The best plants for attracting bees
We all know how important bees and other pollinators are to the world. Their role isn’t limited to just helping flowers reproduce, they are essential for maintaining ecosystems for wildlife and pollinating the food we need to survive. In fact, bees are responsible for pollinating over 30% of the world’s food supply so it’s vital we look after them.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to help bees thrive is to plant flowers and plants that will attract them, offering nectar and pollen to keep them healthy enough to buzz around and save the planet.
There are two things that attract bees to the garden: nectar, which provides most of their energy and pollen, which is where bees get most of their protein and fats. These can both be found in a variety of garden flowers. Bees love colourful, showy flowers that grab their attention and make them want to find out more.
One of the most well-known ways to attract bees is to offer them a variety of colours. Bees see things differently from humans but despite this, both species can appreciate a vibrant colourful display of flowers.
A mixed-colour bush is an easy way to brighten the garden and attract pollinators without too much effort. This Buddleia Tricolour Butterfly Bushboasts three shrubs in one and blooms flowers in pink, purple and white from summer through autumn.
Alternatively, using different colours of the same plant creates an attractive aesthetic that can be enjoyed by both bees and humans. Our Mixed Azaleas selection fits the bill perfectly. It adds a pop of colour to the garden with striking flowers blooming from spring to late summer.
Bees love open flowers that have sweet nectar on the show and are welcoming and easy places to land. Flowers like this gorgeous Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’ are perfect. With a pronounced stamen that contrasts beautifully with the pink hue of the petals, these flowers bloom in late spring with a second flush in late summer!
Plants that are native to the area often produce more pollen and nectar than those that have been imported. Wildflowers are a great option. These wildflowers are eye-catching and vivid and the different varieties of flowers ensure blooms are available throughout the year. They are also native to the U.K. so is much easier for our bees to pollinate.
Bees prefer hanging out in the sun to being in the shade so try and position your bee-friendly flowers in a spot that gets lots of sunlight. Ideally, some shelter from the wind is also desirable.
This Ceanothus Repens Patio Tree thrives in a sheltered sunny spot and its clusters of sweetly fragrant blue flowers are irresistible to pollinators.
There are over 250 types of bees in the U.K.; as you’d expect, they all have slightly different habits. This means ‘bee season’ can last longer than you might expect and you may wish to provide flowers for them from early spring right through to late autumn.
Bright hues make primroses a popular choice with early emerging bees, who’ll make a beeline (see what we did there?) for the nectar-filled centres. This Primrose Mix of six plants will add a burst of colour and have bees buzzing their way around your garden as soon as they come out. Primroses bloom from late winter until late spring so they are perfect for early emerging bees.
At the other end of the season, bees start to disappear from September so you’ll want to keep some nectar and pollen-rich plants available for them until autumn well and truly kicks in. Perovskia Blue Spire Russian Sage is a hardy deciduous shrub that blooms lavender-blue flowers from summer through to autumn with its high volume of flowers attracting bees and other pollinators.
What flowers can you use if you have hay fever
The good news for hay fever sufferers is that plants pollinated by insects are much less likely to trigger allergies than wind-pollinated plants, such as grasses and trees with catkin flowers. The heavier pollen sticks to the bee and is transported that way rather than being dispersed by the breeze and breathed in by us.
Bell or tube-shaped flowers are ideal for hay fever sufferers. The pollen is kept inside the bloom, which makes it more difficult for humans to come by but still easily accessible for bees and other pollinating insects, who can crawl inside to find the nectar. Try planting Agapanthus to add splashes of colour while keeping allergies at bay.
What about pesticides?
Pesticides and insecticides are essential for keeping plants and flowers healthy and vibrant in appearance. However, some of them can be detrimental to bees and other beneficial insects, leaving them so disorientated that they can’t find their way back to their hive. The good news is that bee-friendly pesticides and even insecticides are available.
Check the bottle and if it’s bee-friendly then it’ll be sure to tell you. One option many organic gardeners swear by is Epsom salt. As well as being an effective fertiliser, Epsom salt is great for keeping slugs, snails, beetles and other pests away from your plants without harming bees.
Inviting bees and other pollinators into the garden is generally quite easy but with a little care and planning, you can ensure they keep returning. If you need more inspiration about what to plant to attract pollinators then check out our section on bee-friendly plants here.