. So, when growing dahlias for bees it is best to plant the simpler singl-petalled flowers so that the bees have easy access to the nectar.
3. Tussock bellflower
When the tussock bellflower (Campanula carpatica) blooms, transforming the garden into a white or purple sea of flowers in summer, it looks like something out of a fairy tale. Aside from its beauty, this bee friendly flower is popular because it is undemanding, easy to care for and can also withstand temperatures below freezing without being damaged. Plus, its long flowering period and abundance of flowers brings joy to people and bees alike.
Verbena (Verbena) is great for making flowering window boxes bee friendly. This flower, also known as vervain, is a true balcony classic that comes in a variety of colours and produces masses of bee-friendly flowers. What’s more, verbena, unlike many other balcony plants, is extremely robust against the weather. Vervain also makes a great bee-friendly ground cover.
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) are a joyful highlight in cottage gardens and are also becoming increasingly popular in modern garden designs. And no wonder! They require little care and can be grown not only in garden beds but also in containers and pots. Snapdragons form striking spikes of flowers that are uniquely vibrant – bumblebees in particular like to feast on the nectar hidden inside, but the flowers are also very popular with wild bees and honeybees.
6. White stonecrop
White stonecrop (Sedum album) can be found in lots of gardens. After all, the succulent plant requires almost no care, tolerates drought and heat, and is extremely frost-hardy. The contrast between its simple white to light pink flowers and matt red leaves make white stonecrop an elegant addition to any garden. What’s more, this carpet-like perennial is also ideal for bee pastures.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a perennial favourite for adding a touch of the Mediterranean to balconies or gardens. This plant not only has an enticing scent and beautiful violet flowers, but it is also easy to care for, not to mention its use as a medicinal plant and its edible flowers. Growing lavender for bees is very beneficial as it provides plenty of food from June to August.
8. Yellow sage
Orange, red or maybe bright yellow? For all those who can’t make up their minds, yellow sage (Lantana camara) is just the right plant. Yellow sage has an unusual ability: its flowers change colour between opening and closing, appearing bright red one moment and soft orange the next. Even if bees aren’t fussed about the plant’s colour-changing abilities, bees love lantana for another reason: the plant’s abundance of flowers, which bloom from May to October, makes it an excellent source of food.
9. Fairy fan-flower
Since hanging baskets are making a comeback, the fairy fan-flower (Scaevola aemula) is the perfect bee-friendly plant to add to yours. This beautiful trailing evergreen produces an abundance of violet-blue flowers that can grow up to 1 m long. Furthermore, the fairy fan-flower is a true perennial, blooming from May until the first frost and delighting both humans and bees.
Are rock gardens bee-friendly? Yes, if you grow the right plants in them. The evergreen Aubrieta is a good example of a bee-friendly rock garden perennial: in April and May, the plant produces so many little flowers that its green leaves are barely visible. Thanks to this abundance of flowers, beneficial insects are big fans of Aubrieta. But Aubrieta is also very popular with people; few flowers have a more intense deep blue than this hardy and robust rock garden dweller.
The nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus nanum) is a real jack-of-all-trades in the garden, being easy to care for, abundant in flowers, and simply stunning to look at. The plant not only enchants us with its unique funnel-shaped flowers, but it can also be used as a privacy screen. Nasturtiums are also a delicious treat with their peppery, pungent aroma. The young leaves, the buds and the flowers of nasturtium are all edible (tip: use them in salads!). Bees are also big nasturtium fans, and they flock to the flowers from June to October.
12. Winter heath
Winter heath (Erica carnea), also known as alpine heath, provides enchanting splashes of colour during the colder months with its white to bright pink bell flowers. The lovely plants bloom with their distinctive flowers as early as December, making them not only eye-catching, but also an important source of food for bees at the start of spring. When combined with its easy-care and hardy nature, the evergreen winter heath is not just a bee-friendly plant, but a gardener-friendly one too.
Cornflowers (Cyanus segetum) were once seen blooming by the edge of almost every field, but this unique meadow flower is now a rare sight. Though even today, the plant has lost none of its charm: its cornflower blue blossoms, which appear from June to September, tempts many gardeners to give it a home. Cornflowers, after all, are not only stunning flowers, but they also provide a reliable source of nectar for bees. The flower’s high nectar content is particularly attractive to wild bees.
They are a giant in the world of flowers. But their bee-friendly nature also makes sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) a real classic. Due to its relatively late flowering time from July to September, the autumn flower provides an important pit stop for bees just before they seek refuge in their hives from the cold temperatures. The bright yellow sunflower is also a real feast for our eyes, and after flowering we can enjoy its delicious seeds. Planting sunflowers for bees can only be a good thing!
15. Common mallow
Common mallow (Malva sylvestris) has been a popular addition in monastery and cottage gardens for centuries. It is still extremely popular today: with its finely veined flowers in soft pastel colours, it creates a quaint look and is also very easy to care for. Beneficial insects are also delighted by this delicate beauty. Common mallow is packed with nectar and pollen, which benefits bees and bumblebees in particular. But native butterflies also enjoy the plant as a food source. Better yet you can also eat common mallow yourself; the edible flowers have a very mild flavour.
It’s not just flowers that can be bee-friendly, other plants can help beneficial insects too. Find the most bee-friendly plants for the garden here.