16 types of plants that attract bees

Bee gardens are truly amazing places, full of flowers and plants that attract these much-needed little pollinators. We can say a lot about bees’ needs and values, but in this particular article, we’ll build on that bee garden idea with the species that particularly attract these pollinating whistles.

Each plant listed below is proven to draw striped flying insects that can help save our planet.

Bumble bees on conifers
A wide variety of flowers and plants attract bees with their scent and bright colors.

© Cassandra Haizlip / Shutterstock.com

How to choose the right flowers for bees in your area

In some ways, bees can be a bit picky about what plants attract them to your garden. However, there are reasons for this, because they rely on their instincts to help them create the best and most abundant products out of the least amount of work for themselves. They are efficient little powerhouses and honor this by choosing the flowers they visit.

  • Bees pick flowers with their tongues. Some bees have long tongues that work on deep flowers, while others have shorter tongues and need different flowers to reach pollen and nectar.
  • Bees care about colour. While we may choose flowers based on color due to preference, bees choose flowers based on their physical limitations. They actually can’t see red, so if you’ve ever noticed hummingbirds and butterflies go to those but bees skip them, this is why. Bees resort to purple, white, yellow and blue flowers instead.
  • They will probably outpace hybrids. You and I love those colorful, uniquely formed hybrids, but many of them are actually sterile, meaning the bees can’t collect nectar from them.
  • Bees love native plants. We tend to love those exotic flowers and plants that we import from interesting parts of the world, but bees prefer native plants instead because it’s actually more productive for them. Native plant varieties are also not attractive to bees for the same reason.

So, when you plant your own bee garden, keep these things in mind:

  • Plant blue, yellow, purple, and white flowers.
  • Be original – rather than weird.
  • You have a variety of flowers to provide nectar to a variety of bees and other pollinators.
  • Skip the hybrids unless you know they are not sterile varieties.

The best types of plants to attract bees

1. Saffron

Saffron flower blooming in the snow
Crocuses emerge in early spring, even in winter, and attract bees with their beautiful purple colour.

© iStock.com / Olga Yu

The stunning purple flower is a popular landscape plant that bees love to visit. They are attracted by bright purple and pink tones, combined with fragrance. These do best in zones 3 through 8 and make a big impact when planted in large patches. They need full sun or partial shade. It blooms in early spring.

To keep squirrels away, choose Crocus Thomasinianus If they grow well in your area.

2. Cutment

Catnip is a popular plant that attracts bees.

© iStock.com / ikuyan

Another favorite mint plant among bees. The fragrant plant has vibrant foliage and spikes of gorgeous purple flowers that bloom in early summer. These perennials pair easily with a wide range of other plants. Its scent is amazing to humans and bees alike, and it is tolerant of heat, drought, and poor soil conditions. They do best in full sun to partial shade and often live up to 20 years.

3. Fox Glove

Foxglove loves shady spots and attracts long-tongued bees.

© iStock.com / Elmar Langle

Thriving in growing zones 4 through 9, foxglove is a stunning, large, bell-shaped flower that adds some height to a flower garden and attracts bees like crazy. They like shady spots with organic soil. It must be kept moist at all times to thrive. It is a biennial flower that lives in the garden on its own for years. To keep them growing and growing, plant them in the garden two years in a row – this will help them take root. The flowers come in white, lilac, peach, or apricot hues, and draw long-tongued bees. They need slightly acidic soil to thrive and thrive in late spring to early summer, depending on your location.

4. lavender

Hidcote English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Find the right lavender for your area to get the best results in attracting bees to your garden.

© ajisai13 / Shutterstock.com

While we think of lavender as that relaxing purple-thorn flower that helps us calm down or sleep better, bees love these thorny purple flowers for the aromatic nectar they provide. The house flower is stunning looking, attracts bees like crazy, and adds a fragrant cloud to your garden space that can help you relax while you nurture it. Plus, you can dry it, use it as a tea, fill eye pillows, or drop some in your bath water. It is best to plant them in large groups. They need full sun and sandy, well-drained soil to thrive. When they have the right conditions, they will grow happily for up to 15 years.

5. The star

Purple asters in full bloom
Asters thrive in bright sunlight to partial shade, producing pretty purple, pink, blue, and white flowers.

© Elenkina / Shutterstock.com

The flower that attracts short-tongued bees is the aster. The flowers look a bit like daisies, and they are perennials, much favored by pollinators. Seed heads also draw finches, cardinals, nuthatches, and other seed eaters as well. There are a large number of aster species, so be sure to choose the ones that are popular in your area and that come in blue, purple, or white. They need full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil that stays moist. They work great as container garden plants, too, and bloom from late summer to early fall for two years or longer.

6. Koneflower

Monarch butterfly
The purple flowers of conifers are very popular with pollinators such as the monarch butterfly and bee.

© iStock.com / db_beyer

Also known as echinacea, the purple flowers of conifers attract bees with their orange centers that rise like cones, offering seeds to finches and cardinals and sweet nectar to pollinators. The flowers bloom in mid-summer and the plants often grow about 3 feet tall and about 2 feet wide. They are fast growers and usually bloom for 2 to 3 years when well cared for. They need full sun to partial shade and well-draining loamy, sandy, acidic or neutral loam soils.

