How to attract bees

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This post 12 Ways to Attract Bumble Bees to Your Garden contains affiliate links. To learn more visit my About Me page.

You might not believe it when I say my kids have never been afraid of bumble bees. They are use to these fuzzy friends buzzing around our yard, and have even been known to pet them.

The truth is the big fat bumble bees (guys, let me just throw it out there I am not talking about wasps here) are actually quite passive and gentle and excellent pollinators. You WANT them in your yard and feasting off your flowers as they will continue to pollinate and keep your yard looking amazing.

So how do you welcome them to your yard? Take a look at 12 ways to attract bumble bees to your yard so they can continue to do their job as pollinators.

12 Ways to Attract Bumble Bees:

1. Give them cover.
Bees need a break from the sun and heat, too. Planting ground cover can give them a place to hide out between feedings and flying.

Coleus is a leafy annual that can be placed in pots and borders to add shade. You can learn more by checking out my Tips for Growing Coleus here.

2. Give them something to sip on.
If you ever run into a fat bumble bee that seems lethargic, it might be dehydrated. Yes, this is a real thing!

Place shallow dishes of water in yard and around flowers, or keep a fountain going (place pebbles in it for bees to sit on) so they can hydrate as needed.

3. Try some colorful bee balm.
Bee balm is gorgeous perennial that can attract bees to your yard while also dressing up your landscape.

It is just a few bucks per plant, and hardy enough for season and after season. Horsemint is a uniquely colored bee balm, and you can find the seeds on Amazon here.

4. Keep color in mind when planting.
Bees love blue, purple, and yellow flowers and plants. Keep these colors in mind when choosing your landscape so you can be sure you plant flowers that they will notice and buzz over to check out.

We have a lilac bush which the bees seem to love. Learn more about lilacs by checking out this post on 5 Ways to Use Lilacs.

Why not consider placing an insect house in your garden? It can help attract good insects such as bumble bees, lacewings, and ladybugs. You can find a bumble bee house here. It’s not only affordable, but oh so cute! Find a bumble bee house here

5. Plant flowering vegetables.
Consider planting flowering vegetables such as tomatoes and zucchini. This way you can get the veggies you want while the bees get the pollen they need.
6. Try planting flowering fruits.
This is much like the suggestion above. Consider planting flowering fruits like strawberries and apples that will blossom before they bloom fruit.

You will get the fruit you want while the bees get the pollen they need.

7. Forget about pesticides.
This may seem like a no brainer, but don’t load up on pesticides. You will kill the bees and that isn’t good. Instead, use natural pest protection such as herbs, sage burning, and the use of lady bugs in your garden.

8. Plant single petal flowers.
Bees don’t do complicated. Layered flowers like peonies can be difficult for them to feed from. Instead, choose from flat and single petal flowers like Queen Ann’s Lace or Black Eyed Susans since they are easier to feed from.

9. Try planting native plants and flowers.
Bees will love flowers and plants that are native to your area. This is what they are the most familiar with.

Do some research on what these plants are and then plant accordingly.

10. Stagger your plantings for season long blooms.
This is a really smart tip for ways to attract bumble bees. Don’t give the bees a nice buffet early in the season then have it all die off.

Instead, stagger your plantings so you can give them fresh blooms all season long. They are sure to appreciate it.

11. Try these popular perennials.
There are so many perennials that bees love, and all you have to do is plant them once and be done. These flowers include cone flower, butterfly weed, poppies, and lilies. Give these perennials a try and see how the bees flock.

Bee Balm is perfect for attracting bumble bees, and you can find this colorful sampler set on Amazon here.

12. Don’t kill or aggravate them!
Teach children not to kill or swat at bees. Let them just sniff around and feed and if left alone, they will leave you alone. Teach children how to be respectful of bees and respect their space.

Attracting bumble bees to your yard is really a wonderful thing. The big fat bumblers don’t typically bite or sting, are quite docile, and love to just buzz around minding their own business.

If you are looking for ways to attract bumble bees to your yard, give these tips a try!

Want some more gardening tips and tricks? Check out these other great gardening topics:

12 Hydrangea Growing Tips
DIY Butterfly Feeder
How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Yard
15 Free Garden Catalogs to Send For


How To Attract Bees and Pollinators

Attracting bees and other pollinators into your garden is very important as these valuable insects pollinate so many of the fruits and veggies we grow. Without them the veggie patch and orchard would look pretty bare.

Even though honey bees are the best known pollinators there are many other insect pollinators that we can attract including native bees, pollen beetles, adult hoverflies, some moths and more. Despite their diversity they’re all after one thing and that’s the food found in flowers – pollen and nectar. So having more flowers in your garden will attract more pollinators 🙂

In the world of flowers though some are more attractive to pollinators than others. This is because they may have more pollen and nectar than other flowers, they may flower at a time when there aren’t many other plants in flower or the flower structure may just be more conducive to landing and feasting.

Pollinator Attracting Plants
There are plenty of plants which will attract bees and other pollinators but here are some of the very best:

  • Annuals – alyssum, cosmos, Queen Anne’s Lace, calendula, phacelia
  • Perennials – daisies, salvias, penstemons
  • Herbs (when in flower) – lavender, rosemary, oregano, borage, basil, yarrow, dill, parsley
  • Trees & Shrubs – eucalypts, grevilleas, bottlebrushes, buddleia, abelia, tea trees

Insect Hotels
Recently there’s been a surge of “Insect Hotels” for sale in stores and DIY instructions available online. However pollinators will naturally find existing nooks and crannies for nesting and sheltering in without the need for an official “hotel”. But hey they do look cute and if they attract some native solitary bees and other guests that’s just a bonus.

Native Beehives
Increasingly gardeners are installing small hives of native stingless bees to boost pollination. These native bees only produce small quantities of honey and don’t need to be intensively managed like honey bees. They are best for areas with mild winters and can be left undisturbed whilst they go about their pollinating business. Visit to learn more.

If you live in an area which is too cold to keep a stingless hive there are still many other native bees that can help with pollination. Often they are solitary species which don’t congregate in a hive but nonetheless they will still be attracted to your garden if it is full of flowers ladened with pollen and nectar.

Tips For Attracting Bees – Plants That Attract Bees To The Garden

Bees do the bulk of pollinating work in a garden. It’s thanks to bees that flowers get pollinated and grow into fruit. That’s why it just makes sense to develop a plan for attracting bees to your backyard. Installing flowering plants that attract bees is an important step when creating a honeybee garden.

Read on for information about planting flowers that attract bees and other steps you can take to encourage these important pollinators.

Attracting Bees to Gardens

There is more than one key to creating a honeybee garden. Putting in flowers that attract bees is an important step, but that’s not the only factor to keep in mind.

Bees can be affected by even slight amounts of chemical pesticides, so be sure you don’t use any. Use IPM (integrated pest management) strategies like cultural, mechanical and biological pest control rather than spraying toxins.

You can also support bee populations by providing shelter in your backyard from wind and weather, which can include appropriate siting for bee housing.

Plants that Attract Bees

Most flowering plants will be attractive to bees. Focus on flowers that are blue, white, yellow or purple, as these are the colors that bees find most enticing. Also, those having blossoms that produce lots of nectar, like butterfly bush, are especially attractive. But the best plants for supporting the entire life cycle of bees are native plants.

By “going native,” you essentially create an additional habitat of plants well suited to your backyard. This will have multiple benefits because you will encourage bees to forage for nectar as well as other wildlife, like caterpillars and birds.

Making a honeybee garden doesn’t require a complete revamp when it comes to attracting bees. Simply plant native flowers that attract bees between your current plantings, and include plants that will flower during different parts of the season to keep the garden flourishing throughout the summer and well into fall. Every region has its own native flowers for this purpose, and it’s best to select plants that grow naturally in your area.

That said, here is a short list of some flowering plants you might consider adding to your backyard:

  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Marigold
  • Nasturtium
  • Coneflower
  • Sunflower
  • Cosmos
  • Salvia
  • Poppy

Herb pants that attract bees include:

  • Borage
  • Bee balm
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Mint

Trees and shrubs can also be very good at attracting bees. These include:

  • Blueberry bushes
  • Honeysuckle
  • Privet
  • Butterfly bush
  • Magnolia tree
  • Willows
  • Holly
  • Hazelnut
  • Hawthorn
  • Maple
  • Witch hazel

Top 30 Flowers For Bees

Bees are vital. Without them, pollination of crops doesn’t occur. Bees work tirelessly to provide us with our food, but are struggling in the wild. In recent years it has become apparent that bees, not just the honeybee, are under threat and some have already gone extinct. Find out on this lens which flowers to grow for pollen and nectar that will feed them and help them to increase their numbers. Insects and plants must now be taken care of by gardeners if they are to survive.The private garden is now a better place than the countryside for wildlife, since much agricultural land is now devoid of the diversity of flowers insects need to give them their ‘five a day’. It is now thought by scientists in the field that insects need as much variety in their food as we do to get all the trace minerals and vitamins to keep them healthy, so go on, plant flowers for the bees!

