Bees. Run from them. Love them. Don’t care about them. Whether you’re keen on them or not, we kind of need them. Being some of the most prolific pollinators in the world, a good chunk of the flowering plants that we have would not be here without them.
So, it’s not just out of the good of our hearts that we should be helping them out, but the good of our environment too!
One of the best ways that we can help them out on an individual level is to make sure that the area around us is full of plants and other flowers that are perfect for bees to pollinate and collect nectar.
So, if you happen to have a garden, and a few feet of soil free, you’re in luck! You too can do your bit to help bees flourish in your garden, by planting one of the following plants in a nice, open space that bees can access!
OUR TOP PICK
Come on. You knew that this was going to be on this list somewhere, so why wouldn’t we start off our guide to the best plants for bees with arguably one of the best?
Sunflowers are pretty iconic and charismatic flowers in their own right. Their tough green stem, their stubby, but large yellow petals. And, of course, their huge disc florets.
It’s in these florals that sunflowers produce a truly gargantuan amount of nectar, making them ideal for pretty much all pollinator species, especially ones of the bee variety.
Add to that the fact that sunflower pollen and nectar are also shown to help boost bees’ immune systems, and you would be crazy to not at least consider growing these flowering plants.
Plus, sunflowers are a pretty hardy species too, and can be grown in a variety of different conditions, with a little care and attention from a gardener. A well-maintained sunflower seed will reach its full flowered size in as little as a hundred days, giving you quick results too!:
There are some limits to consider. AT up to 12 feet tall, sunflowers aren’t exactly compact or small flowers to grow. Make sure you’ve got space for them!
- Produces plenty of great pollen and nectar for bees!
- A hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soils.
- Can grow in surprisingly little time.
- A large plant that requires a lot of space, especially a ‘flower’ plant
Of course, as amazing as sunflowers are as pollen and nectar sources for bees, they’re by no means the only plant that is great for bees. If you’re looking for a little variety 9as well as a flower that won’t grow 12 feet tall), you have plenty of alternatives.
Spanish Clover is one of our favorites. Growing only to around 24 inches at most, this is a far more compact (and easier to move and transport) flower than sunflowers. But that isn’t the only thing going for these delightful little flowering plants. Far from it, in fact.
The short stem or floret of a Spanish clover (or any clover for that matter) makes it easy for a bee (see also: What Are Festooning Bees? Why Do They Do it?)or other pollinator to access the nectar and pollen inside, making them a prime candidate for a stop-off from an errant bee that’s flying through the botanical neighborhood.
Plus, just look at these little flowers! The single, yet vibrant petal makes them a dash of color that anyone would be glad to have in their garden/plant pot!
Add to that a relatively long time when clovers are often in bloom, and you have a plant that can feed bees for pretty much an entire season!
- The florets of Spanish Clover are great for bees to have easy access to pollen.
- Small, and easy to grow in soil in both plots and plant pots.
- This is a long-lasting flowering plant for pollinators to visit.
- Not ideal for large amounts of bees to pollinate at a single time. Then again, it blooms for so long, this may not be an issue!
If you’re looking for plants that are easy to grow and are going to last a relatively long amount of time, you can do a lot worse than trying to grow Calamintha for bees to pollinate from.
These perennial plants are known for producing small, white flowers that are easy to access for bees, thanks to the short floral tubes that bees usually forage from to grab nectar.
Plus, these plants will be able to survive for several years in soil when cared for properly, which also allows for them to root far and wide, making it doubly good for taking cuttings and propagating from.
It’s not just the plant's longevity that helps it last a long time, but also its other defense mechanisms. You’ll notice that Calamintha has a fragrant, almost minty smell to it. This smell makes it unattractive to many animals that normally graze on shrubs, like rabbits and deer.
All while still encouraging tons of pollinators to visit them, from hummingbirds to bees.
Just make sure that you’re keeping those roots under control. If you’re looking to move this plant, those roots can be surprisingly tricky to control or get rid of.
- Grows very quickly, and can easily be propagated from its many roots.
- Encourages tons of pollinators into your garden, including bees.
- Also deer and rabbit resistant.
- The extensive root system makes it difficult to transport easily, as well as spread if not tended to regularly.
We’d make a joke about how bees don’t have palms, but we’re better than that.
Instead, we’re going to talk about this excellent little
One look at a flourishing bee palm will tell you everything that you need to know (see also: What Are Carniolan Bees? All You Need To Know)about these plants. Their bright colors practically do the work of advertising to bees for them, with bright reds, pinks, and purples being common among them.
Thanks to their adaptable roots, and being able to grow in different soil conditions, these plants also tend to grow vigorously, and quickly.
Meaning that you’ll soon find your flowerbed filled with bee palms. It can be a little hassle to control, so make sure that you have enough space for them to grow a little.
Overall, it’s pretty easy to conclude that bee palms are some of the best flowers that you can grow for bees, and that’s because… well, they are.
After all, if bees and this plant are so synonymous that they put them in the plant’s name, they have to be pretty synonymous with each other!
- Vigorous growth doesn’t just make them grow quickly, but grow plentifully too!
- The bright colors that bee palms come in make them great signals for bees to visit!
- A plant that can be grown in many different conditions!
- While they are hardy in most conditions, sitting in water too long will cause the root system to rot.
Folks may know comfrey as a flowering plant that makes for a phenomenal type of ointment that is used around the world.
However, for our purposes of attracting bees to your garden or growing space, comfreys are also some of their most popular plants to visit!
The bell-shaped flowers that comfrey grows are perfect for bees to enter and intake pollen and nectar from, especially when they grow in large quantities, providing plenty of shade and moisture/water for many pollinators to rest in and around.
