Flowers & Plants Attracting Bees
Whimsy, joy, colours – pansies have it all, and bees love them. They are great for containers or ground cover.
These North American wetland shrubs have a beautiful greyish hue and fur-like blooms.
These beautiful blue blooms have a stunning presence that you can enjoy for a few weeks each year.
Snowdrops are known to announce their arrival by poking out of the snow. They are great for climates with mild to cold winters.
With their colours and sweet scents, these flowers will attract bees, hummingbirds, and possibly your neighbours too.
Milkweed not only serves as food to bees, but it is also the only host to monarch butterflies.
As you may guess from the name, bees love these North American prairie flowers. The blooms almost resemble little fireworks and come in befittingly vibrant shades too.
Bees love them for their nectar, humans love them for their scent and flavour. Everyone wins, and with many different varieties of lavender to choose from, you’ll likely find one that will settle happily in your garden.
With their star-shaped blooms, these plants are a beautiful addition to any garden and can make a great ground cover.
Zinnias come in many colours and will attract both bees and butterflies to your space. They are relatively easy to plant and will bloom in abundance all summer long if dead flowers are removed.
Like zinnias, marigolds are annuals that can bloom all summer long if properly groomed. Their edible blooms can brighten up your salads as well as your garden, and they are even known to repel pests and animals, such as nematodes.
These flowers are sometimes considered weeds because of their ability to spread easily but kept in check, they are an invaluable resource for bees and have medicinal value as well.
Resist eating their tasty purple flowers and the bees will thank you! This perennial tolerates cold climates rather well and is a great way to add a fresh, oniony taste to salads, dishes, or eggs.
These flowers, found in purple, pink, and white, bloom on grass-like spiky leaves that can grow 1 – 5 feet tall.
Mint is invigorating with its fragrance and flavour – and bees go crazy on their flowers too. Mint is a great choice if you’re looking for a herb that’s low maintenance.
It’s great in stuffing, sauces, and herb pots! Bees love sage’s beautiful flowers, and these perennials are rather easy to grow.
Nasturtiums can keep bees buzzing in your garden well into autumn. Their edible blooms will bring a burst of colour to your outdoor space.
These are flowers that attract bees, butterflies and bring a burst of yellow to your garden.
Also known as starflower, borage’s star-shaped blooms start out pink and mature into a beautiful blue.
Irresistible to bees and pun-lovers alike, placing one of these shrubs by a walkway will prove to be a wonderful way to pass the thyme.
This perennial has pink, purple, or white flowers, and its late blooms will be appreciated by your bee friends.
Calendula ~ Calendula officinalis
Shorter, bushy plants full of orange/yellow, daisy-like flowers that provide both pollen and nectar for pollinators.
Description: The term “salvia” includes a massive group of plants, with something like 800 or 900 different species! Culinary sage is salvia too.
Nasturtium ~ Tropaeolum
Description: Easy to grow, sprawling, edible, lovely nasturtium! The peppery arugula-like leaves are edible, as well as the flowers. The blooms come in a variety of colours.
Verbena ~ Vervain
Description: Verbena is a huge family that includes over 250 species of both annual and perennial plants. Most of them produce flowers that pollinators go wild for!
Hyssop ~ Agastache
These tall showy, long-lasting spikes full of hundreds of individual blooms are essential in a pollinator garden! Also called “hummingbird mint”, they’re a favourite nectar source for our sweet little bird friends.
Heliotrope ~ Heliotropium
Description: These fairly compact plants range from 1 to 3 feet high, with dark green fuzzy foliage. The plants produce very fragrantly, vanilla-scented flowers.
Yarrow ~ Achillea
Description: Clusters of small yellow, pink, white, red, or lavender flowers. One of our favourite varieties is “Moonshine” yarrow, which has silvery-sage, fuzzy foliage.
Blazing Meadow Star ~ Liatris
Blazing Meadow Star is a known “monarch magnet”. These perennial plants can reach over 4 feet tall.