HA= Hardy annual
HHA =Half hardy annual
P = Perennial
HB= Hardy biennial
HS= Hardy shrub

· 1
Cosmos (HHA) is an annual flower easily raised from seed. It’s also one of the very best for the bee. Grow it in groups, making the collection of pollen easier for the bees, who won’t have to fly as far to find their food. Cosmos grows 2-5ft tall, the majority reaching about 2ft. It’s from Mexico, so a half hardy annual. Plant out after all danger of frost has passed, and deadhead to keep them flowering continuously through the summer. These open, flat flowers will delight you as well as giving the bees a feast.
· 2
Aster (HHA) ‘Compostion’ or Michaelmass Daisies. Many modern hybrids have little or no pollen. easy to grow, colorful and late summer to autumn flowering, they provide food late in the season. Important if honeybees are to be well fed to get through the winter months.
· 3
Sunflowers (HA) are a great choice, available in many heights and colours to suit your garden space. Choose yellow or orange over red, which bees don’t like. Varieties exist now for the allergic gardener, containing no pollen. Obviously avoid these when wishing to attract bees.
· 4
Calendulas or marigolds (HA) are great for bees, especially the original single flowered pot marigold. Dead head regularly for a longer flowering period.
· 5
Primulas. (HP) The native primrose, (primula vulgaris), primulas of all kinds, even the drumstick ones are great early food for bees. Cowslips (primula veris) are also good members of this extensive family of perennial plants.
· 6
Rudbekia (HHA) are an extensive group of cone flowers from the aster family. A wide variety of heights, mostly available in yellows and oranges, sure to brighten your border and feed bees. There are also a few hardy perennial ones, of which ‘Goldsturn’ is my personal favourite. All are easy to grow from seed.
· 7
Scabious or cornflowers (HA), another aster family member, are mostly blue flowered and bees adore them. Dead-headed regularly, they’ll flower all summer long.
· 8
Lavender (HHS) There are plenty of lavenders to choose from, all needing plenty of sun and well drained soil, but they’ll reward you with plenty of fragrant flowers for cutting and drying. Just watch them get smothered in bees when they come into flower.
· 9
Bluebells (bulb) Another early food supply. Just a note of caution for UK growers. The native English bluebell in now under threat from the Spanish bluebell, which outcompetes and crosses with it. So please ensure you are planting the native bluebell to ensure you don’t endanger a bluebell woodland near you.
· 10
Hellebores (HP) The Christmas rose! A lovely flower to have in your garden from late winter to early spring, this plant will tolerate some shade and moist conditions, though not wet. When bees emerge from hibernation they need food fast. This one gives them a snack when there’s little else around.
· 11
Clematis (Perennial climber) The majority of clematis will provide pollen, and I’ve watched bees happily moving from flower to flower gathering their crop. Always plant clematis deeper than they were in the container, as this gives more protection against cleamits wilt. These plants are hungry and thirsty, so add good compost to the planting hole. They also like their roots in the cool and heads in the sun, so once planted I place either a thick mulch or a pile of stones or gravel around their roots, keeping them cool and conserving moisture.
· 12
Crocus (bulb) Early flowering, plenty to choose from, and planted in the autumn to flower year after year. These are great value and cheer me up as well as the bees!
· 13
Mint (HP), especially water mint, is loved by bees. It’s great in your cooking, too. Easy to grow, it can be a bit of a thug, so either grow it in a container or prevent its escape around the garden by burying a bucket (with holes in the bottom for drainage) and plant your mint into that.
· 14
Rosemary (HHS) A mediterranean herb, rosemary likes well drained soild and full sun. It flowers around April/May. A great culinary herb, bees will take advantage of the pollen as long as you prune it correctly. This is best done straight after flowering, as most of the flowers will appear on new wood. Don’t prune rosemary back to old, bare wood as these are not likely to regrow. Depending on where you live and soil conditions, rosemary can be short lived, so take some cuttings each year so you can replace the old plant should it dsie or become too leggy.
· 15
Thyme (H to HHS)) There are now quite a few varieties available, tasting slightly different to each other eg lemon thyme. However, I’ve noticed that the wild thyme (thymus serpyllum) attracts a lot of bee visitors and tends to flower more profusely. But they are all worth growing. Give them the same growing conditions as rosemary and lavender.
· 16
Hebe (HH-HS) This extensive group of shrubs have wonderful flowers for bees. Plenty of pollen, all on one flower and plenty of flowers on one shrub. They vary in height, are mosly blue or pink and tolerate most soils. They dislike too much wet, so a well drained soil is best. Water well, though, until established.
· 17
Borage, the bee herb. (HA) Borage is blue flowered, simple to grow and in fact one type grows wild in the UK, though originally from Syria. Easy, prolific and the bees love it.
· 18
Echinacea, the cone flower. (HP) Now available in a variety of colours, all of which will attract bees. Echinacea Tennesseensis will attract birds, bees and butterflies.
· 19
Mignotette. There are HA, HHA and Perennial members of this family. They are sweetly scented and will attract and feed your bees, especially Reseda lutea.
· 20
Thrift, or Sea Pink (HP) is a great plant for a rock garden, trough or wall. Holding its bright pink flowers well above the grass-like foliage, it will cheer your garden and make the bees come back for more! Give it well drained condiitons and lots of sun.
· 21
Sedums are also excellent plants for rock gardens and walls… Biting stonecrop and English stonecrop (sedums acre and anglicum) are natives, and great for bees.
· 22
Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus) (HB) are fantastic flowers for bees. An old cottage garden favourite, bees are attracted to the pink or white flowers and we love the perfume! They are members of the dianthus family, as are Pinks and Carnations, all of which are good for the bees.
· 23
Monarda (Bergamot) (HP) This is the herb that flavours Earl Grey tea, but the bees love its flowers for pollen and nectar. Its folk name in the Uk is bee balm. It likes a moist but not wet soil and can cope with a bit of shade. Share it with the bees! Bergamot tea is a herbal treat in itself. Just pour boiling water on the leaves and allow about ten minutes before drinking.
· 24
Cornflower (HA) Easy to grow, cheap and cheerful, cornflowers are another cottage garden favourite. Thier blue flowers act like a bee magnet. Grow in as large a group as you have the space for. This makes it easier for the bees to spot them and saves them flying around more than necessary. It’s easy to save seed from one year to the next, too.
· 25
Poppies (HA-HP) All poppies are attractive to bees, and are laden with pollen in nice open flowers. Very easy to grow, especially the annual kinds, and easy to save seeds to sow next year. Enjoy their delicate petals while your bees enjoy a feast.
· 26
Verbena Bonariensis (HP) a tall, delicate looking perennial with purple/mauve flowers that add a tropical feel to your borders. This is easy to grow from seed and sown early enough will flower in its first year. One not to do without!
· 27
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum) (HHA) Plenty of choice in heights and colours. Have you ever watched a bee enter and leave a snapdragon? Their weight pulls the lower part of the petal down so they can get inside for their food, and you can hear them buzzing while they are in there. Lovely to watch.
· 28
Ageratum (HHA) Easy to grow, with heads of blue flowers and another member of the compositae family, so lots of food on one flower head. This is one of my favorite annuals in the garden. Just don’t plant out until all danger of frost has passed and dead head for more flowers.
· 29
Echinops (globe thistle) (HP) This lovely blue thistle is very ornamental, even when not in flower, standing about 36? tall. Bees and butterflies love the flowers which provide plenty of nectar. Easy to grow from seed and will come back year after year.
· 30
Digitalis (foxglove) (HB) Foxgloves make great food for bees. As they are poisonous, protect children from them and handle wearing gloves. As long as these precautions are taken these are wonderful plants for the garden and the bees. A woodland plant, they’re useful for a shady spot.

The world’s bees are in serious trouble. They are disappearing by the colony and, without them, the world is somewhat doomed. Bees pollinate quite a large percentage of the plant-based food we eat.

In addition to using our votes and voices to battle agro-chemical companies and the government officials bought by their lobbying, there is also a grassroots effort to help bees by providing hives and diverse, flowering plants from which they can collect pollen. Some of these plants could be ornamental, but some should definitely be food-producing.


After all, we need bees in the vegetable garden. Luckily, if we plant the right stuff to get them there, the results are almost inevitable: bees will be saved, and we’ll keep eating. It is monocropped fields, a broken apiculture system, and pesticides that are causing the big problems. As individuals, this is one time we can definitely help, and bees will help us in return.

Here’s what to plant in the veggie patch to get the bees there.


