Growing a Honey Bee-Friendly Flower Garden – What Plants Should you Choose?

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Find out which pretty and useful plants you can grow in your garden to attract and nurture the honeybees. There are other benefits you will get too!

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With the declining honeybee (Apis melifera) populations, it is important and very simple to provide little pockets of food and shelter for our foraging bees. As a fairly new beekeeper, I am aware of a honeybee’s very simple needs and wanted to share them. It is lovely to hear the buzz of their quiet comfortable industrious presence in they flower and vegetable gardens.

Even if you do not have honey bees or hives and don’t think you have any close by, you may be surprised where they come from. Often people worry about planting flowers that will attract bees, because they concerned that the insects will come and sting them or their children when they are out in the garden. This couldn’t be further from the truth, bees are very single-minded, and way more interested in the nectar in a flower than they are in you. They concentrate on their work of visiting flowers while you enjoy the garden.

So what flowers can you grow?

The best flowers or plants are ones you can use as well. Bees are attracted to many flowers, with their preference being yellows, purples and blues. Honeybees visit other colored flowers but they are not the first choice, so choose these colors when you can.

Among the most convenient plants to grow for ourselves and bees to benefit from are culinary herbs. Often these herb plants have purple or white flowers and bees will happily buzz around in your herb garden all day long. Many herbs are perennial, depending on your location, so you won’t have to plant them every year.

These flowering herbs serve two purposes, they are giving the bees nectar and food, and they are providing fresh or dried herbs homegrown herbs for your kitchen. Some herbs like thyme are actually excellent sources of nectar for tasty honey too.Suitable

Bee-friendly culinary herbs

  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
  • Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita piperita)

Tisane herbs that bees enjoy visiting

There is another group of herbs that can be grown for bees. These herbs or parts of them can be grown and used for medicinal and restorative teas. Even if you do not use them for that, it is nice to know you have the option if you ever want to.

  • Bergamot or Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
  • Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

  • Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
  • Purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
  • Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
  • Borage (Borago officinalis)
  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Fruit bushes, vines and trees

Fruiting garden canes, trees and bushes give the bees both protection when foraging on windy days and food.

Plants like strawberries, raspberries, black currants, red currants, blackberries, apples, plums and cherries all provide pollen for the plants in early spring and will provide you with a crop of fruit in the summer. This is another way that both you and the bees win.

Most people do not have space for all of these plants, but even if you only had a couple of raspberry canes in a sunny yard is something. You will enjoy a few bowls of fresh fruit in the summer too. Sunflowers can provide healthy seeds for you or the birds in autumn, as well as nectar for the bees later in the summer when supplies are dwindling .

Other herbacious and perennial flowering plants that feed honey bees

There is another group of attractive flowering plants that at more for the bees benefit than yours, but by planting these flowers and perennials, but you’re really making an oasis of pollen and shelter for the bees in their daily foraging.
you not only enhance your property value, create natural and relaxing outdoor views and spaces,

Here are some of the main groups of flowers that these are attracted to

  • Speedwell (Veronica officinalis)
  • Larkspur (Consolida ambigua)
  • Sea Holly (Eryngium planum)
  • Bachelors Button or Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

  • Canary Creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum )
  • Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
  • Poppyseed Poppy (Papaver somniferum)
  • California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
  • Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis)
  • Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
  • Salvia Violet Queen (Salvia nemorosa)
  • White Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens)
  • Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
  • Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
  • Stonecrop (Sedum sp.)
  • English Wallflowers (Erysimum cheirii)
  • Teasel (Dipsacus sativas)
  • Corn Cockle (Argostemma githago)
  • Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

What else can you provide?

Most people don’t realize that honeybees require quite a large amount of daily water for their size in order to make honey. Having a bird bath or shallow waterer with a sloping bottom means that the bees have a little beach to go down to drink at the waters edge. Often when the only water available is a steep sided container, they fall in and drown trying to get a drink. So if you’re planning to put a bird bath in your garden, choose one with a sloped vessel for water, often the flower petal or scallop shell designs have this beach effect, that is kinder to the bees.

If only a fraction of the world’s population grew plants that honey bees thrive upon, it would make a great difference to this valuable pollination insect. Bees not only provide honey, but have a huge influence over the world economy for fruit and crop production. And they are hard-working, fascinating creatures in their own right.

All images from our Skeffling Lavender Farm

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Growing a Honey Bee-Friendly Flower Garden – What Plants Should you Choose?, Seekyt
General Contributor
Janice is a writer from Chicago, IL. She created the "simple living as told by me" newsletter with more than 12,000 subscribers about Living Better and is a founder of Seekyt.