Bee gardens can serve as a wonderful haven for honey bees and many other pollinators. Plant any of these beautiful flowers for a garden that will attract and benefit bees of all kinds.
A few months ago, the sprawling house across the road from us sold. It's on a big acreage, and for a bit there, we were nervous that it was going to be broken up and turned into lots of cookie-cutter houses on tiny lots. We've seen quite a bit of that nearby, with the housing market the way it's been.
You can imagine how delighted we were when the new owners started planting fruit trees across those broad fields instead. Turns out, they're kindred spirits, looking to love the land and thrive on it, just like we are. And they're not losing any time getting their new homestead going.
Soon after the fruit trees went in, bee hives hives arrived. And not just one or two of them. There are now about 15 big beehives just across the way. We are talking thousands of honeybees.
Our gardens have never been better pollinated than this year!
With the worrisome decline of honeybees and other pollinators around the world, I've always tried to keep and grow a variety of flowers that are supposed to be beneficial and attractive to bees. This summer, with ALL the bees around, it's been so much fun to really see which plants are their absolute favorites.
By mid-day, the flowers they favor most are just audibly abuzz with winged visitors. The kids and I have had so much fun watching them. Especially my 5 year old, who planted a whole garden just for the bees this year, using the "Save the Bees" flower mix from Botanical Interests.
Watching his garden grow, bloom, and attract bees has been such a joy to the little guy. And watching HIM tend his garden and watch the bees has been such a joy to me!
What to grow for attracting bees
Starting a bee garden really is a rewarding way to do something toward helping the declining bee populations, and bee gardens are always a beautiful addition to any yard. If you'd like to grow one of your own, I'd suggest any of the flowers from this list. We've found each of these to be clear favorites with the bees, and many are known to be especially beneficial for them.
Borage is one of my favorite bee garden flowers. It attracts a wide variety of bees and pollinators, and since it's also a medicinal plant, I think of it as a flower that I share with the bees. This wonderful little write-up about borage is a good read, and has many interesting facts about this beautiful and easy-to-grow flower.
Astilbe boasts beautiful, bright plumes, that last for a long time, and grow easily. It even thrives in partial shade, making it a valuable addition to bee gardens that don't get full sun. I do think the flowers have a bit of a strange smell (definitely not what you'd consider delicious!). But this isn't a cut flower that's coming inside my house, it's for the bees--and they certainly don't mind!
Wild (or Field) Mustard
Often considered a weed, this lovely, yellow-flowered plant gets to be quite tall. It's an important source of pollen for bees, and they clearly favor it in my yard, seeking it out even when bigger and brighter blossoms are right nearby.
Bee Balm (Bergamot)
We were lucky to have a beautiful patch of Bergamot (also known as Bee Balm) growing and thriving along our stone wall, when we bought our home. Every July, huge stalks put out these showy blossoms that are real show-stoppers. As is implied by the name, these really are a favorite with the bees.
Bachelor's Buttons are one of those lovely, old-fashioned flowers that we start from seed every year. And every spring, I marvel at those tiny, spindly little sprouts. They're so delicate looking, you'd think a frown would be enough to do them in. But every year they suddenly take off in June, and by July, the bees are lining up to enjoy their abundant pink, blue, and purple blossoms.
This darling perennial is one of my favorites, because the foliage is just so fluffy looking. The whole plant grows like a mound of delicate green lace, studded with perky little yellow flowers. It's a beautiful filler plant, and a great one for any bee garden.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)
I don't have a picture of purple coneflower, because I haven't planted any yet (isn't that awful?). But it would be completely an injustice if I didn't include it in this list. Echinacea Purpurea is a fantastic addition to any bee garden. In fact, the University of Vermont lists it among their top 10 most important plants for pollinators.
Aren't they just the sweetest things? I stop in my tracks every time I walk past the Cosmos. Every flower is just so earnest, perfect, and darling. The bees think they're even more delightful than I do, so I almost always leave them for the bees, and only rarely snip a few to bring inside and brighten my kitchen.
This sweet little flower is often considered a weed, but I try to let them grow in as many places as I can, because the bees absolutely adore them. Today, the daisy fleabane flowers were some of the buzzing-est blossoms in the yard. While it grows wild in many places, you can also order seeds and start them yourself.
Black Eyed Susan (also known as Brown Eyed Susan)
I call these lovely ladies "Black Eyed Susans". My mother calls them "Brown Eyed Susans." I'm not sure how we happened to adopt two different names for the same flower that we've both known and loved all our lives, BUT--apparently both names are just about equally common. We have many of them that grow wild, and I was so delighted this year to spot a few dramatic color variations where they'd sprung up from last year's seeds.
Yarrow is one of those wonderful plants that appeals to butterflies as well as bees. I like to leave lots of yarrow growing in the margins of my large, main garden, and the blossoms attract a remarkable variety of species. If you don't already have some yarrow growing in your yard, it's easy to collect seeds from some wild plants in the fall, or you can order them online.
This tall, dramatic plant is a wonderful medicinal herb, with excellent respiratory benefits. So it already has a place in my yard as part of my medicinal garden. It's not one I usually see listed as being a top plant for pollinators, but I will tell you that there are few flowers in my yard more continually buzzing with bees than this one. The flowers stand for a long time, and last later into the fall than most, which I feel is probably an added benefit. They're generally just starting to go by as the fall asters come into full bloom. I got my Elecampane seeds from Fedco, and they're very easy to grow!
I have feeling I'll be adding to this list over the years, as we continue to grow and try new flowers in our gardens. So far, these are the ones we've found both easy to grow, and also particularly appealing to our bee and pollinator friends.
If you're planting a bee garden, please remember to avoid ALL pesticide use! You definitely don't want to attract important pollinators, only to poison them.
It's also a great idea to add a shallow water source, like a bird bath, near your bee garden. This article explains why water is so important for bees, and gives great ideas for creating a bee water garden.
I hope you have as much fun growing flowers for the bees as we do. It's really so rewarding to watch the little things working industriously, flying from flower to flower.
Have a suggestion for a flower we should add to our garden next year? Let me know in the comments below!