Berries of all varieties — including the classics like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries — attract bees. They also make great garden additions. Most can either work as borders surrounding an area, a sort of living fence, or hedges separating up different garden beds. They can help breaking up the wind, providing perennial habitat for useful animals and giving loads of food.

Melons and Squashes

Melons, squashes, and cucumbers are closely related, and they all are in cahoots with bees. They send out sprawling, climbing vines and entice with big, beautiful flowers. The bees, in turn, pollinate the flowers so that we get to eat delicious cucumbers, melons, and squashes. Additionally, these plants create great ground covers for other plants, like beans and corn.


Stone Fruits

When possible, it’s a good idea to put in permanent plants around the veggie patch. It helps to keep life around when the annual veggies aren’t growing. Stone fruits — peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries — have a great selection of dwarf trees to choose from, and they’ll really help to make gardens more productive year-round. Plus, bees — just like neighbors — love them. Fresh fruit is also always a welcome site in a kitchen.

Beans and Peas

The legume family is a friend to all gardeners, as its members often fix nitrogen in the soil, acting as a sort of natural fertilizer for other plants. Beans and peas, with choices for both hot and cool weather, also delight bees as they have alluring flowers. In other words, this is a win-win-win. The garden gets a boost, bees get some pollen, and we get legumes, one of many answers as to where the protein is coming from.


Nightshades: Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant

The nightshade family gets a bad rap for having dubious members with dubious characteristics, whispers of poison whistling on the wind. However, some are amongst our most popular and vitamin-rich veggies as well. What’s more is that tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants bring in the bees. Seriously, who doesn’t want these additions to their veggie patch?

Apples and Pears

Getting back to the idea of perennials in the garden, apples and pears can either come in dwarf varieties, mid-sized (like sedans) or towering giants. Whichever seems suitable for the space available, eventually apple and pear trees provide pounds upon pounds of food. They also attract bees to the garden, which helps to not just pollinate the apples and pears, but the rest of the produce to boot.



Herbs tend to flower, and flowers tend to attract bees. While many herbs — basil, mint, rosemary, etc. — are used to repel insects, no one sent bees the message. In fact, they love these herbs, as well as sage, thyme, dill, and chives. All of these are amazing for our health. But, there are also other great herbaceous garden additions, not necessarily culinary in nature, though some are edible, to attract bees: comfrey, borage, lavender, and lemon balm, to name but a few. Many herbs are either perennial or self-seeding, so they are great, easy-going and super useful pieces in gardens.

Get this collection in the ground, and not only will the cupboards be full for much of the year (all of it if the dehydrator and canning equipment get going), but the bees will keep coming back for more. This is one of those times when doing the environment some good is really of great, immediate benefit to us.

Image source: Andrei Seleznev/


If your vegetable garden is lush and healthy, but doesn’t produce much food… it might mean there’s a lack of pollinators visiting your garden. If you’re not sure how to attract bees to your vegetable garden, I’ve got you covered. Below you will find easy tips for attracting bees and other pollinators to your vegetable garden.

As you probably know, pollinators like bees are responsible for pollination in plants, and therefore super important for growing vegetables.

But if you’re wondering “how do I attract bees to my vegetable garden?” Let me tell you a little story that really drove this point home for me…

Why Aren’t My Vegetables Growing?

A long time ago, when I was a newbie gardener, I read an article that a woman wrote about how, when she first started out gardening, she had never been a fan of flower gardening.

She had a huge vegetable garden and that was her gardening passion. In fact, she said that at that time, there were hardly any flowering plants in her yard at all. She also said that none of her neighbors were gardeners either.

The gardener talked about how every year the plants in her vegetable garden would grow huge and have tons of flowers, but would hardly produce any vegetables.

Female squash flower waiting to be pollinated by bees

I’m not sure what her “A Ha” moment was, but somehow she realized that the problem with her vegetable garden was the fact that she didn’t have any other flowering plants in her yard to attract the bees and other pollinators.

Since realizing this, she started adding plants that attract bees to her gardens and swears that this has made all the difference in her vegetable garden production.

Squash growing after successful pollination

You Need Flowers To Attract Pollinators

After reading that story, I really started to notice the plethora of bees and other pollinators in my flower gardens. In fact, the flowers bees like the most had so many pollinators on them that I didn’t want to go near them (because some of the bees might sting me!).

Sunflowers are one of the best flowers to attract pollinators to your garden

Then I walked over to my vegetable garden. Wow, what a difference! I mean, sure there were lots of bees flying from flower to flower in the vegetable garden too, but not nearly as many as I saw swarming the blooms in my flower gardens.

Plant flowers bees love in your vegetable garden

So, if your vegetable garden is growing and flowering, but not producing much food, then you probably need to attract bees to your vegetable garden.

How To Attract Bees To Your Vegetable Garden

Don’t worry, attracting bees and other pollinators to your vegetable garden isn’t hard. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy. All you need to do is plant flowers that attract pollinators in and around your vegetable garden.

Mix pollinator garden plants with vegetables

I like to intermix annual flowers into my vegetable garden. Not only are annual flowers awesome pollinator plants for attracting bees, they add tons of color to the vegetable garden too!

Plus, they are done at the same time as your vegetable plants in the fall, so they’re easy to pull and replant every year.

Herbs are excellent pollinator friendly plants for your vegetable garden

Another thing you can do to attract tons of bees to your vegetable garden is to plant herbs. Herbs are wonderful plants for bees, and they look beautiful too. When herbs flower in my garden, they are bee magnets!

Perennial flowers are also great for attracting bees, so why not border your vegetable garden with a mix of bee friendly plants that will grow and bloom year after year. Or plant a new pollinator garden bed next to your vegetable garden and fill it with bee plants.

Surround your vegetable garden with flowers that attract bees

List Of Flowers That Attract Bees

What flowers do bees like? Well, to get you started, here’s a list of 15 pollinator friendly plants that you can grow in and around your vegetable garden to attract bees.

These are some of the best flowers for bees, and they are all common plants that should be easy for you to find at any garden center, or grow yourself from seed.

  1. Sunflowers
  2. Mint
  3. Zinnias
  4. Bee balm plant
  5. Chives
  6. Oregano
  7. Marigolds
  8. Sedums
  9. Nasturtium
  10. Cosmos
  11. Butterfly weed
  12. Asters
  13. Lavender
  14. Black-eyed Susan
  15. Snapdragons

For even more information about attracting bees to your garden, read How To Create A Bee-Friendly Flower Garden

If you’re interested in learning more about attracting bees and pollinators to your garden, I recommend these books…

Recommended Reading

  • Attracting Native Pollinators
  • Pollinator Friendly Gardening
  • Our Native Bees
  • Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden

Products I Recommend

More Posts About Growing Food

  • How To Decide What To Plant In A Vegetable Garden
  • 40+ Vegetables That Grow In Shade
  • 17 Easy Vegetables To Grow In Your Garden

Share your favorite pollinator friendly flowers that attract bees to your vegetable garden in the comments section below.

How to make a bee-friendly garden

Bees provide us with an invaluable service by pollinating the plants we grow. Whether big or small, there are things every garden can do to help them.


One of the simplest ways to attract bees to visit your garden is by growing flowers rich in pollen and nectar – perennial plants are great, but don’t discount flowering annuals, shrubs and trees, too.

Once they start arriving, have a go at identifying the species with help from our feature on nine types of garden bee.

For advice on helping bees season by season, find out how to make your garden bee-friendly in spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Follow our advice on how to attract bees and your garden will be abuzz in no time.

One of the simplest ways to attract bees to visit your garden is by growing flowers rich in pollen and nectar.

Grow plants with nectar and pollen

While this point might seem obvious, it’s important to grow a range of plants that will provide a continuous flowering period, especially from March to September. You should also be sure to grow plenty of single flowers – many cultivars have extra parts that make the pollen and nectar inaccessible to bees and other pollinators.

Grow ‘woolly’ plants

Wool carder bees are one of the UK’s largest solitary bees, and they get their name from their practise of collecting hairs from plant leaves and stems, in order to build the cells within their nests. The plants you can grow to provide the ‘wool’ include lambs’ ears (Stachys) and mullein (Verbascum) species.

Create bee hotels

Providing bee hotels is a great way to boost bee diversity in your garden, by attracting solitary species. Solitary bees lay their eggs in the hollow cavities, leaving a small supply of food for the larvae to eat. The larvae then hatch, pupate and emerge from the stems. Always position bee hotels in full sun. Find out how to make a bee hotel.

Make bee nests

Queen bumblebees seek out places to hibernate in autumn and early winter, often in old vole and shrew holes. They then emerge in late winter and early spring seeking a place to start a nest. You can provide a cosy, safe home for them to hibernate in by creating a bumblebee pot or nest, using a few easy-to-find materials.

