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How to Attract Bees to Your Garden: 14 Plants for Pollinators

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: May 26, 2020 • 4 min read

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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

Bees are incredible natural pollinators, and they play an essential part in your garden's ecosystem. Bees pollinate flowers, which allows the plants to produce fruit and seeds. Creating a welcoming environment for bees in your yard will improve your garden's production and assist a global bee population that is in decline.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.

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5 Ways to Attract Bees to Your Garden

Follow these tips and your garden will be buzzing with activity in no time.

  1. Grow flowers that attract bees. Bees are especially drawn to blue, white, yellow, and purple flowers. You also want to prioritize growing single flowers (which have a simple corolla with just one ring of petals) over double flowers (which, like ornamental roses, have multiple layers of petals). Single flowers contain more pollen and nectar than double flowers, and they’re less dense, making it easier for bees to reach the pollen. And don't forget to choose native plants with a variety of flower shapes in order to attract many species of local bees.
  2. Build or buy a bee box. These enclosed structures can provide certain honey bee species a man-made home in which to live, store food, and raise their brood. Adding a bee box to your garden space is a great way to give bees a reason to stick around. Note that bee boxes are also called beehives, a word that is often incorrectly used to describe natural colonies of bees in the wild. Wild bee colonies are actually called bee nests.
  3. Create a bee-friendly environment. Unlike honeybees, which live in nests in large groups, many species of wild bees are solitary and need building materials to construct their own shelters. Leave dead branches, brush, and other raw materials out in your yard for these wild bees to live in. For example, mason bees are known to burrow inside holes left in deadwood by other insects.
  4. Provide drinking water for bees. Bees get thirsty while they work, so having an accessible source of water in your yard will make it an appealing location. A shallow birdbath will do the trick, but if it's too deep, bees may have trouble drinking.
  5. Use non-toxic pest control methods. Pesticides are toxic to pollinators, so instead try using natural methods of deterring pests, such as biological pest control and cultural pest control. You can also plant companion plants that repel pests naturally.

14 Plants That Attract Bees to Your Garden

Growing these bee-friendly plants and flowers is a surefire way to create the ideal bee habitat in your garden.

  1. Aster: Named after the ancient Greek word for "star" (based on the shape of its flower), these late summer and fall bloomers are perfect for attracting bees and livening up your yard with an array of purple, blue, pink, and white colors.
  2. Black-eyed Susan: This wildflower's most common variety has a brown or black center surrounded by bright yellow flower petals. Black-eyed Susans make a great addition to a full-sun garden and are beautiful bee flowers.
  3. Borage: Also known as a starflower, this herb has blue star-shaped flowers with a hint of cucumber flavor. Bumblebees are drawn to borage and cause the flowers to release pollen into the air.
  4. Butterfly bush: Also known as buddleia, this large, fast-growing shrub is true to its name and attracts butterflies, but it’s equally alluring to many types of bees. Butterfly bushes have blue, purple, or white flowers and thrive in sunny locations with well-draining soil.
  5. Butterfly weed: A variety of milkweed, butterfly weed has nectar-rich flowers that make it a favorite for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
  6. Goldenrod: This bright yellow late-blooming flower is full of nectar and pollen that attracts bees and butterflies. Goldenrod blooms in late summer and early fall.
  7. Marigold: These easy-to-grow, vibrant annuals typically come in bright yellow and orange colors. They're able to thrive in full sun and partial shade conditions, they bloom all summer long, and they produce enough pollen to feed bumblebees in the summertime.
  8. Monarda: Also known as bee balm, this nectar-rich flowering plant comes in red, pink, and purple varieties. Once it blooms in midsummer, it attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
  9. Penstemon: Commonly called “beardtongues” since the flowers resemble open mouths with fuzzy tongues, penstemons are perfect for honeybees.
  10. Phlox: This low-growing groundcover plant has beautiful white, pink, red, or lavender blossoms and attracts pollinators.
  11. Purple coneflower: This member of the Echinacea genus is attractive to bees, blooms through late summer, and is extremely heat- and drought-resistant.
  12. Sedum: Also known as stonecrop, sedum thrives in full-sun conditions in well-drained soil. Its long blooming term makes it a prime choice when you're looking to attract pollinators like bees.
  13. Salvia: This type of sage comes in annual, biennial, and perennial varieties. It blooms in many bright, vibrant colors that are perfect for drawing in bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
  14. Zinnia: This long-stemmed, easy-to-grow annual comes in a variety of colors. Its flowers slowly unfurl to reveal a bountiful bed of pollen for bees to carry back to their colonies.
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Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass All-Access Pass and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.

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