Penstemon range from less than a foot tall to over 5 feet tall. The nectar-rich flowers also come in a wide range of colours, shapes, and sizes.
Pincushion ~ Scabiosa
Round, frilly, tufted flowers that appear in lavender, blues, pink and white. Most varieties are short, averaging around a foot tall. Both annual and perennial varieties exist.
Bachelor’s Buttons ~ Centaurea
Their 2” thistle-like blooms bring interest to the garden, attract butterflies, are edible, and are perfect for cut and dried flower arrangements.
Anise hyssop/Agastache foeniculum
Anise hyssop is considered one of the premier plants for feeding pollinators. One can see bees on the flowers from the morning until dusk.
Astilbe, False spirea/Astilbe spp.
Astilbes are excellent at creating soft, colourful displays underneath trees, in low light corners, or in shady borders.
Chrysanthemum (open types)/Chrysanthemum
Gardeners and councils who want to plant the right flowers to attract bees usually choose them based on how easy they are to plant, and by watching which ones the insects already visit.
This species forms large, rounded clumps of green, long and narrow, textured leaves. It is lovely even when it's not in bloom.
This is a species that is nourished by neglect, and that thrives in sunny, dry, and rocky conditions.
Clematis stans are dioecious semi-arboreal, with pale purple-blue, nodding, tubulous flowers in a paniculate inflorescence. Both male and female flowers produce nectar from the base of the calyx tube during a flowering period of 3 or 4 days and are pollinated by two bumblebee species.
Common poppy, Red poppy/Papaver rhoeas
A must-have for any wildflower meadow or garden, this easy-to-grow annual delights with bright blooms throughout the summer season.
Common yarrow/Achillea millefolium
Yarrow attracts butterflies, bees and other insects, making it a nice addition to a pollinator garden.
Coral bells/Heuchera spp.
Annual flowers like coral bees are readily available at the garden centre, but most have been bred for showy flowers or vigorous growth and do not produce enough pollen and nectar to be good food plants for bees or butterflies.
This perennial herb is a member of the carrot family and originally comes from the Mediterranean.
Foxglove or beardtongues/Penstemon spp.
They are tubular in shape and about 1" long, with the corolla, divided into a lower lip with 3 lobes and an upper lip with 2 lobes.
Globe thistle/Echinops ritro
Echinops, the blue hedgehog thistle or globe thistle, is a perfect sphere of blue that appeals to every pollinator around.
Hyssop (naturalized in North America)/Hyssopus
officinalis Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) Labiatae, is a compact, bushy perennial usually grown in herb gardens, but is great in flower gardens in masses, as a hedge or border, and in pots. Because of its medicinal smell Hyssop has a history as a cleansing herb that attracts a bee.
Large-leaved aster/Eurybia Macrophylla
Asters and goldenrods attract loads of late-season pollinating insects. In the wintertime, they provide food and habitat for many birds and small animals that feast on the seeds and find shelter in the dried stalks.
Many garden varieties are available, these are bulb forming perennials. Some are very showy, with huge flower heads.
Like their relative the foxglove, mainly visited by long-tongued bumblebees such as B. hortorum. Short-lived perennials, often grown as annuals.
Apples are a good source of forage for queens in April and May, and of course, the bee visits ensure a good crop. owers and are very attractive.
Nectar is hidden at the end of very long tubes, so it is visited by long-tongued bees.
A very tough, spreading, low growing perennial. Good ground cover. A bit hit and miss with bees, but seems popular with Bombus hypnorum in particular.
Buddleia davidii, Butterfly Bush
A fast-growing shrub, to 9', great nectar source for butterflies and popular too with bumblebees. I often see young queen Bombus Terrestris on this, fattening up before going into hibernation in July/August.
A great one for male bumblebees in high summer, this species is not spiny like its wild relatives and is quite at home in a herbaceous border.
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale
Visited by long and short-tongued species, the latter often robbing from holes bitten in the tops of the flowers.
