Plant These For The Bees

 

Bee Skep Poster for flowers to plant to attract bees
Bee Skep Poster for flowers to plant to attract bees, available at https://www.etsy.com/listing/182225449/18-x-24-pollination-poster-plant-these?

Planting for the bees won’t work unless you learn to garden without chemicals.

Say NO to Pesticides

  • Avoid pesticides! This goes without saying. In addition, ask the local nursery if they use systemic pesticides on their ornamentals. You might unknowingly bring home plants that have pesticides in their vascular system that permeates the nectar and pollen – every part of the plant.

  • Even the White House uses all organic pest controls and fertilizers. When Michelle Obama announced this in 2009, it caused quite a furor with the agricultural giants, like Dow, Dupont, etc.  Read this letter that Mid America CropLife Association sent to the White House at http://www.lavidalocavore.org/diary/1309/. Basically, they defended using chemicals on crops as an American way of life! They encourage using “crop protection products” on the garden.

Planting for pollinators is very popular now, but what exactly should you plant that will attract the biggest variety of beneficial insects?

Flower Guidelines

Claire's Pollinator Garden Plan
Claire’s Pollinator Garden Plan

Here are some guidelines of how to select flowers suitable for pollinators:

  • Use local native plants. Research shows that local natives are four times more attractive than exotics.

An example of this: Because cultivars are selected primarily on ornamental traits, it is not always clear if they perform the same ecological role as the native plant species.  In many cases they do not.  Echinacea is a case in point. Crazy bizarre shapes and colors of Echinacea are coming on the market.  These Echinacea cultivars are sometimes sterile (bad news for birds, who want the seed) and often have a “doubled” flower form (bad news for pollinators, who can’t reach the pollen and nectar).  

Doubled coneflower that has little resemblance to the species
Doubled coneflower that has little resemblance to the species
  • Colors matter: choose blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow colored flowers for the most attractive power. Reds and oranges attract hummingbirds and sphinx moths. Sweet or stinky smelling flowers also attract pollinators, like bats at night.

colors that bees are attracted to
Colors that attract pollinators, planted in clumps
  • Plant in clumps. Drifts of at least 4 feet in diameter are most effective.

Plant in large clumps of at least 4'x4'
Plant in large clumps of at least 4’x4′
  • Include flowers of different shapes. Pollinators have different tongue lengths, so by providing a variety of flowers, you will benefit a  variety of pollinators.

Different pollinators have varying sizes of tongues
Different pollinators have varying sizes of tongues
  • Have a diversity of plants flowering at different times of the season. By providing pollen and nectar throughout the growing  season, you are providing food for pollinators that fly at different times of the season. Especially try to provide very early flowering plants such as Hellebores or Witch Hazel that bees love to visit. See my post on Hellebores at What is Deer Resistant, Blooms in the Winter, and is Evergreen?

Bee in hellebore flower
Bee in hellebore flower
  • As a general rule, single blooms are more attractive than full frilly ones. It is harder to get to the good stuff, the nectar and pollen.

Single dahlia and double dahlia
Single dahlia and double dahlia
  •  Provide water for the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This could be as simple as a bird bath with some rocks with landing areas to rest on.

    Birdbath with large rock for perching insects and birds
    Birdbath with large rock for perching insects and birds

 

  • Plants that you would normally remove when done – especially  lettuce, radish, cilantro, dill, and lettuce – let flower and go to seed.  I know that I plant lots of veggies and herbs early and can’t harvest them all before the weather warms up in the summer. The radishes get tough and knarly, and the lettuce gets bitter. Leave these to finish out their life cycle and the bees appreciate it!

For local lists for your area, go to www.xerces.org. As a long time gardener, I have noticed which plants bees zero in on and I have planted these every year because of the benefits that bees brings to my garden.

Anise Hyssop is one of the most important flowers for native bees in late summer

Agastache is one of the most important flowers for native bees in late summer
 Twenty-five Common Garden Plants that Attract Pollinators
Common name Type or Use
Abelia Perennial Shrub
Anise Hyssop Perennial Herb
Aster (many varieties) Perennial Flower
Basil Annual Herb
Black-eyed Susan Both Perennial- and Annual- Type Flowers
Butterfly Bush Perennial Shrub
Calendula Annual Herb
Chives and Garlic Perennial Herb
Cosmos Annual Flower
Dill and Fennel Annual Herb
Egyptian Starflower Annual (Perennial in Coastal Georgia)
Goldenrod Perennial Flower
Impatiens Annual Flower
Lantana Perennial Shrub in Coastal Georgia
Marigold (single-flowered types are best) Annual Flower
Mexican Sunflower, or Tithonia Annual Flower
Milkweed Perennial Flower
Mint Perennial Herb
Oregano Perennial Herb
Petunia Annual Flower
Salvia Both Annual and Perennial Types
Sunflower (multi-flowered types) Annual Flower
Thyme Perennial Herb
Verbena Both Perennial- and Annual- Type Flowers
Zinnia 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 Replies to “Plant These For The Bees”

  1. Words fail me. As I continue to read of the damage that big pharma is doing, I’m weak in the knees with fear for our entire planet. They will eradicate us with a nozzle full of round-up. Nuclear weapons won’t be needed. Will anyone wake up in time??? If I with a measly high school education and a senior citizen can get it, there must be someone with good intelligence that can turn this around.

  2. Do you fo a chart same as bees but gor cats.
    I have a garden patch for butterflies and now I know what to plant to attract bees.
    Now I want to also make it friendly for my two ginger cats.
    Any ideas please?

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