Hanging out With the Bees: Choosing Bee Friendly Plants for Your Garden

bee friendly plants

The world’s honey bee population is in trouble, and without them, we’re facing trouble of our own: a potential food crisis.

But there are things we can do to help. Choosing bee friendly plants for our gardens can help increase the world’s bee population.

Here’s how you can make a difference and encourage bees back to your neighbourhood and beyond.

Why Are Bees in Trouble?

Honey bees are responsible for pollinating a third of the global food supply. But these incredible pollinators have been disappearing at an alarming rate. 

The decline in bee populations is impacting our food supply and changing our environments. Some of the most significant contributors to this loss are pesticides, climate change and loss of habitat. 

Many people reach for pesticides when they have a pest in their garden. Slugs, ants and other plant eating insects are frequent targets. Unfortunately, most pesticides don’t discriminate. Honey bees, our helpful pollinators, also succumb to the same poison.

bee friendly plants for pollen

Climate change also impacts our bee population significantly. As weather and seasons change, our plant scape is changing too. Even a minor shift in blooming schedule – as little as three to five days – can impact breeding and life cycle. This then ultimately leads to honey bee loss.

Also, we can’t forget how population rises have an impact. Houses, commercial spaces and busy roads have taken over open fields. With this change, goes the natural honey bee habitat. 

Without places to collect food and build their homes, honey bees are facing a real problem. Fortunately, you can give them a helping hand by making a few small changes to your garden.

Why Fill a Garden With Bee Friendly Plants?

There are plenty of beautiful bee friendly plants available when planning your garden. Many attract butterflies too, which are a good sign of a healthy, thriving garden. 

When it comes to plants for bees and butterflies, not all are created equal. Some plants attract more bees and butterflies than others. Choosing the right plants will attract honey bees and provide the nutrition they need to thrive.

You’ll need to avoid using harmful chemicals and pollinator poisons too. There are safe alternatives for dealing with garden pests that won’t harm bees and butterflies. But you may decide not to use pesticides at all and let your garden become a safe haven for all creatures. 

Or you could work proactively to avoid having insects and pests settle in your garden. Removing standing water from your outdoor space is a great place to start.

Once you’ve tackled your plant selection and have a plan for pest control, you may want to consider providing bee housing. Although we generally think of all bees as honey bees, there are other bees that make excellent pollinators. 

Solitary bees that don’t live in hives – like Mason bees – can be great for our gardens. Providing a small bee house can help attract them to your space.

bee home

Bee Friendly Plants for Your Garden

When it’s time to choose the flowers to include in your garden, you’ll have plenty of options. Even if you have a smaller backyard or patio. Potted plants and small herb gardens can still save our bees

Here’s my pick of the plants that bees find irresistible.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle plants are incredibly fragrant and create a tremendous amount of delicate blooms. They’re hardy, spread quickly, and usually come back year after year. 

With over 180 different varieties, including both vines and bushes, there’s plenty of types and colours to choose from.

Lavender 

Part of the mint family, lavender is found all over the world. Known for its beautiful purple flower and light scent, it’s a favourite in essential oils and fragrances. 

Honey bees love them too. Plant lavender in pots or directly into your garden soil. There are 47 different varieties of lavender, so you’re bound to find one that you love as much as the bees do. 

lavender plants for bees and butterflies

Allium

A staple in classic gardens, allium has a long slender stalk and a full flower made of many smaller blooms. It’s actually part of the onion family and grows in many different colours and varieties. 

Bee Balm

Like its name would suggest, honey bees love bee balm. This plant is also part of the mint family, just like lavender. 

The flower has a sweet fragrance that reminds some of citrus fruits. It’s another hardy plant that adds visual interest while increasing bee activity. All while being low maintenance. Great if you’re not that green fingered. 

Lupin

Part of the legume family, lupin is an attractive, tall flower with plenty of greenery. 

It comes in a variety of colours and can be found in many different parts of the world. As well as its use in the garden as a pretty bee friendly plant, it has many culinary uses too.

Plants That Are Toxic to Bees 

There are some flowers to be aware of that are harmful to bee populations. These include rhododendrons, azalea and amaryllis. 

How to Plant a Successful Bee Friendly Garden

Now you’ve got your plants for bees and butterflies picked out, you’re ready to plant. Here’s a few tips for making sure you get the most out of your new bee friendly garden.

Plant for Year Round Blooms

Try to stagger your blooming seasons so your bees won’t be without flowers when the weather changes. Aim for early spring flowers and plants that bloom well into autumn. The bees will thank you for it.

Group Flowers Together

Planting a single type of flower in a large group is more appealing to bees and helps bring them to your garden. 

So avoid planting many different varieties of flowers. Instead choose several of one type and let them cluster close together.

Look for Single Flower Top Varieties

When in doubt, skip the hybrid flowers and those that have double flowers on a stem. While these flowers look beautiful, they don’t offer much in the way of food for honey bees.

Opt for plant flowers that are native to your area. This can also be a great way to ensure you’re choosing something bees love. 

pink and purple flowers for bees

Feed the Bees

Bees work hard traveling and pollinating. You may want to consider putting out a small bee feeder filled with sweetened sugar water. This can give tired, struggling bees a boost and get them recovering – and back on the job – quickly.

Avoid Keeping Your Garden Too Tidy

Who doesn’t love the look of well-manicured garden? Although they’re beautiful to look at, a very tidy garden provides less food and fewer plants for honey bees. 

Flowering weeds and long grasses encourage bee activity and provide a food source. Especially early in the season. Dandelions provide some of the earliest food of the year for honey bees. 

Plus, if you’re wondering how to start gardening with kids, being a bit messy is perfect! 

multiple bee friendly plants

Helping the Honey Bee Population With Plants for Bees and Butterflies

We need to increase the bee population, and a pollinator friendly garden can help them. Choose bee friendly flowers and plant them in ways they love. You’ll soon be helping the bees and butterflies flourish.

Adding some beautiful flowers to your garden is a relatively simple step. But it can make an incredible difference to our struggling bee population.

More bee friendly plants equals more bees. More bees equals more pollinated food crops and more honey. Eating and living sustainably is high on many of our agendas. So what could be better than taking steps to naturally produce more food?