We garden because we love to grow. Vegetables, flowers, trees, fruit are all things we can plant in the ground to nurture and care for through their season. We delight in the rewards (too many to list) and revel in our bounties. Is there anything better? As gardeners, we know the importance of our pollinators and understand that we need to protect and feed our bees. With the bee population dwindling, we need to have a bee-friendly garden. We have the complete list if you want to do your part and grow some of the best flowers for bees and pollinators.
Pick a few of these flowers to grow in and around your yard to invite bees and provide them with food, so they thrive.
WHAT MAKES A FLOWER BEE-FRIENDLY?
If you’re planning on planting a pollinator garden, how do you know what flowers to grow? Bees have specific needs, and the plants suggested here fit these requirements:
The flower provides the right kind of food. Flowers that attract bees and pollinators need to provide nectar and pollen. Avoid cultivars bred specifically to reduce pollen.
It’s the right color. Bees prefer blue, purple, and yellow; Bees can see flowers in the blue spectrum easier than any other. But do not be shy away from planting a variety of colors and different types in your garden.
The flower is the right shape. Flat-shaped flowers with easily accessible centers and sweet nectar are the flowers that are right for most bees. Flowers in the daisy family fit this bill.
Native Plants – Some flowers will be native to your area, and native bees are naturally attracted to them. Planting native species ensures that the bees have food.
And to make sure that your bees stick around, make your gardens safe and comfortable :
Avoid pesticides. Pesticides are very harmful to bees and pollinators; avoid using them in your garden. Instead, try companion planting or using non-harmful organic pesticides. If you have to use pesticides, the best way is to do it after 9:00 pm and before 5:00 am when bees are asleep in their hives.
Be sure to provide water around your flowers. Create a small bee watering hole by placing a shallow, wide dish in the garden filled with clean water and a few stones, so the bees have somewhere to stand.
The Best Perennial Flowers For Bees
As easy as it is to plant a few seeds for annuals, perennials are the plants that provide the biggest bang for your buck. Plant them once and have flowers come back year after year. There are several perennial flowers that are recommended for bees and we’ve included them all on this list.
Bee balm (Wild Bergamot)
Bees and butterflies both flock to bee balm. The plants have many clusters of tiny flowers that are abundant with nectar. Honey bees are particularly drawn to bee balm, as are butterflies and hummingbirds.
To grow bee balm in your gardens, be sure to plant in rich, moist soil in a bright sunny location. Bee balm will tolerate shade in very hot summers but will flower better in full sun.
This perennial plant will come in a range of colors from purple, pink, red, and white. White bee balm looks particularly beautiful in an entirely white moonlit garden.
- Bloom Time – Mid Summer to Late Summer
- Hardiness – USDA Zone 3-9
- Height- 26-46″ dwarf varieties can grow less than 10″ high.
purple Coneflower (Echinacea)
Coneflowers bloom midsummer to fall, and this long bloom period keeps bees fed for months. The flat flower faces also make it easy for bees to access the pollen. Coneflowers are a native perennial favorite of North America and an excellent food source for wild and worker bees.
These excellent, large daisy-like flowers are well-loved by bees. Bees and butterflies feed on the large pollen-filled centers that last from mid-summer to fall. The bees are also attracted to the purple-colored flowers.
They need full sun and like well-drained soil. They can grow in light shade or shaded areas with strong afternoon sun.
Coneflowers bloom in colors from pink, orange, or white to light creamy yellows and, of course, purples. For the bees, we will want to plant the purple varieties.
- Bloom Time – Mid Summer to Fall
- Hardiness – USDA Zone 4-8 (some varieties can be grown in zone 3)
- Height – 24-48″
Poppies are undemanding garden favorites that are easy to grow and require very little care. The plants put on an early spring show with lavishly bright ornamental flowers that make excellent cut flowers.
While other flowers are still growing and lacking blooms, poppies provide a much-needed early-season food supply for the bees.
Plant outside in the full sun with well-drained soil. Poppies are not fussy about their soil, but they require good drainage to prevent their roots from rotting during the winter. Once established, oriental poppies require very little care.