7. Bee balm

Wild bergamot
Make sure the bee balm you plant is purple instead of red if you want to attract bees.

© damann / Shutterstock.com

Of course, what list of plants that attract bees would be complete without the ones already named for such strength? Bee balm, or bergamot, attracts pollinators of all kinds, luring them in with its fragrant flowers and leaves. They especially attract bees when planted in large patches. And for other uses, you can steep the leaves to make a healthy herbal tea. It thrives in full sun to partial shade, with acidic to neutral well-drained but moist soil, and lives up to 15 years when well cared for.

8. Pansy

Purple pansy flower
Lilies come in many colors that bees love.

© Leecy Jones / Shutterstock.com

Pansies come in a wide range of colors, many of which are particularly attractive to bees and other pollinators. They are low growing plants that love full sun to partial shade and thrive in both spring and summer. They need well-drained, slightly acidic soil and live up to two years. It’s the perfect choice as a border flower for a bee garden or container garden, or as a cut flower to draw these vibrant insects.

9. Chives for flowers

Perennial flower
Chives produce attractive flowers in early spring, attracting bees as soon as they come out of hibernation (the ones that do).

© iStock.com / Svetlana Moniakova

The herb we love in our meals produces a flower from which bees love to drink nectar. The flowers look somewhat like the agave we use in crafting and come in white, pink, purple, and red. They do well in home gardens, container gardens, herb gardens and, of course, bee gardens. They produce nectar from early to mid-spring and are therefore some of the first bee attractors for your garden. They need full sun to light shade and rich, slightly acidic soil that drains well.

10. Thyme Creep

Early creeping thyme
Creeping thyme comes in soft shades of pink, purple, and white.

© iStock.com / Abujash

Known as creeping thyme or mother of thyme, it is a perennial plant that belongs to the mint family. The plant is a culinary herb but also a great attraction to bees. The plant is low growing and vine-like, with purple, pink or white flowers and blue-green leaves. The plant needs full sun exposure, likes sandy, well-drained soil, blooms in summer, and usually lives 3 to 5 years.

11. Gladiolus

Gladiolus comes in many vibrant colors that bees adore.

© Walter Erhardt / Shutterstock.com

A favorite for adding some height to a bee garden is the tulip, a bright, fragrant flower that grows on spikes. The plants are grown from perennial corms (not bulbs) and come in a wide range of colors. Choose species that grow purple, white, blue or yellow flowers. Ideally, plant a cluster of flowers to attract bees. They like soil rich in organic matter and full sun.

12. Aquilea or yarrow

Yarrow has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

© iStock.com / John Cale

Perennials that grow clustered, flat flower heads and fern leaves, yellow, white, purple or aquilegia are sure to be attractive to bees. The hardy plant is drought and moisture tolerant, loves full sun and sandy, well-drained soil, and provides some herbal healing qualities that have been used by many people for centuries. (Always consult a medical professional before using herbal remedies!)

13. Coreopsis

Close-up of Coreopsis flowers in a garden
Bees love these two-tone flowers from the sunflower family.

© RuthG / Shutterstock.com

Thriving in full sun to light shade, coreopsis is a beautiful flower that attracts both pollinators and songbirds that do not feast on its seeds. The plant is part of the sunflower family but has a two-tone appearance. The flower is easy to grow and thrives in hot climates and areas that experience both drought and humidity. They come in yellow to red, so make sure you get the yellow one. It also grows up to 2 feet tall and is best planted with many flowers.

14. Hyssop anise

Hyssop anise flowers
Aniseed hyssop is a plant in the mint family and one of its main attractions for pollinators.

© iStock.com / BethAmber

Aniseed hyssop thrives in zones 4 through 8 and blooms with spikes of blue flowers, producing a cluster of sweet anise-scented leaves in late summer. The plants grow up to 3 feet in height, are self-seeding, and are drought-tolerant once established properly. Bees love these beauties, as do other pollinators.

15. Heliotrope

Violet flowers of the heliotrope plant (Heliotrope)
The heliotrope plant is fragrant and lively, making it the perfect choice for an attractive bee garden.

© iwciagr / Shutterstock.com

Heliotrope is an attractive flowering plant that thrives in Zones 10 and 11 as a perennial and works as annuals elsewhere. The flowers offer sweet scents that attract bees, while the purple, mauve, and white blooms round out the deal. The plants do well as container plants or in patches in the garden, as long as they have well-draining soil and full sun.

16. Sweet Alyssum

Alyssum flowers (Lobularia maritima), ca
Sweet alyssum grows in large clusters of small white flowers.

© iStock.com / Sundry Photography

Offering a sweet, honey-like scent, sweetflower is the perfect flower to attract bees to your garden. It’s a low-growing, ground cover ideal for flower beds, hanging pots, and garden borders. They like full sun or partial shade, neutral to acidic soil, and bloom in early spring and fall. The flowers come in white, purple, and pink.

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