Top 10 Plants For Bees

By Mary H. Dyer | April 7, 2018
Image by Nikki Tilley
by Mary H. Dyer
April 7, 2018

Bees play a vital role in the environment, and you can help them out by planting a diverse variety of bee-friendly plants to attract a variety of bees throughout the season. A few quick tips: Bees are attracted to color, especially violet, purple, yellow, blue and white. Single flowers generally produce more nectar than double blooms and are easier for bees to reach inside.

Choose local native plants as often as possible, which are easy to grow and well adapted to your growing conditions. By all means, use no pesticides if you want to attract bees. Here are 10 bee-friendly plants to grow in your garden.

1. Penstemon (Penstemon spp.) – Bees (and a host of other beneficial insects), are highly attracted to the bell-shaped blooms of penstemon, also known as beard tongue. Look for penstemon in shades of lavender, red, pink and white. Zones 3-9.

2. Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – Russian sage is only a cousin to sage and is actually more closely related to mint. That matters little though, because this tall, tough, drought-tolerant plant is a bee favorite that blooms throughout much of the spring and summer. Zones 5-10.

3. Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) – The pinkish-blue spikes of anise hyssop are real bee magnets, especially when planted en masse. For this reason, anise hyssop has long been a favorite of beekeepers. Zones 4-9.

4. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) – Bees are crazy about purple coneflower, a tough, heat-tolerant wildflower native to the prairies of the central and eastern United States. Purple is the traditional color, but coneflower is also available in pink, gold, green, orange, yellow, red and white. Zones 3-9.

5. Bee balm (Monarda) – Bee balm is a lovely little herb with fragrant, colorful blooms that attract bees and butterflies. Look for this stunner in shades of lavender, violet, pink and white. (Red is also available, but is less attractive to bees.) Zones 4-9.

6. Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) – A tall, traditional bloomer that towers over the garden, hollyhock is difficult for bees to resist – and people too! Plant a block of at least three hollyhocks for a dazzling display. Zones 3-8

7. Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) – A classic favorite with pure white petals surrounding a bright yellow “eye,” shasta daisy is among the most bee-friendly plants. This prolific bloomer is easy to grow and relatively drought-tolerant. Zones 4-9

8. Perennial sunflower (Helianthus spp.) – This is great fun to grow and bees (and birds) will love you for it. Although we tend to think of sunflowers as giants, this old favorite is available in a vast range of sizes and colors. Zones 4-8

9. Bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea spp.) – Also known as cornflower, bachelor’s buttons sport fluffy blooms that attract bees like crazy. Although deep, intense blue is the traditional color, bachelor’s buttons are also available in maroon, purple, white or pink. Zones 3-10

10. Globe thistle (Echinops spp.) Closely related to the artichoke, globe thistle blooms in mid-summer, which is perfect timing for many species of bees. Zones 3-8

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