Poppies come in colors ranging from white, pink, coral, orange, or red. The white poppies are an excellent early spring addition to moonlight gardens.
- Bloom Time – Early spring to mid-summer
- Hardiness – USDA Zone 3
- Height – 24-48″
Perennial asters (not to be confused with annual asters) are flowering plants that belong to the daisy family. Many are wildflowers and native plants, making them a natural food source for bees. Asters are long-lasting flowering plants that provide lavish bright-colored single or double blooms well into fall. Long after many flowering food sources of summer are gone, asters provide a late fall meal for the bees.
Asters come in various colors, but the blue-violet purple types are perfect for welcoming bees into your garden. These flowers look beautiful in a flower border and add a pop of color to the landscape during fall.
- Bloom Time – Late Summer to Fall
- Hardiness – USDA Zone 4
- Height – New England asters and New York Asters grow 36-60″ while Tatarian aster grows 72-96″
The perennial phlox species are long-flowering plants that are showy and produce clusters. They grow well in full sun but tolerate light shade. Phlox enjoy well-drained moist soil with lots of organic matter.
Flowers come in a wide range of colors from white, purple, pink, blue, and lavender.
Bees will enjoy the flowers for their abundant pollen.
- Bloom Time – Late Summer to Fall
- Hardiness – USDA Zone 4
- Height – Summer phlox 36-48″, creeping phlox 9-12″, moss phlox 5-6″.
The shape of the Shasta daisy attracts the bees to their flowers. Bees will land on the large yellow centers to feed on the pollen. Bumblebees are particularly attracted to Shasta daisies because the flowers have an abundant supply of pollen.
Shasta daisies like full sun, but they will bloom in partial shade. They require slightly acidic, well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. Shasta daisies can become invasive plants.
Shasta daisies are white.
- Bloom time – mid-summer to the first frost
- Hardiness – USDA zone 3
- Height – 12-24″
The Best Annual Flowers for Bees
There are so many easy-to-grow annual flowers that pollinators love. So we’ve included flowers that provide adequate pollen and nectar for the bees with ease of access.
CornFlowers (Bachelor Buttons)
Cornflowers are one of the best plants you can add to your bee garden. The tiny nectar-rich flowers are a favorite flower of honey bees. They are long-flowering annuals that will provide the bees with nectar from late June until September.
The daisy-like heads make it easy for the bees to access the nectar without much effort.
Cornflowers are also easy to plant, directly sowing them into the garden in early spring guarantees a display of flowers in early summer.
Cornflowers have white, pink, and blue flowers, but the blue attracts the bees the most.
- Bloom Time – Late Spring- Late Summer
- Height – 12-26″
Zinnias are the workhorses of the flower garden. The plants are tender annuals that are easy to sow from seed. The plants are almost carefree and produce abundant vibrant blooms. The more you cut the flowers, the more they bloom, making it a win-win for you and the bees.
You can plant zinnias in poor soil, and they will grow, so if you’re looking for a flower to plant for the bees and don’t have the best soil, a few zinnia seeds might be a good choice. The plants like the full sun; they thrive in hot, dry climates.
The flowers also continue to bloom through the heat of the summer when colder season blooms start to die back. Zinnias help to provide food for bees at the height of summer.
The flowers bloom in reds, scarlets, rose, coral, pink, orange, gold, yellow, and white ivory. They make excellent dried flowers.
- Bloom Time – Early Summer – First Frost
- Height – 8-36″
Be sure to plant open-pollinated varieties or sunflowers that produce pollen. There are varieties of sunflowers bred to reduce pollen. Bees need pollen for protein and feed their larvae, and old-fashioned sunflowers provide plenty.
Sunflowers are hardy annuals that will tolerate some frost, meaning they may last past your first frost in some zones. The flowers grow best in full sun and will grow in almost any soil.
Sunflowers come in colors of bright yellow and red.
- Bloom Time – Late summer- Late Fall.
- Height – 12-72″
Nothing is easier to plant. Of course, you can start cosmos indoors, but the plants are so proliferate that sowing them outdoors is always my go-to method. I often broadcast my seeds by hand, and where ever I toss them, they seem to grow.
