Posts tagged: plants for bees

Top 10 Plants To Encourage Bees To Your Garden

Top 10 Plants To Encourage Bees To Your Garden Photo – Fir0002/Flagstaffotos (Wikimedia) – lic. under CC-BY-3.0

The tragic decline of bee populations has been very prominent in the news recently – and we featured a detailed article about the legal battle over the pesticides which many believe are responsible. However today we bring some good news, which is that you can help bee populations by choosing plants that they love!

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Top 10 Plants To Encourage Bees To Your Garden
Graphic – off-grid.info. Images – Pixabay (PD)

It’s not only honey that bees can give us – we rely on pollinators for growing many of our common fruit and vegetable crops worldwide. There are in fact many factors that have caused bee populations to decline. As mentioned, it’s believed partly due to the widespread use of pesticides (some garden plant suppliers, particularly in the US, still use neonicotinoids routinely so please check that your plants are pesticide-free before buying. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to try somewhere else – we need bees!). Choosing organic produce in the stores or growing your own will make a difference too.

Another big factor in the bees decline is the destruction of wild habitats and, while we’re on the subject, please resist tidying up dead hollow plant stems until the spring – they can provide a good over-wintering place for solitary bees and other beneficial insects.

Some species of bumble bee are becoming rare due to a massive reduction of wildflower meadows in modern agriculture. Each species has a different size of tongue so they will visit different types of flower but occasionally a short-tongued species will bite through a deep flower to reach the nectar! Generally speaking they also prefer single flowering native species.

Related: How To Attract Butterflies To Your Yard

We should all give consideration now to providing additional opportunities to bees. This is not too difficult and many of the bees favourite flowers happen to be ours too! Here is a top 10 list of bee favorites:

1. Lavender (Lavandula spp.) – A very popular flower (it’s the one in the image above) for bees and humans alike, this perennial will flower all summer long. Lavender is ideal to grow next to a path so you can enjoy the scent and watch the bees every time you walk past it.

2. Apple Trees – A favourite source of nectar for honey bees, who will pollinate your fruit crop at the same time as feeding – it’s a true win-win! Planting more fruit trees at home will also save some food miles.

3. Borage (Borago officinalis) – also known as “Starflower” due to it’s pretty five-petalled flowers, this is an annual herb. It can self-seed readily in cultivated ground so shouldn’t need to be planted again every year. The leaves are edible as are the vivid blue flowers, which look great in a salad! It is a favourite of honey bees and many species of bumble bee.

4. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) – A fantastic plant that will attract a variety of bees to your garden. It can also be made into a rich compost or liquid fertiliser that is high in potassium, ideal for promoting the growth of fruit and flowers. It’s sometimes used to make an ointment that aids healing of bones and soft tissue, hence it’s old name “Knitbone”.

5. Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) – another easy to grow plant that will thrive in a border and can be used as a ground-cover plant. As well as feeding bees your clover will fix nitrogen from the air and feed the soil. Red Clover Tea is rich in nutrients and is said to have many medicinal benefits, especially during menopause.

6. Bee balm (Monarda spp.) – An edible plant of the mint family, this can be used to make tea, salad or dried flowers but make sure you leave enough for the bees and butterflies! If you’re lucky enough to be in an area that has hummingbirds, this flower is one of the best to bring them in to your garden.

7. Viper’s Bugloss (Echium vulgare) – This is a reliable source of food for all sorts of bees with repeated flowerings through the season and the later flowering will give them a good supply for over-wintering.

8. Snowdrop (Galanthus) – Snowdrops are very early to flower so will give bees a source of food when it’s hard to find. The single flowered varieties of snowdrops (not hybridised, fancy ones) are best for bees – this is also true for other flower species.

9. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) – It’s a delight to watch bees disappear into the deep flowers of a foxglove. This biennial plant is very easy to grow in most soils and prefers some shade. It will self-seed and the plants are easy to move around in their first year, ready to produce their tall flower spikes the following year.

10. Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) – It doesn’t sound like much but this UK native wildflower looks great, producing a lot of large purple flowers on a tall stem.

More: Heather, buddleia (also very popular with butterflies).

Further Reading

Cultivating your own wildflower meadow can be a very rewarding venture and will really help these rarer bumble bees to survive. Find out more here: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=436

If you’re looking for an extensive list of favourite plants for bees, please try one of these links – these lists show the flowering seasons so you can choose plants to attract bees for as many months as possible:

https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/pdf/conservation-and-biodiversity/wildlife/plants-for-pollinators-plants-of-the-world.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_American_nectar_sources_for_honey_bees