Relax on weeding

It’s easy to forget that many of the plants we consider weeds actually do a brilliant job at supporting wildlife. Lawn clovers and even dandelions will attract and provide pollen and nectar for bees. As well as relaxing on your weeding, you could leave certain areas of the garden completely undisturbed and let nature take its course.

Helping tired bees

It’s not uncommon to find bumblebees at an apparent standstill appearing tired, particularly in winter or in inclement weather. To get them back on their feet, you can mix a sugar solution by mixing equal parts warm water and sugar. Place near the bee’s head in a bottle cap or something similar, and it should stick out its proboscis to drink, energise and warm up.

Bee-friendly plants for every season

  • Summer: lavender, agastache, Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’, scabious, comfrey, foxgloves, cardoon, echinops
  • Autumn: sedums, single-flowered dahlias, Verbena bonariensis, Japanese anemones, autumn asters, Actaea simplex
  • Winter: snowdrops, winter aconites, ivy, crocuses, winter honeysuckle, hellebores, mahonia, Clematis cirrhosa


  • Spring: flowering cherry, crab apple, hawthorn, bugle, daffodils, pulmonaria, sea thrift, alliums, grape hyacinth

It’s time for ‘the talk’. This remixed version is a little more complex than your typical rom-com about boy meets girl and a series of accidents and misfortunes get’s the girl. In this version, girl meets boy, and then meets a dozen more boys, then begins an empire.

When the empire has succeeded in building up the numbers, it splits in two and said girl, now a queen, goes forth to build another legacy, leaving a capable daughter behind and half the workforce. And that boys and girls, is how a swarm is made.

This explanation now brings us to a bigger and more pressing question for many beekeepers: How do you find and attract a swarm of honey bees?

Let’s dive right into what you need to know about attracting a swarm of bees to a hive.

The Truth About Attracting a Swarm of Honey Bees

There is still a lot that we don’t understand about swarming behavior. Scientists have narrowed down a list of conditions and factors that are present before the girls take to the sky to form a living pulsing cloud in search of a new home.

If you’re trying to lure a swarm of bees to a hive or bee box, then you must be aware of the following factors that influence swarming behavior.

The weather is one factor. A change in seasons provides the nectar and warm foraging weather a colony needs to build comb from scratch. Overcrowding also appears to contribute to swarming.

If you’re lucky, you have a very good queen, and she is great at her job and does it with gusto. As a result, she has provided herself (and you the beekeeper by extension) a serious workforce for nectar and pollen collection.

As she does so, the girls fill up the available space with food reserves and then they start to get a little claustrophobic because every day her highness is popping yet another sister. At that point, swarming is likely to occur.

The Time of Year When You’re Most Likely to Find and Attract a Swarm of Honey Bees

Swarms take to the sky when the weather allows for outdoor activities.

It is, therefore, no surprise that you get a lot of swarms in the springtime. The specific time in spring varies because the weather patterns in winter can affect the size of the colony that makes it through.

Sometimes you have years where the season’s transition from one to the other is like clockwork without any sudden hiccups. Sometimes the winter is warmer than expected and the queen starts to build up the numbers early.

By the time spring comes around, their numbers are quite large which causes them to swarm early. If the beginning of spring is interrupted by a blizzard, then spring comes later that year.

Since weather patterns differ from year to year, and bee colonies are also different, swarming occurs anytime between spring and fall. The months may differ from one state to another but it will definitely occur once the frost has ended.

Most beekeepers associations will have the contacts of beekeepers that are interested in catching swarms and are best suited to advise you on when they get the most business.

4 Factors You Can Control that Significantly Increase the Likelihood Of Attracting a Swarm of Honey Bees to a New Hive

If you’re wondering if swarming bees will move into an empty hive, then the short answer is maybe. You see, when bees go house hunting, there are certain qualities that sway their decisions.

We may not know the mind of a bee, but scientists have worked out that the presence of the following items increases the attractiveness of a hive.

You can use this information to your advantage and increase the likelihood of catching a swarm by using a more compelling swarm attractant.

1. The Use of Old Brood Comb

Honeycomb that has never held brood is almost white and turns a little yellow because of the honey.

Brood comb, on the other hand, tends to be much darker and is made so by the accumulation of old cocoons left in the cells after the adult bees emerge.

This dark comb is very attractive to scout bees and placing a piece of comb in a hive or swarm trap definitely increases the attractiveness of your hives.

In fact, the old comb is so effective that you can find a swarm moving into abandoned hives that still contain this old comb. I guess bees want to move into a home, not a house.

A home has that lived-in vibe, even though it may be a fixer-upper. Bees are pretty good at sealing cracks and cleaning out debris so they settle in quite easily.

Old brood comb has been used in other forms as well. You can melt it down to enhance the scent of the wax and spread some of it on the inside of the hive.

2. Propolis and Other Hive Materials

In the absence of old brood comb, propolis could act as a swarm attractant, albeit without the same level of results.

It would appear that bees are quite attracted to areas where other bees have lived before them. Once again, abandoned equipment, despite its lack of drawn comb, has found favor with a homeless swarming colony.

3. Use Nasonov Pheromones

This has been scientifically proven to be the most attractive scent to a swarm of honey bees. This pheromone is excreted by the scout bees and helps to direct the swarm into the chosen hive once they have arrived at the selected structure.

There are commercial products that mimic this pheromone and they have been found to be extremely effective. One such product is swarm commander (see details).

4. Location! Location! Location!

If you visit experienced beekeepers, you will find that they place several swarm traps and bait hives in elevated areas, particularly trees that bees are attracted to. That isn’t to say you can’t capture a swarm with a hive on the ground, but bees, when they swarm, they tend to do so upward.

Many wild colonies will be found in hollow trees or on the roofs of caves so it’s clear that bees prefer to be higher than ground level.

It’s easier to work with bait hives and then move the colony once they get settled.

Sometimes, the bees can decide to move into an empty hive without much fuss. When that happens count your blessings but don’t get too comfortable. They may not give an anchor performance next year. These creatures continue to be a mystery.

How to Make a Swarm Trap that Attracts Honey Bees

To answer this question, let’s review what we know about bee real estate.

They like a natural cavity with small enough to keep intruders out, yet allowing the inhabitants free movement. The scent of the new home can be a deal maker so they are looking for a hive that has the equivalent smell of cookies in the oven.

If you are a craftsperson, there are multiple options for you to try. From swarm buckets, flower pots and bee boxes, there are multiple construction projects you can attempt.

My advice would be to go with the natural materials but that doesn’t mean the others don’t work. Here is a video that shows you how to create a cheap swarm trap that you can use to attract honey bees.

If like me, you aren’t handy with a saw, all you need is a wooden box, the size of a deep brood box, with a lid. In the book ‘Honeybee Democracy’ by Tom Seeley, he identifies the special needs of the swarm, including the size of the entrance.

The cavity should be 40 liters in volume, which you can easily convert to cubic inches if you prefer. You will find that your average deep brood box will offer roughly the same volume.

The entrance should be 15 square centimeters, which converts to about two and half square inches. The shape of the entrances doesn’t seem to matter so it could be square or circular.

He also stipulates that bees prefer to nest high in the trees. To get the most out of your swarm trap or bait hive, you may have to hoist your bait hive into a tree. More importantly, you need to be able to get it down when it’s full of bees.

If you can, wedge the box between the trunk and a strong branch, and tie the trap/hive to the trunk as an added security measure. Hopefully, you can get some help when it’s time to get the hive down.

If this isn’t possible there’s still hope in the form of swarm lures. I have noodle strength in my arms and hoisting anything that requires brute strength just won’t work.

If you have a good swarm lure, you probably won’t need to do any hoisting. Remember, this is a game of patience with no guarantees. Even so, you have so much more to gain than you have to lose so go ahead and give it a try.

The 3 Best Swarm Lures to Attract a Swarm of Honey Bees

First and foremost, what are swarm lure attractants? Well, as the name implies, this is a product intended to persuade a roaming colony to pick your structure to finally settle down in and raise the kids. The appeal of a lure is in its scent.

Sometimes, in our zeal to cover all our bases, we try to use all types of lures at once. Scientifically, they haven’t found that using two types of lures in one hive increases the effectiveness of either one.

If you really want to experiment with different lures, use them separately. It’s easier to note their effectiveness and figure out what works best for the bees in your area.

I would divide swarm lures into three classifications:

1. Pheromones

Pheromones are the cell phones of the bee world. As mentioned earlier, a commercial lure known as swarm commander mimics the nasonov pheromone that is produced by worker bees. In the wild is used by bees during swarming, among other things. Synthetically, it is made by a combination of oils.

Then there are the pheromones that rule the nest, the queen’s pheromones. These can be extracted from recently dead or culled queens by soaking them in a small vial of rubbing alcohol. This preserves the queen and the pheromones.