Favoured by short-tongued species such as the early bumblebee, B.pratorum, and the tree bumblebee, B.hypnorum.
Great for queens when just emerged from hibernation. Joan of Arc comes highly recommended.
Echinops, Globe thistle
Pretty and unusual perennial, with mauve flowers producing spiky balls on tall sturdy stems in high summer.
Echium vulgare, Viper's bugloss
A stunning biennial wildflower growing to about 4', flowering in July and August and absolutely loved by bees of all types for its copious nectar.
Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea
No cottage garden is complete without foxgloves, hardy biennials that are loved by long-tongued bees such as B.hortorum and B.pascuorum.
Geraniums are hardy perennials that come in a broad range of colours, but most are moderately attractive to short-tongued bees.
Huge plants, related to thistles, with massive composite flowers that bees flock to in July/August. Grows to 6' or more.
Flower in late winter, great for early emerging queens. Unusual looking herbaceous plants, usually less than 1' tall.
Bees seem to go for the nectar but ignore the plentiful pollen, often becoming smothered in it.
Honeywort, Cerinthe major
An unusual annual, preferring sunny locations. Produces huge amounts of nectar, but I've always found it hard to keep this plant going in my garden.
Jacob's ladder- Polemonium caeruleum
Very pretty little perennial, up to 2' tall, and often overlooked as a plant for bees. Easy to grow perennial, tolerates most conditions, flowers in May-June.
Hyssop, Hyssopus officinale
An understated, low-growing perennial herb, can also be used in cooking though not to my taste - I prefer to leave it to the bees!
There are many species of iris grown in gardens - generally with spectacular flowers that are good for bees.
A fantastic cottage garden classic, extremely popular with bumblebees, and flowering for a long period from early summer to autumn. Hills Giant is one of the best varieties for bees.
Perhaps the single most attractive plant for bees on the planet! An easy-to-grow annual, flowers in 8-10 weeks from sowing and keeps flowering for quite a while.
A great early spring nectar resource for hungry queen bumblebees, visited by long-tongued species, especially Bombus pascuorum.
A lovely perennial wildflower with a very long flowering period, from May to September. Visited by Bombus hortorum.
A staple of bumblebees in the wild, red clover used to be a very common UK plant.
A rare perennial wildflower in the UK, stunning pink flowers, and like most legumes, popular with bees.
Salix spp/ Sallow/ pussy willow
Trees, some growing to 30' or more. Sallows are dioecious, being either male or female. Dwarf varieties can be bought for smaller gardens.
Salvia spp/ Meadow Clary
When a bee probes for nectar, this triggers the stamens to curl down and deposit of blob of pollen onto the bee's back.
A succulent herbaceous perennial, flowering in September and loved by male bumblebees and butterflies. Grows to about 1', can be spread by splitting plants.
A lovely low-growing perennial plant found in the wild on rocky coastal headlands. Flowers in May and June. One for the rockery or in pots.
Tufted vetch/ Vicia cracca
A scrambling climber, a wildflower that takes well to the garden, and great for long-tongued bumblebees. Popular with the very rare Bombus distinguendus.
A legume, hence related to peas and clovers, a family much loved by bees for their protein-rich pollen.
Pseudogynoxus chenopodioides (Mexican flame vine)
The vibrant orange blooms on this climbing vine are one of the best (and only) vine flowers that attract monarchs. It also attracts swallowtails, hummingbirds, and bees to our northern butterfly garden.
Duranta erecta (sapphire showers)
Purple ruffled flowers with jagged white edges are attractive to bees and butterflies, as well as the gardener. AKA Duranta repens, ‘golden dewdrops’, or ‘geisha girl’.
Echium fastuosum (Pride of Madeira)
The beautiful purplish blooms with red stamens are popular with bees and butterflies, especially monarchs!
Verbena bonariensis (Purpletop vervain)
This monarch's favorite is also constantly visited by a large variety of butterflies, bees, and birds.