Bees love cosmos for their flat faces and easily accessible pollen. Cosmos are long-flowering plants that will continue to flower so long as spent flowers are removed. As a result, they have one of the richest available nectar sources.
One pack of seeds will create a lovely abundant flower patch for both you and the bees to enjoy. The plants bloom in pinks, reds, magentas, and white flowers.
See: How to grow cosmos.
- Bloom Time – Early Summer to First Frost
- Height – 10-36″
These showy, dramatic flowers come in a wide range of colors and make a dramatic statement in any garden. Plus, the bees love snapdragons. They grow in full sun but can handle some partial shade.
When the flowers start to wilt and die back in summer due to the heat, cut them back 50%, and they may get a second flowerings set in early fall. This reflowering help bees with an additional food source when most summer flowers die back.
Snapdragons come in orange, red, pink, rose, lavender, purple and yellow.
- Bloom time – Early summer to mid-fall
- Height – 6-36″
Calendula (Pot Marigold, English Marigold)
The calendula makes an excellent plant for bees as they contain a significant amount of pollen and nectar per flower. They are also one of the earliest-blooming annual flowers in spring and will continue to bloom until the first frost.
Calendula is an exceptionally easy flower to grow so long as the flowers receive full sun and keep well watered, especially during hot, dry spells in the middle of summer. Very frost tolerant, you can plant out calendula seeds in early spring as soon as the ground is workable.
The flower blooms come in yellow, orange, apricot, and gold colors.
- Bloom time – Spring to first frost
- Height – 16-18″
Nasturtium can be seeded directly into the garden, growing very quickly. These flowers will grow even in poor soil and require little care beyond watering. As a result, nasturtiums are excellent companion plants for vegetable gardens. In addition, they provide ground cover for other beneficial insects like spiders and beetles.
Nasturtiums have edible flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves. They have a spicy, peppery kick, and the flowers make lovely additions to salads. Nasturtiums are a plant both you and the bees can enjoy. They also make excellent companion plants for the vegetable garden.
The plants are brightly colored with orange, magenta, creamy white, and yellow flowers.
Flowering Perennial Herbs for bees
There are many wonderful perennial herbs that you can add to your bee gardens. Herbs that are strongly scented will attract bees and the long flowering time of the herbs on this list will provide pollen and nectar for the bees.
These beautiful plants flower early in almost all climates. When the first bees are out and about, the chives are ready with nectar.
Chives grow best in full sun, though they will tolerate light shade.
Soil needs to be moist, fertile, and well-draining.
Blooming chive plants range in color from white, pink, purple, and red.
See: How to grow chives.
- Bloom Time – Late spring or early summer
- Hardiness – USDA Zone 3
- Height – 6-12″
Rosemary attracts various bees, including mason, bumble, and honey bees. In addition, it is excellent for other pollinators, like butterflies. Rosemary flowers quite early and long into the season make it an attractive pollinating perennial for bees. The flowers will provide an early feast for emerging bees in a season when not much is blooming.
Rosemary is a perennial that likes full sun and well-drained soil.
The flowers bloom in blue, purple, white, and pink.
Bloom time early spring – mid-summer.
See: How to Grow Rosemary
- Hardiness- USDA Zone 5
- Height – 12-72″
Bees love lavender because it comes with a bright purple color that is easy to see and has a rich, heady scent that they can smell for miles. In addition, lavender provides nectar for bees in the early morning hours.
Lavender needs full sun, although it can tolerate partial shade. The plant grows best in low to moderately-fertile soils.
- Hardiness – USDA zone 5-8
- Height – 12-36″
Planting Flowers that Attract Bees For Our Future
You can see that this is a fairly extensive list of flowers that you can plant in your gardens to help bee populations in your areas. We’ve included easy-to-grow annuals, perennial herbs, and robust perennials that will help keep the bees fed for years to come.
If you can’t plant flowers this year you can always donate to organizations that are focused on protecting our bee populations.
I am not affiliated with either of these programs nor do I make any profit by sending you to their sites. I just care about the bees.