Thereafter, you can use a cotton swab to dub a few drops of this solution on the inside of the hive and even place the swab used inside a little baggie with a hole in it and place that in the bait hive. That would slow down the rate of evaporation of the alcohol but you may need to wet the swab every few days to keep it effective.

The downside here is getting a bunch of dead queens. If you’ve had to do some queen replacements recently, that might help, but the effectiveness of this tincturing process is determined by the hormone levels of the queen, therefore it works better with younger queens than those that were headed for retirement anyway.

2. Hive Construction Material

This could be old brood comb, wax or propolis. The old brood comb doesn’t require additional processing and can be placed, as is in the trap or hive.

I have come across a beekeeper that melts the brood comb, soaks a piece of cloth in it and then hoists that fabric on a branch. You can choose to put that piece of fabric inside the hive and let the inviting smell do the rest.

3. Essential Oils

Lemongrass (see details) has long been used by beekeepers to attract swarms. You don’t need much because it has such a strong scent. A drop or two should do it. Alternatively, get a few drops on a cotton swab, and rub the interior of the trap or hive.

Then place the swab in a small bag and poke some holes in it so the scent lasts longer. You could also choose to melt some wax, add a few drops of lemongrass oil to the mix, then let the wax cool and make starter strips for the frames that go into your bait hive.

There are various essential oil recipes available but the simpler you can keep it the better.

Final Words About Catching a Swarm of Honey Bee

Attracting a swarm of honey bees saves you the price of a package of bees, potentially increases the genetic diversity in your apiary, and gives the bees a fighting chance for survival if you prove to be a hard working beekeeper.

It’s also a game of chance but the reward is worth it. Therefore, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try again. If you do succeed, be grateful and hang the traps up next season. You might just capture your own swarm which is a win for you.

Did You Miss These Beekeeping Posts?

  • How to Perform a Beehive Inspection in Under 20 Minutes (Step by Step)
  • How to Market and Sell Your Own Honey for Profit
  • The Ultimate Guide to Feeding Bees Sugar Water (How to Make it & More)
  • 6 Easy & Effective Methods for Raising Healthy Queen Bees (With Guide!)

Why are Bees Attracted to Me?

Bees, of which there are many species, are beneficial insects in a number of ways. For example, they’re pollinators, so they can help your summer vegetable garden flourish. And, of course, some bees make delicious honey.

However, the fact that they’re helpful little bugs doesn’t necessarily mean you want them buzzing around you. Many people have apiphobia — or a fear of bees — and other people are highly allergic to the insect’s sting.

Some folks just seem to attract bees like moths to a flame. But whether or not you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why are bees attracted to me,” it doesn’t hurt to learn what could make a bee seek you out — and what to do if one of these insects takes an interest in you.

Related > Understanding Why Bees Swarm

What Are Bees Attracted To?

To understand why bees make a beeline for you, it helps to know what these insects are looking for in the first place.


Many bees feed on the nectar from flowers. Since nectar is sweet, it makes sense that bees would be attracted to sugars and fragrances that smell flowery or sweet. That’s why you may notice bees at your picnic, especially if you’re drinking sugary sodas or eating fruits, such as pineapple and watermelon. In addition, if the scent of sunscreen, perfumes, lotions or hair products is overly saccharine (has a sweetness resemblance), there is a chance it may attract bees.

Patterns and colors:

In addition to nectar, bees feed on pollen that they get from flowers. Bees can see colors in the spectrum ranging from ultraviolet to orange and have been noticed to prefer purple, blue and yellow flowers. They also tend to be drawn to symmetry, so there is some chance that a combination of bees’ preferred colors and symmetrical patterns could attract them to you.

How to Not Get Stung by a Bee

There’s no surefire way to ensure you’ll never be stung by a bee. However, there are some measures you can take to try to prevent bee stings as much as possible.

Related > Why Do Bee and Wasp Stings Hurt?

  • Watch where you walk so that you don’t accidentally step on a hive or run into one. Bees may sting if they think their queen or beehive is in danger.
  • Check your yard regularly for nests before doing yard work or running a lawnmower. Some bees nest underground or in hollow trees, so keep an eye out for insects coming and going from a common location.
  • When dining outdoors, cover sugary drinks, fruits or popsicles, as bees are typically attracted to sweets.
  • Avoid wearing sweet-smelling perfumes, colognes, sunscreens or scented hair products, especially if you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors.
  • If you see bees near flowers, change your path.
  • Know what to do when a bee is near you: Don’t swat at it or you could send it into defense mode. Rather, calmly move away in a straight line until you reach an enclosed shelter. Even then, some more aggressive bees may still sting you.
  • Don’t try to hide from bees by diving into water. Some bees may just wait for you to emerge.
  • In addition to the other colors mentioned above, avoid wearing dark colors and reds. Bees may associate these colors with their natural predators and may see you as a threat to their hive.

Again, bees are a vital part of our ecosystem and are very beneficial insects. Therefore, if you can leave a colony undisturbed, you should.

Next > 11 Bee Facts and Myths

10 Terrific Flowers for Honey Bees

May 14, 2014 2:04 pm

Rudbeckia lacinata ‘Autumn Sun’ is a late-summer bloomer that bees love.

The decline in honey bees (Apis mellifera) has heightened the popularity of honey bee plants. Many favorite flowers for honey bees, like sweetclover, thistle, alfalfa and dandelion, are Eurasian plants too weedy for flower beds. Thankfully, there are some beautiful summer garden flowers, many being North American natives, which are also great nectar and pollen plants favored by these Old World native bees. Regional natives are also superb forage plants for regional bees.
The best honey bee plants provide a good supply of both sugary nectar and protein-rich pollen sought after by these and other long-tongued bees. Lots of beautiful garden flowers provide both in high quantities. Here are our top 10 favorites organized by bloom time. Choose one for each blooming period and you’ll have great bee blooms throughout the growing season! All are sun-loving and grow best in good soils with regular to good drainage. Amend with Fafard Premium Natural & Organic Compost Blend and feed with a fertilizer for flowers, such as Black Gold Rose & Flower Fertilizer, for best results.

Early Summer Bee Flowers

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida, perennial): An elegant beauty with fine, drooping petals, the pale purple coneflower is a bee favorite that also produces seeds much loved by finches. A native of grasslands and savannahs across the Eastern United States, this tough coneflower will bloom for up to three weeks from June to July. When in bloom, its flowers will feed lots of bees. You might even see a few butterflies on them as well.
Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium, perennial): The bright, flattened heads of common yarrow are covered with tiny daisy flowers that bees really favor. Native to both Eurasia and North America, this plant attracts loads of pollinators no matter where it’s planted. There are many beautiful varieties for the garden; two of the better variants are the rich red ‘Strawberry Seduction’ (image left) and ‘Wonderful Wampee’, which has pink flowers that fade to nearly white.

Summer Bee Flowers

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus, annual): Nothing attracts and feeds bees like good old sunflowers. Their massive and prolific blooms come in shades of yellow, gold, red and orange and give way to lots of oil-rich seeds enjoyed by seed-eating birds and humans alike. There are literally hundreds of varieties to choose with various flower colors, heights and flower sizes. The dwarf varieties ‘Little Becka‘ (image left; 3-4’ tall with gold and brown flowers) and ‘Big Smile’ (1-2′ tall with classic golden flowers with black centers) are choice selections for any garden.
Blue Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, perennial): The pretty spires of purple flowers produced by the giant hyssop become simply covered with bees. A native across the northern regions of North America, this fragrant perennial in the mint family it tough and very hardy. The hybrid Agastache ‘Blue Boa’ (image left by Terra Nova Nurseries) is an exceptional variety from Terra Nova Nursery that is exceptionally beautiful.
Horsemint (Monarda punctata, perennial): Few garden perennials draw bees as efficiently as the long-blooming horsemint. A native of much of the United States, this sun-lover produces tiers of unique pink to white bracted flowers through much of summer and into fall. The blooms of these fragrant plants last a long time and become completely covered with pollinators. Plant in very well-drained soil for best performance.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea, perennial): The popularity of purple coneflowers and their many hybrids serves as a testament to their beauty and resilience. All are a favorite of bees, and like the pale purple coneflower, seed-eating birds enjoy the seedheads that follow. The purple-pink daisy flowers begin blooming in summer and will easily continue into late summer and even fall if the old flowers are removed. Some of the better new variants for big, long-blooming flowers include ‘Dixie Belle’ (left, image by Terra Nova Nurseries) and the super heavy blooming ‘Pica Bella’
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp., annual or perennial): Nothing says summer like a beautiful black-eyed Susan, and bees appreciate their prolific flowers just as much as we do. One to seek out is the heavy blooming dwarf ‘Little Goldstar’ (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Little Goldstar’).

