Bee Supporting Plants

There are tons of bee-supporting plants out there; so many that the choices can be overwhelming. Remember that just planting a garden (even a small one) will help the bees. It doesn’t even need specific “bee-supporting plants” because really all flowering plants are bee-supporting. However, we’ve assembled a list of the top 10 plants to include in your garden to really support your  solitary bees. Along with our top ten  list there are 3 simple things to consider while making your selections that will invite more bees to your garden party.

What to Consider When Choosing Plants to support Bees:

1-Pick native plants to your area. Check with your local garden center for recommendations. Stay away from exotic invasive plants (such as purple loosestrife and Japanese honey-suckle) that can crowd out more useful food sources. It is best to use plants that are suited for your zone. You can look up your zone here.

2- Avoid modern hybridized plants especially the “doubled bloom” varieties. The “old fashioned” flowers provide more nectar and pollen than the new plants bred for their bright colors and showy blossoms. Many of these modern flowers do not even produce pollen or nectar and will do little good for your pollinators. If you want to include these hybrid types just be sure there are other flowers available as a food source.

3- Use a variety of flowers to ensure there are always plants in bloom. Solitary bees are opportunistic and will utilize the flowers available.  Be sure to pick plants that bloom from early spring to fall. The longer the pollination season the more bee offspring will be available for next year.

By following these general rules you’re sure to create a great garden area for your bees and other pollinators. To make your garden over the top awesome for your bees be sure to include some of our top bee-supporting flowers! Here they come (not in order of importance)….drum roll please……

Top Ten Bee Supporting Plants

1-PURPLE CONE FLOWER (Echinacea purple)-  This flower is found wild in the Utah mountains where most of our solitary bees are raised. It is a great pollen source for many butterflies, honey bees, solitary bees and bumble bees. For humans there are many commercial preparations of the purple cone flower that stimulate the immune system.

2- BEEBALM (Monarda didyma)- Is a great flower for early to mid summer pollination. You can try the species M. fistulas and M. didyma to use for teas to soothe tummies.

3- RASPBERRIES- Raspberry plants serve a dual purpose for bees as well as provide a yummy treat for us. Raspberry plants not only provide an excellent pollen source for solitary bees but the leaves from the raspberry plants are ideal for the Garden Bee to use to make cells in their tubes. The leaves do  not have large veins and they are the proper thickness for the bees to cut through and use for nesting. Many of the other types of berries have the same benefits. While making your selection choose an ever-bearing variety. This will allow the plants to be a food source in the spring for the Mason Bee as well as the Garden Bee in the summer.

4- LILAC BUSHES (Syringa vulgaris)- Lilacs are a low maintenance shrub that produce flowers ranging from purple, pink and white. Many varieties start blooming in the middle of May (depending on location).  Mixing different varieties can allow for a blooming time between 6-8 weeks. Not only are these flowers a nectar source but like the raspberries lilac leaves are ideal for the Garden Bee nesting practices.

5-CHERRY TREES– Cherry trees provide ample blossoms in the early spring. They are a great source of pollen and nectar. They are a favorite of the Blue Orchard Mason Bee , honey bees and other spring time bees. All trees that blossom at the same time, as the cherry tree will have similar benefits. Trees in this category include almond trees, apple trees and peach trees.

6-ANISE HYSSOP– A perennial plant that is easy to grow. The plant does best in zones 4-9 and produces blossoms from mid summer into the fall. It is best to deadhead this plant for continued blossoms, which will take a bit of work. The continual blossoms make it ideal to avoid “dry spells” for the bees. The hardiness of this plant makes it excellent to plant along back areas of the yard and near walkways. It will do well and provide many starts for transplanting. It can also be made into a great tea for the digestive system

7- GARDEN VEGETABLES-Okay so this one is kind of cheating on the top ten list. Oh well, deal with it. There are tons of different types of vegetable plants but for simplicity’s sake we are grouping them together. Most vegetables start blossoming in the late spring to summer. The Garden Bee and Sunflower Bees love to pollinate all the veggie plants they can find.

8- SUNFLOWERS (Helianthus annuus)- Sunflowers are great pollen sources for the late summer and fall months. Having blossoms that bloom late in the season may help extend the time your bees can reproduce. This means more bees available for pollination next year. (Of course they are perfect food for the Sunflower Bee).

9- AMERICAN MOUNTAIN MINT (pycnanthemum muticum)- A perennial plant native to North America. It usually grows on the edges of forests and prefers partial shade. It has long lasting summer time blooms; that attract a variety  of pollinators.  Mountain mint preforms double duty. Not only do bees utilize it as a pollen source, it’s also commonly known for its medicinal properties. Make the leaves into teas and rub leaves onto pant legs to repel mosquitos and other pesky insects.

10- WHITE CLOVER (Trifolium repens)  Clover is one of the best bee-supporting plants. It is a great food source for bees because it is in bloom most of the growing season. It is easily grown and can be planted almost anywhere. Some people find it bothersome growing in their lawns but the bees will love you for growing them some. White clover is on of the most common varieties but most varieties are great options.

The plants in our top ten list are not listed in any particular order.  We hope they will give you a good base to start planning and planting your garden. Whether you plant just a couple or all of them.