Herbs for bees: the best bee-friendly herbs for the garden

Frederike
Frederike
Frederike
Frederike

I am a student of agricultural sciences and a real country kid. At home, I love tending my small vegetable garden and spending time out in nature. When not outdoors, I love to write. Beyond gardening and writing, however, I am particularly passionate about wildlife.

Favourite fruit: currants and raspberries
Favourite vegetables: salsify, savoy cabbage and potatoes

Herbs are not just great for spicing up your cooking but can also enrich the diet of bees. Here are 10 bee-friendly herbs for your garden and balcony.

bee feeding on flowering thyme plant
Flowering herbs can be a wonderful source of food for bees [Photo: nnattalli/ Shutterstock.com]

It goes without saying that beneficial insects like bees and bumblebees are extremely important for humans, plants, and the entire ecosystem. Unfortunately, however, bees often struggle to meet their dietary needs. Though gardens are usually filled with flowers, not every type of flower has enough pollen or blooms at the right time to feed the bees. Bee-friendly flowers can turn gardens into a bee oasis, but if you want a treat for both you and the bees, you can also grow flowering herbs. With long flowering seasons spread throughout the year, bee-friendly herbs are ideal for attracting pollinators and spicing up your own diet. Below, we have compiled a list of the best herbs for bees.

1. Sage

Sage (Salvia) is best known as a medicinal plant and culinary herb. But not only can the plant be used as a hearty seasoning or homemade tea, but it is also perfect for bees. With its beautiful purple flowers and strong scent, sage attracts many pollinators and bumblebees in particular. As well as common sage (Salvia officinalis), crested sage (Salvia viridis) and the clary sage (Salvia sclarea) are particularly bee friendly herbs. By planting the three different varieties of sage, you can create a stable food source for bees through late spring and summer: common sage blossoms from May to June, clary sage from June to August, and crested sage from July to September.

2. Thyme

Thyme (Thymus) is an essential part of Mediterranean dishes and when made into a tea can relieve coughs. From June to October, depending on the variety, this herb can be found blooming in purple. Thyme flowers are rich in nectar and provide a good nutritional base in the summer for bees.

bee feeding in nectar of purple flowering thyme
Flowering thyme is a popular source of food for bees [Photo: Peter Maerky/ Shutterstock.com]

3. Borage

Borage (Borago officinalis), also known as the starflower, is one of the most bee friendly herbs. Borage’s decorative, star-shaped flowers offer bees a rich source of nectar and make a beautiful addition to the garden. With its exceptionally long flowering period, lastng from May until September, the starflower is an extremely useful herb for pollinators. On top of its good looks and long flowering, borage also scores points for being very easy to grow and tasting delicious.

4. Hyssop

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is one of the lesser-known culinary herbs, but still has plenty to offer. The plant has often been used by beekeepers to cultivate aromatic flavours of honey, and when grown in the garden is sure to delight local bee populations. Hyssop blooms from July to October, a perfect summer to autumn bee-friendly addition to your herb garden.

Pink and purple flowering hyssop plants
Flowering herbs, like hyssop, are beloved by bees [Photo: Marina VN/ Shutterstock.com]

5. Lemon balm

The fresh aroma of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has made this herb a popular addition to the garden and kitchen, and this herb is just as popular among bees. As soon as lemon balm’s delicate white flowers begin to bloom in early June, bees and bumblebees are sure to follow.

6. Rosemary

Blooming between March and April, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is one of the earliest blooming bee friendly herbs. Because of this, rosemary is particularly important to bees. While nectar reserves are rich in summer, food sources for bees are often scarce in early spring.

7. Winter savory

Winter savory (Satureja montana), also known as mountain savory, has a strong flavour that is often used to season hearty dishes such as beans and meats. This herb is particularly easy to care for and soon forms a small, grass-like carpet. It blooms with characteristic white flowers from July to October and is sure to draw bees to your garden.

mountain savory herb with delicate white flowers
Mountain savory’s small flowers are a bee magnets [Photo: ChWeiss/ Shutterstock.com]

8. Oregano

No herb garden is complete without oregano (Origanum). This classic herb is essential for countless pizza and pasta dishes. But did you know that the herb is also great for bees? Wild bees and bumblebees in particular love oregano’s white-pink flowers, which bloom from July to August.

9. Lovage

With its intense flavour, lovage (Levisticum officinale) is great for enhancing soups and stews. Bees enjoy feeding on the lovage when its flowers blossom from June to August, providing a wonderful source of food for pollinators.

Yellow flowering lovage plant
Despite its small flowers, lovage is a big hit with the bees [Photo: Tomanovic Violeta/ Shutterstock.com]

10. Mint

One of the most popular flowering herbs in home gardens is mint (Mentha). The wide variety of mint species and aromas have contributed immensely to this plant’s popularity. Mint is also extremely attractive to beneficial insects since it provides nutritious food sources for bees and butterflies too. Flowering time varies depending on the variety: While, for example, the classic peppermint (Mentha x piperita) flowers from June to August, spearmint (Mentha spicata) flowers from July to September. Smaller wild bee species in particular benefit from these bee-friendly plants. Also, catnip (Nepeta cataria), often referred to as catmint, blooms from July to September. Despite its name, catmint is only distantly related to mint. Nevertheless, it is sure to attract little insects such as wild bees when it flowers.

Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost
Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost

Peat-free & environmentally-friendly: for aromatic herbs, as well as sowing seeds, planting cuttings & transplanting seedlings

Besides herbs, there are many other plants that bees love. To discover more, read our article on bee-friendly flowers.

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