Late-Summer and Fall Bee Flowers

Asters (Symphotrichum spp., perennial): The pinks, blues and purples of late-summer and fall aster flowers are a delight to all bees. There are so many wonderful varieties to choose from it’s hard to know where to start. The classic ‘October Skies’ (image left, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’) is a wonderful late bloomer with lavender-blue flowers and orange centers, and the dusty sky blue ‘Bluebird’ (Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’) is an earlier bloomer with prolific flowers.

Joe-Pye Weeds (Eutrochium spp., perennial): This group of mid-to late-summer bloomers produces big, fuzzy heads of purplish-red flowers filled with nectar and pollen. Native across North America, many of the sun-loving perennials are adapted to moist ground. One of the finest garden varieties is Eutrochium purpureum ‘Little Red’ with its 4′ tall stature and pretty reddish-purple flowers.
Goldenrods (Solidago spp., perennial): Lauded as one of the best bee flowers for late summer and fall, goldenrods become a buzzing mass when they open. In fact, goldenrod honey is a delicacy, known to be darker with a distinctive bite. Excellent garden-worthy goldenrods include the dwarf forms ‘Golden Fleece’ (Solidago sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’) and ‘Baby Gold’ (Solidago ‘Baby Gold’).
With just a few of these garden beauties, feeding the bees all summer long is easy.

About Jessie Keith

Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

Content Disclaimer:

This site may contain content (including images and articles) as well as advice, opinions and statements presented by third parties. Sun Gro does not review these materials for accuracy or reliability and does not endorse the advice, opinions, or statements that may be contained in them. Sun Gro also does not review the materials to determine if they infringe the copyright or other rights of others. These materials are available only for informational purposes and are presented “as is” without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including without limitation warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. Reliance upon any such opinion, advice, statement or other information is at your own risk. In no event shall Sun Gro Horticulture Distribution, Inc. or any of its affiliates be liable to you for any inaccuracy, error, omission, fact, infringement and the like, resulting from your use of these materials, regardless of cause, or for any damages resulting there from.

22 PROVEN Flowers That Attract BEES! [2020 Guide]

“Wait, you want me to ATTRACT bees?“

The first time I heard that people actually want bees in their backyard I thought they were a bit crazy!

It seemed like I was just asking to get stung, or worse, one of my small children getting hurt and never wanting to go outside again!

Quick Links!

  • The 22 Best Flowers For Bees

  • 4 Tips for Attracting Bees

  • How were the plants on this list selected?

But finally, I stopped panicking and started listening. Then I was able to learn about how honeybees and native pollinators are declining, and that home gardeners might offer the best chance for these insects to make a comeback.

The decline of the honeybee.

Over the last handful of years, the plight of many bee species has come to light in agricultural and horticultural systems, including the home garden. Their populations are decreasing at an alarming rate and potentially putting food production in danger.

Fortunately, bees and other native pollinators are now being seen for the benefits they bring to gardens, fields, nurseries, and orchards worldwide.

  • RELATED: Bee Houses 101: Where to buy and how to use them!

What kinds of flowers do bees need?

One of the most essential things gardeners can do to encourage a rise in bee populations is to grow plants in their gardens and landscapes that attract pollinators. Giving them a reliable source of food will help promote population growth.

Plus, when you attract bees to your backyard, there are other fun creatures that you will see, such as hummingbirds and butterflies!

  • RELATED: How to Attract Hummingbirds: 38 Simple Tips!

  • RELATED: How to Attract Butterflies! (Coming Soon)

Fortunately, many plants attract bees and pollinators.

When bees are scouting for food, they are searching for two types of plants:

  1. Flowers that provide nectar.

  2. Flowers that provide pollen.

Nectar provides carbohydrates (i.e., sugars) and an instant boost of energy to bees. Excess nectar is stored in their belly until they get back to the hive and to share with other bees. An enzyme in their stomachs turns the nectar into diluted honey, which is stored in comb cells to evaporate the remaining water.

Pollen is the primary source of protein for bees. When brought back to the hive, it is packed into brood cells. As needed, it is mixed with honey to make “bee bread,” and consumed by nurse bees to produce royal jelly for the larvae.

22 Common Plants that Attract Bees!

Perennial flowers are a great option to bring in honey bees because after the initial investment and time spent planting, these plants grow back year after year. Most perennials are typically easy to plant, easy to grow, and require very little attention to flourish.

Annual plants, on the other hand, must be regrown from seed each summer but usually, produce more flowers and for a longer time than perennials during the growing season.

I am drawn much more to perennial flowers because once they are in the ground and growing, there is not much seasonal maintenance. So as you can imagine, most of the plants below are perennials, but you will find some of my favorite annual bee flowers towards the end. 🙂

As you are reading, please keep the following things in mind:

  • Most of the plants listed below have many cultivars or varieties available for purchase. Some are better suited for different growing zones, some grow to different heights, and they all have slightly different blooming times. You may need to do additional research or contact a local nursery or garden club to find plants that work best in your area.
  • Where appropriate, you can find links to Amazon where you may purchase seeds or small plants, but PLEASE do your due diligence before buying online! I’ve had mixed results buying flowers and shrubs from the Internet and prefer going to a local nursery when possible!

#1. Aster

View Aster – Amazon

Growing upwards of 6’ tall, with dozens of blooms on a single plant, asters make a great addition to any flower garden and are great for attracting bees. Asters are daisy-like perennials that bring a variety of colors to your garden towards the end of the growing season when most other plants have stopped flowering.

Flower colors come in white, pink, purple, blue and red and plants range in size from short groundcovers to towering plants. With so many choices, it’s easy to find a variety of aster that fits into your pollinator garden.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 1-8’ tall, 1-4’ wide

Bloom Time: July, August, September

Light Requirements: Sun, but will tolerate some high canopy shade.

Genus: Aster

#2. Bee Balm

View Plants – Amazon

A North-American native perennial, bee balm wonderfully attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Bee balm grows up to 4’ tall and produces brightly colored tubular blooms that are a fantastic nectar source. Deadheading flowers will encourage a second round of blooms.

  • RELATED: 28 Common Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds (Native, Easy To Grow)

There are over 50 cultivars commercially available, representing many different colors. Some are mildew resistant, and certain ones will be better for your region than others, so please check the hardiness zone and do your research.

Easy to grow, deer resistant, and drought-resistant! Bee balm is a member of the mint family, so be careful where you plant it as it tends to spread prolifically.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 3-4’, up to 3’ wide

Bloom Time: July, August, September

Light Requirements: Full Sun, but also does well with a bit of shade

Scientific Name: Monarda didyma

#3. Black-eyed Susan

View Plants – Amazon

Black-Eyed Susans are an incredibly drought-resistant, native perennial that grows wild in grand expanses sweeping across the Midwest prairies. Their bright yellow daisy flowers draw in bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to feed on their nectar.

These sun-loving beauties are quickly gaining popularity outside of their meadow habitats because of their easy-growing nature. Black-eyed Susans are also incredibly easy to find at your local nursery!

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 1-3’ tall, up to 1.5’ wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August, September

Light Requirements: Sun or partial shade

Scientific Name: Rudbeckia fulgida

#4. Coneflower

View Plants – Amazon

This daisy-like perennial blooms midsummer and are relatively drought-tolerant, making it a great addition to bee gardens in hot climates. There are only a handful of species in the genus, and they all share common characteristics described by words such as “stiff,” “dry,” and “tough.” Plants are deer-resistant and can be left standing over the winter for birds to eat the seeds.

Also known as Echinacea, coneflowers are typically easy to find and come in a wide range of cultivars. Bees and other pollinators LOVE coneflowers, and they are highly recommended for your flower garden.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 2-3’ tall, 2’ wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August, September, October

Light Requirements: Sun

Genus: Echinacea

#5. Cosmos

View Plants – Amazon

Available in a variety of colors, cosmos grow wild in meadows across Mexico and North America. Many of these native varieties have been cultivated and in turn, became a favorite bedding plant in ornamental gardens. Due to their predisposition for growing wild in meadows, they do well in hot, dry climates and average to poor soil conditions.

Cosmos have colorful flowers, similar in shape to daisies. The 3-5” wide blooms make excellent cut flowers but are known for attracting bees, butterflies, and birds to your garden. Plants left alone in the fall will self-seed for the following spring.

  • RELATED: 20 PROVEN Plants That Attract Butterflies!

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-11

Life Cycle: Perennial or Annual

Approximate Mature Size: 1-7’ tall, 18-30” wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August

Light Requirements: Sun

Genus: Compositae

#6. Goldenrod

View Plants – Amazon

Goldenrod is a common native plant primarily found in open areas such as prairies, and meadows. Many people confuse goldenrod with ragweed, which is that pesky plant that makes so many of us sneeze each Fall!

Goldenrod plants do have many useful properties, and because of this, they are finding their way into garden landscapes. These late-blooming flowers are known for their ability to attract bees and other pollinators.