Not only that, but this plant, once it has reached the end of its life cycle too, makes for phenomenal fertilizer too, meaning that even after it has died off, comfrey is there to help keep your soil nutrient rich for other comfrey and flowering plants to grow in.
Add to that how comfreys can grow incredibly vigorously and quickly, and you have an easy favorite among bee enthusiasts to grow.
- These plants grow very quickly and in large quantities.
- This plant allows for plenty of nutrients and shade for bees and other pollinators to use.
- older/dead comfrey also works as an excellent fertilizer.
- That fast-growing nature is a double-edged sword. While it can grow quickly, it can become invasive very fast too, killing off other plant/flower species.
Of course, not every kind of soil is going to be perfect for flowers to grow in. The moment you get out of warm, temperate/tropical climates, you’ll find that plants need to have the right qualities to survive, much less encourage pollination.
For this reason, if you find that you’re growing flowers in dry, arid environments, you should consider using some type of sage plant.
Many sage species, such as Russian sage, are known for growing in incredibly dry environments where other flowering plants would otherwise struggle.
Plus, the flowers themselves are not just pretty, but their bell shape makes them ideal for bees to enter and grab nectar for their hives, while also getting plenty of pollen on them.
The growth of sage is also pretty easy to control, with sage plants tending to be quite easy to control and trim, thanks to their smaller size. The biggest specimens don’t tend to get much bigger than bush-sized, even when not grown in a pot.
And, of course, that’s not even touching on how sage can even be used in home cooking as a great herbal flavor to add to meals!
If you’ve got the patience to let this plant grow, you’ll find a plant that bees will be able to come back to for years to come!
- Sage can grow in plenty of drier environments that would be otherwise too tough for flowering plants.
- Flowers are perfect for bees to rest and get nectar in while getting covered in pollen.
- Sage is easy to control, so it is tough to become invasive.
- Makes for a great cooking ingredient too!
- Sage is a relatively slow-growing plant, taking up to 3 years to fully mature.
- Being such an advertising little herb, sage also runs the risk of being eaten by many garden pests, from snails and bugs to grazers like rabbits.
Willows are already considered some of the best trees/plants for encouraging pollination from all kinds of species. However, there are also a massive number of different willow species to choose from.
The most iconic is the trees with huge, blanketing canopies that you’ll sometimes find growing along riversides. Beautiful, but not exactly practical for those of us who don’t have a giant garden space or river in our backyard.
For this reason, when talking about willow species that won’t be taking up too much space in a given area, your best bet for bee-friendly willows is the pussy willow.
This is a medium-sized plant that isn’t going to take up your entire garden, while, crucially for bees, having very exposed florets when in season. This makes them an attractive prospect for pretty much all pollinators, including bees.
Of course, this is still a tree species, so it’s going to keep growing if not maintained year after year. But if you’re prepared to sink the time into them, you’ll find pussy willows are some of the best flowering trees for bees out there!
- Pussy willows bloom early and in large quantities, making them a vital cornerstone species for pollinators early in spring.
- A relatively small willow plant that is easy to grow.
- Female willow trees grow much more vigorously, making them harder to control and can sometimes become invasive.
What Makes A Plant Good For Bees?
With an almost countless number of flowering plants out there, it was unlikely that we were going to tackle every flower or plant that bees love. So, it will save time to help list some of the best qualities that a bee/pollinator-friendly plant will have.
If you’re a keen-eyed gardener, you’ve probably started to see a few patterns and features in the plants that we’ve already covered that you can draw your conclusions from. If that’s the case for you, then you’ll have next to no trouble finding the right ones for your garden.
If not, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered here!
This is arguably going to be one of the biggest factors to look for in the best plants for bees and other pollinators for that matter.
Florets are the parts of a flower that are going to contain both the nectar that bees need to survive and the pollen that allows the flower to propagate. As such, having plants with larger or exposed florets is key for attracting bees.
Fortunately, this is an evolutionary adaptation that many flowering plants take advantage of
Somewhat tied to the last idea, the shape of a flower can often help or hinder a bee’s efforts to get honey(see also: Can You Get Stung By A Honey Bee?).
Petals that allow for easy access to nectar and pollen, and even a little shade from the sun, are all going to be high on a bee’s to-visit list!
This is particularly important if you are growing plants from seeds. A seed isn’t going to be feeding any bees any pollen anytime soon, so the faster they germinate and grow, the better it is for bees.
However, while the initial growth of a plant and its flowers are great for bees, they can also become a problem after a certain point. Plants with vigorous growth can quickly start to spread, making them a headache to keep cutting back and stopping from becoming invasive.
An ‘invasive species’ effectively means any plant that is not typically from the environment where it is growing, and monopolizes the qualities of and are (soil nutrients, light, space, etc.) to dominate over local species that are
This can have a drastic effect on local ecosystems, damaging local plant and animal populations, and causing massive changes to the soil quality in a given area as well, often making it more difficult for this damage to be undone.
These changes will in turn have a knock-on effect on native bee populations. As familiar plants die out, and species that provide alternate sustenance or other functions go, the overall population of bees ends up taking a massive hit. Invasive species are one of the biggest causes of declining bee populations across the world!
Many of the faster-growing plants in our guide, like comfrey, can quickly turn invasive if not cut back regularly. Try and balance growth speed with our native they are to a local area when planting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Bees Help Plants?
Bee’s getting nectar from a plant is a one-way beneficial street. Bees that carry pollen between plants also allow them to propagate, while still maintaining genetic diversity.
What Is A Pollinator Garden?
Pollinator gardens are growing spaces for plants that are specifically there to support local pollinator species like bees.
So, as you can see, the plants that bees enjoy extracting nectar from are as varied and amazing as the bees themselves. This symbiotic relationship between insects and plants is both a joy to see for yourself, and instrumental to the survival of many parts of our natural world.