Callistemon spp. (Bottlebrush)
Bottlebrush is native to Australia but grows well in warm regions of the US attracting monarchs, other butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Pentas lanceolate (Egyptian star cluster)
While there are many new cultivars and pentas hybrids, many pollinators seem to prefer sipping nectar from this early heirloom variety. However, most pentas will attract and support pollinator life in your garden.
Oligoneuron rigidum (Stiff Goldenrod)
There are many species of goldenrod, but this species is reported to be a particular favorite for migrating monarchs. It also attracts other butterflies and beneficial pollinators.
A trailing lantana variety with intense purple blooms. A great choice for spilling off raised beds or growing in hanging pots.
Lantana Camara ‘Miss Huff’
While monarchs rarely touch our other lantana varieties, I was pleasantly surprised to see them visiting Miss Huff on a regular basis, along with lantana regulars like the eastern tiger swallowtail above.
Anaphalis margaritacea (pearly everlasting)
Pearly everlasting is one of our earliest blooming northern butterfly plants, and typically the first host plant to receive butterfly eggs each season. A must-have butterfly plant addition for attracting American Ladies and their offspring.
Prunus serotina (wild black cherry tree)
A preferred host plant for Eastern Tiger swallowtails, Coral Hairstreaks, Red Spotted Purples, and those amazing Cecropia Moths! If you’re looking to support butterflies and moths this option gives you several chances
Ptelea trifoliata (hoptree or wafer ash)
Another host that conveniently stays under 20 feet. Its musky spring blooms are a pollinator favourite, and it’s also a caterpillar host for both eastern tiger and giant swallowtails. Pictures to come as our stick matures.
Ruta graveolens (common rue)
A small citrus butterfly plant that hosts black swallowtail caterpillars, as well as the caterpillar that transforms into the largest U.S. butterfly.
Zanthoxylum americanum (northern prickly ash)
The Northern Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) is a Host Butterfly Plant for Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillars.
Zizia Aurea (golden Alexander)
This lesser-known member of the carrot family grows 2-3 feet high and puts forth small, sunny blooms in late spring. It is a host plant for eastern black swallowtails.
Rosa ZLEEltonstrack (‘above and beyond’)
The white and apricot blooms have been an early bee favorite, so plant this spring beauty to support your local pollinators.
Like zinnias, dahlias come in a rainbow of colors. They’ll attract some monarchs, but bees absolutely love the blooms that keep bursting until first frost. After the plants die back, you can dig up dahlia tubers to store and plant next season
Tradescantia ohiensis (Ohio spiderwort)
Ohio spiderwort puts out a profusion of purple blooms in the morning, then fades as the day starts to sizzle. They’re a popular destination for bumblebees in our garden. Try Four O’clocks as a companion plant since they’re on polar opposite bloom schedules.
Nectar Seeds and Plants to help bring home the joy of butterflies.
Beautiful, unusual, exotic and native plants for butterflies.
Ways to attract Bees
Give them cover
Bees need a break from the sun and heat. Planting ground cover can give them a place to hide out between feedings and flying.
Give them something to sip on
Place shallow dishes of water in the yard and around flowers, or keep a fountain going (place pebbles in it for bees to sit on) so they can hydrate as needed.
Try some colourful bee balm
Bee balm is a gorgeous perennial that can attract bees to your yard while also dressing up your landscape.
Keep colour in mind when planting
Bees love blue, purple, and yellow flowers and plants.
Plant flowering vegetables
Consider planting flowering vegetables such as tomatoes and zucchini.
Try planting flowering fruits
Consider planting flowering fruits like strawberries and apples that will blossom before they bloom to fruit.
Forget about pesticides
Use natural pest protection such as herbs, sage burning, and the use of ladybugs in your garden.
Plant single petal flowers
Choose from flat and single petal flowers like Queen Ann’s Lace or Black-Eyed Susans since they are easier to feed from.
Don’t kill or aggravate them
Teach children not to kill or swat at bees. Let them just sniff around and feed and if left alone, they will leave you alone.