A bonus is planting goldenrod near vegetable gardens will draw insect pests away from your valuable plants!

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 1-6’ tall, up to 3’ wide

Bloom Time: July, August, September, October

Light Requirements: Sun to part shade.

Genus: Solidago

#7. Joe-Pye Weed

View Plants – Amazon

Towering Joe-Pye weed plants are filled with nectar and pollen and feature beautiful pinkish-purple flower heads. Sturdy stems support the large flowers, so plants rarely need to be staked, making them great accent plants at the back of your bee garden or along fences.

Joe-Pye weed grows best when given plenty of water, especially young plants. Older, established plants can handle brief periods of drought.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 6-8’ tall, up to 3’ wide

Bloom Time: July, August, September

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Genus: Eutrochium

#8. Liatris

View Plants – Amazon

Commonly known as “blazing stars” or “gayfeathers,“ Liatris blooms unique flowers that add interest to your pollinator garden. Grass-like leaves clump together at the base of the plant, with a tall spike of dense flower heads.

The pinkish-purple flowers bloom from the top down and are loved by bees!

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 3-4’ tall, up to 1’ wide

Bloom Time: July, August, September

Light Requirements: Sun

Genus: Liatris

#9. Milkweed

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Although a beneficial plant for attracting bees, milkweed is often treated as a weed and removed from gardens and landscapes. These hardy perennials thrive in the sun and can tolerate average to poor soil. There are many varieties of milkweed, and it will sometimes be referred to as “butterfly weed” at your local nursery.

Milkweed is also fantastic for the famous Monarch butterflies, who use it both for nectar and as a host plant for their caterpillars.

  • RELATED: 34 Host Plants for Butterflies and Caterpillars!

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 2-5’ tall, up to 2’ wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August

Light Requirements: Sun, to part shade

Genus: Asclepiadaceae

#10. Pansy

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Known for their colorful “faces,” pansies have an extensive range of colors. I like that they will thrive in both container gardens or when planted directly in the ground. They are treated as annual plants due to their legginess but will come back if left to go to seed.

Pansies like partial sun and cooler temperatures. They also need plenty of water to thrive.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Life Cycle: Perennial, usually grown as an Annual or Biennial

Approximate Mature Size: 6-8” tall, 6-8” wide

Bloom Time: April, May, September, October

Light Requirements: Partial shade, will tolerate sun if given enough water

Genus: Violaceae

#11. Penstemon

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Native to the Western United States, penstemon flowers flourish in full sun and less than ideal soil conditions. There are over 300 species to choose from coming in a variety of colors. Nectar rich flowers are incredible for pollinators such as honeybees.

For optimum growth, don’t fertilize or mulch with organic materials. Use rocks as mulch to allow proper drainage and prevent crown rot in the winter. Leave some seeds on plants to ripen as new seedlings are stronger and more vigorous than parent plants.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 6”-8’ tall, 8-20” wide

Bloom Time: April, May, June, July, August, September

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Genus: Penstemon

#12. Peony

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One of the most well-known and loved perennials, peonies make a fantastic addition to any flower garden and bees love them. Some bushes may bloom for up to 100 years if you pick an appropriate variety for your climate and soil type.

Peony plants take a few years to establish themselves before you will see maximum blooms. Select a sunny location with soil that drains well. Fertilize minimally and provide support to keep heavy blossoms from snapping the stems.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 1-3’ tall, up to 3’ wide

Bloom Time: May, June

Light Requirements: Full to part sun

Genus: Paeonia

#13. Phlox

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Phlox flowers are bright, disc-like, and available in colors from white to purple, hitting many shades of the rainbow in between. These beautiful flowers come in both upright and creeping forms and work well as border plants and accent flowers. They are known for their dependable nature, abundant blooms, and the ability to attract bees and other native pollinators.

Phlox has been a perennial favorite in heirloom gardens for decades, yet looks entirely at home in modern-day designs.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 8”-4’ feet tall, 1-2’ wide

Bloom Time: April, May, June, July, August, September

Light Requirements: Sun to part shade

Genus: Phlox

#14. Salvia

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Most of us know salvia by its more common name, sage. Ornamental salvias are a cousin to the common sage we grow to use in the kitchen.

Plants are known for their small clusters of bright flowers that bloom in the summer and fall, and draw in bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

Salvia plants can be divided into three groups:

  1. Varieties with woody stems.

  2. Plants with herbaceous stems that die back to the ground in the winter.

  3. Varieties with herbaceous stems that form basal rosettes.

Plants are fairly drought-resistant and low-maintenance, making them a great choice for a spot in your garden that gets a lot of sun exposure but not much water.

There are MANY cultivars of salvia available, and it can be confusing when you start shopping. I think it’s a good idea to head to a local garden store for help finding a variety that grows well in your hardiness zone.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-10

Life Cycle: Perennial or Annual

Approximate Mature Size: 1-3’ tall, 1’ wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August, September

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Genus: Salvia

#15. Sedum

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Also known as “stonecrop”, the fleshy sedum plants provide a long season of flowers that often change color as the season progresses. This long-blooming period makes them a great plant to use to attract butterflies and bees.

Sedums like lots of sunlight and grow well in moderate to even poor soil, as long as it’s well-drained. Richer, heavy soil causes plants to grow tall, toppling, or snapping under the weight of the flower clusters.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 4”-2’ tall, 1-2’ wide

Bloom Time: May, June, July, August

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Genus: Sedum

#16. Snapdragon

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A cool-season flower, snapdragons add beautiful color to gardens early in the spring and then again in the fall. Snapdragons are available in most colors, which will help you coordinate and contrast with other garden plants. Their tall spikes make for a longer blooming period than many other plants.

Tubular flowers make them popular not only with bees but also with butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil and deadhead often to prolong the blooming time. They are typically grown as annuals but can overwinter in zones 9-11.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-11

Life Cycle: Perennials but typically grown as Annuals

Approximate Mature Size: 8-36” tall, 12-18” wide

Bloom Time: May, June, July, August

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Scientific Name: Antirrhinum majus

#17. Sunflower

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Nothing says late Summer or early Fall like sunflowers!

Known for their large, brilliantly colored yellow or orangish heads, sunflowers are a favorite with bees. In fact, it’s common for many insects to occupy a single flower head simultaneously!

These fast-growing, erect annuals provide a large landing area with many small nectar flowers.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-10

Life Cycle: Annual

Approximate Mature Size: 3-10’ tall, 12-18” wide

Bloom Time: July, August

Light Requirements: Sun

Scientific Name: Helianthus annus

#18. Zinnia

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One of the easiest annuals to grow, zinnias provide a wealth of color in a garden landscape as well as attracting bees. Zinnias grow best from seed and require little care other than deadheading flowers as needed.

Varieties are available in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes. Make sure to deadhead spent blooms to encourage a longer blooming season.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-11

Life Cycle: Annual

Approximate Mature Size: 6” tall, 12-18” wide

Bloom Time: May, June, July, August, September, October

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Scientific Name: Zinnia elegans

#19. Berry plants

Berry plants offer a plethora of flowers in a small area. This is a huge attractant for honey bees as it concentrates an abundant food source for the bees within a limited space.

As a bonus, the bees and other pollinators will be helping to create delicious berries for you to eat later in summer!

Here are a few popular berry plants that offer flowers that bees can’t resist:

    • Strawberries
    • Raspberries
    • Blueberries
    • Blackberries

#20 Fruit trees

During Spring, when other plants and flowers haven’t bloomed yet, fruit trees can provide massive amounts of food for bees!

Here are a few different fruit trees that I have planted in my backyard:

    • Apple
    • Peach
    • Cherry
    • Pear

#21. Herbs

Flowering herbs work well to attract bees because of their strong scent. If you don’t have much experience growing herbs, here are a few to try out:

    • Mint
    • Basil
    • Lavender
      • RELATED: 15 Simple Tips To Grow Lavender From Seed!
    • Oregano

#22. Vegetable plants

Veggie plants produce numerous yellow flowers that easily attract bees to the home garden. Immediately, I think of large zucchini or pumpkin flowers in my garden!

    • Tomatoes
      • RELATED: How To Grow Tomatoes From Seeds!
    • Pumpkins
    • Cucumbers
    • Squash
    • Zucchini

4 important tips for attracting bees

Tip #1: Group plants and flowers together.

One of the best ways to bring bees into a garden is to group plants together. Bees like having a selection to choose from and they especially enjoy flowers in shades of blue, purple, yellow, and white. If possible, use the same plant in an area about one square yard in size.

Tip #2: Pay attention to bloom times!

Pick plants that have a long blooming season to keep bees coming, or choose different plants that bloom at different times of the year to provide a full season’s worth of flowers.

Tip #3: Take care of your plants.

Care for plants accordingly to encourage flowers to bloom. I’m talking watering, fertilizing, weeding, and pruning. If not, there may be no nectar and pollen available for bees.

Tip #4: Limit or eliminate pesticides in your yard.

If you use any chemicals for pest control, make sure they are not harmful to bees. Avoid using pesticides that specifically target bees or apply them at dawn or dusk when bees aren’t active.

Personally, I think you should avoid using pesticides in your yard.

But if you must, neem oil, vinegar, and Epson salts are natural alternatives that can be used safely without damaging bee populations.

My criteria for choosing plants for bees.

When I sat down to compile a list of the best plants for drawing bees into your garden, a few criteria came to mind:

1. Abundant Source of Food.

Adult bees are drawn into a yard or garden that has a plentiful source of nectar flowers. Like butterflies and hummingbirds, they need the sugary solution to give them energy.

  • RELATED: The 2019 Hummingbird Food Guide (Easy Nectar Recipe + 8 FAQ’s)

Pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies only desire nectar plants, but bees also need plants with a pollen source to get adequate amounts of protein.

2. Native to North America.

Personally, I believe it’s best to plant flowers native to North America to draw in pollinators. They provide excellent sources of energy for bees but are also preferred by hummingbirds, butterflies, spiders, etc.

But the line between what is native and what is not is a bit unclear. Some plants originate from other continents but have been in North America for such a long time that they are considered “naturalized” in the wild. Also, most plants you see in nurseries are not what you would find in nature anyway, but rather are a cultivar of the wild version of that flower species.

So I did my best when trying to make sure the above plants are all native. Forgive me if it’s not perfect. 🙂

How do you know if a plant is native?

There is a helpful search tool located on the United States Department of Agriculture website. If you are not sure if a plant is native, type in the scientific name or common name in the search bar on the left-hand side. It will show you whether the plant is native to North America, introduced, or both.

*View the USDA Native plant search tool here.*

3. Easy to Find

I wanted to stick to plants that are readily available at your local nursery or easy to buy from a reputable online retailer. In fact, many on the list can be ordered and shipped from Amazon, and I tried to include a link whenever possible.

I tried to compile a list of plants that you didn’t have to order a year in advance from a specialty nursery and then have it shipped across the country.

4. Relatively Easy to Grow

I am certainly not a master gardener. When considering flowers, I wanted them suitable for gardening amateurs. I tried to search for plants that don’t require a lot of attention once they are in the ground, albeit the basics such as watering, fertilizing, and pruning.

Choosing plants for your hardiness zone

Your Plant Hardiness Zone is also imperative to consider when selecting any flowers, shrubs, or trees to put in your garden. This will ensure the plant is appropriate for your local climate.

Whenever you buy a plant, it displays the hardiness zones on the plant tag, which explains what climates/areas it will thrive. For example, I live in Northeast Ohio, which is zone 6a. If I bought a flower that had a plant hardiness zone range of 8a – 12a, then I know it won’t survive our cold winters. Many plants only thrive in colder (lower) zones and can’t live through the hot summers of the south.

Making sure your plants are appropriate for YOUR hardiness zones is extremely important! And it’s the reason that a bee garden in Alabama will look completely different than the habitat I have created in my backyard in Ohio.

Creating your own regionally unique destination for bees is part of the fun!

Check out the USDA website to type in your specific zip code.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, many native plants encourage bees in your yard. Planting a variety of flowers filled with nectar and pollen will draw them to your garden, provide nourishment, and help to build bee populations back up.

by David Salman

Honeybee pollinating squash blossom.

Help to Assure Pollination

Bee on Echinacea ‘Rocky Top’ hybrid.

Pollination is an essential part of the web of life, and nowhere is it a more essential than when growing our food. Honeybees and bumblebees (and to a lesser extent, native bees) are key to a successful vegetable harvest. And it’s especially important in urban and suburban areas—where honeybee hives may be few and far between—that we make an effort to feed them by planting flowers.

The Importance of Spring to Fall Flowers

By planting a succession of flowers to bloom from early spring to fall in our yards and near the vegetable garden, we help to build the honeybee population and keep them around for the whole growing season. This is of particular importance from mid-summer into fall when the majority of the pollinator-dependent veggies are in flower. We can get this done with a nice mix of annuals, perennials and culinary herbs.

Vegetables that Need Bees for Pollination

Watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, pumpkins, eggplant, hot peppers and gourds all must have bees to pollinate them. Tomatoes, while self-pollinating, will have better fruit and seed set (important to gardeners who collect their own heirloom tomato seeds) when their flowers are vibrated by visiting bees.

  1. Phenomenal French Hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ PP24193) is a French hybrid lavender notable for its outstanding cold hardiness and tolerance to heat and high hu…

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  4. Lavandula angustifolia Sharon Roberts is an outstanding twice blooming English Lavender with spikes of bicolored lavender-blue and gray-green foliage….

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  5. Pastor’s Pride is a twice blooming English lavender that has thrived in the Mid-West with excellent cold hardiness and moisture tolerance. This variety has nice chubby mid-blue flowe…

    Learn More Pastor’s Pride English Lavender Pastor’s Pride English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Pastor’s Pride As low as $11.99 Sale $10.79 Per Plant – 5″ Deep Pot Pastor’s Pride is a twice blooming English lavender that has thrived in the Mid-West with excellent cold hardiness and moisture tolerance. This variety has nice chubby mid-blue flower spikes in late spring and September. Learn More

  6. This exclusive HCG selection of English lavender has some of the darkest colored flowers youll ever see making it a stand-out in your garden! Faster growing than other dark colored L…

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  7. Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote Superior (Hidcote Superior Lavender) is sweetly fragrant, uniformly compact and blooms with darkly colored lavender-blue flower spikes in late spring….

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Recommended Perennial Flowers

As a landscaper, I make perennials the focus of my plantings. Perennials come back from their roots year after year and often re-seed themselves, thus minimizing the amount of replanting that needs to be done each year. Some of my favorite bee-attracting ornamental perennials include:

  • Aster ( Aster novi-belgii and Aster novae-angliae cultivars).
  • Beardtongue (Penstemon ‘Red Rocks’, ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’) .
  • Bumblebee on Penstemon mexicali ‘Red Rocks’

  • Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa, Monarda cultivars).
  • Catmint ( Nepeta cultivars) .
  • Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata).
  • English and French hybrid Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula intermedia).
  • European Sages (Salvia nemerosa cultivars).
  • Goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’, S. rugosum ‘Fireworks’, S. ‘Wichita Mountains’, ‘Little Lemon’ ) – essential for attracting beneficial predatory insects too.
  • Hummingbird Mint (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, ‘Blue Blazes’, A. neomexicana).
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis).
  • Ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii, V. lettermanii ‘Iron Butterfly’).
  • Meadow Blazing Star (Liatris punctata, Liatris ligulistylus, Liatris aspera).
  • Ornamental Oregano (Origanum ‘Rotkugel’, ‘Amethyst Falls’).
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea and cultivars, Echinacea paradoxa, Echinacea tennessensis ‘Rocky Top Hybrid ‘).
  • Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpureum).
  • Russian Sage (Perovskia cultivars).
  • Stonecrop (Sedum species and cultivars).
  • Sulphur Buckwheat —(Eriogonum umbellatum cultivars) – essential for attracting beneficial predatory insects too.

Culinary Herbs

Growing your own herbs alongside and in with your vegetables is a “no brainer.” Culinary herbs have fantastic bee attracting flowers and provide anti-oxidant rich seasonings to cook with your vegetable harvest. And many of these herbs will also help to attract beneficial predatory insects that help reduce the populations and damage caused by injurious insect pests like spider mites and aphids.

  • Basil (Ocimum) – an annual that re-seeds readily
  • Catnip (Nepeta catarina).
  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum).
  • French hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia ‘Gros Bleu’ has a sweet, low camphor scent and taste).
  • Italian Seasoning Mix (Thyme, Sage, Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Marjorum) .
  • Oregano (Origanum x majoricum ‘Italian’) has a sweet, low camphor scent and taste).
  • Peppermint (Mentha spicata ‘Peppermint’).
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’, ‘Alcalde Cold Hardy’, ‘Blue Boy’) .
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Minimus’).
  • Spearmint (Mentha spicata ‘Spearmint’).
  • Thyme (Thymus officinalis ‘English’).

Annual Flowers

The easiest way to use annuals that are especially valuable at attracting bees, is to plant one of our seed mixes that have been specially formulated to do the job, such as honey bee mix with a mix of annual and perennial seeds. Just seed the mix into one of your raised beds or dig up an adjacent patch of soil next to your vegetables and sow in the spring.

The key is to plant flowers, lots of flowers that bloom over a long time in the growing season to complete the web of life in your yard and garden. That first juicy tomato of the season will tell you it is worth the effort.

Text and Photos by David Salman.

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