Have you ever wondered what the best perennial plants for bees are? We all know that insects are struggling, and the desire to save our pollinators and give them a boost when we can is strong, but it isn’t always easy to know what you should plant to attract bees. What are the perennial flowers for bees you can grow in your garden?
We’re going to look at the best flowers for feeding the bees – ones that will grow year after year and fill your garden with happy buzzing bees. There are a great number of plants to choose from, so you can fill your garden with an array of different colours and petals to make it both beautiful and useful.
What Are Perennial Flowers?
Perennials are extremely resilient and typically grow for more than 2 years and live for several seasons. They have deep root systems, which allow them to store water and nutrients throughout the year. This makes them ideal for pollinators like bees and butterflies who need a constant source of food while they are active during the warmer months. Additionally, perennial flowers often produce blooms over a long period of time and come in a wide variety of colours and shapes, which makes them a popular choice for home gardens.
Why Are Perennial Flowers Important?
In addition to providing nectar and pollen for bees, many perennial flowers also offer other benefits that make them important for your garden and our environment. Some varieties provide food sources or shelter to other beneficial insects like butterflies. Many perennials can be used as ground cover or natural mulch, helping to keep the soil healthy and retain moisture.
How Can You Choose Perennial Flowers For Bees?
There are many factors to consider when choosing bee-friendly perennials for bees, including bloom time, colour, growth habit, and size. You may also want to think about which plants will work best in your climate, or any potential problems with pests or diseases that might impact the plants’ health. With so many varieties of perennials available today, it’s easy to find the perfect choice for your garden and help support our pollinators. So why wait? Plant some bee-friendly perennials today and watch your garden come to life with happy, buzzing bees!
What perennials do bees like best?
Many perennials, or plants that grow year after year, are particularly beneficial to bees, and butterflies. Some of the most popular perennials for bees include heather, purple loosestrife, lungwort, verbena bonariensis, coneflower, fuchsia, penstemon, allium, yarrow, hellebore, and Japanese anemone. These flowers are rich in nectar and pollen that attract and sustain a wide variety of bees. Whether you have a small or a large garden or field, there are plenty of perennials to choose from that will help make your garden a haven for all types of bees and different pollinators. So if you’re looking to do your part in helping the bees flourish in your area, consider adding some perennials to your landscape today.
If you’re ready to start planting perennials for bees, here are some great options to consider:
Heather is one of the most productive nectar providers, so it’s a superb choice to plant for the bees if you want to make sure that they have plenty of food. Heather used to grow abundantly across Britain, but in recent years, it has seen a decline, and there is less food for pollinators as a result.
Heather also helps to protect bumblebees from a parasite, and it is known as “bumblebee medicine” for this reason. The parasite is called Crithidia bombi, and heather produces a chemical that guards the bumblebees against it.
Given that the parasite spreads readily through nests and from bee to bee, it is a major threat to bee populations, so the heather’s protection is particularly important.
Another much-loved option, purple loosestrife is a beautiful plant that grows proud and tall in your garden. It is usually found around ponds and in marshy areas as it prefers wet ground, and it will flower from June to August.
This wildflower is very beautiful, forming a spike and – if it reaches its maximum height – a candelabra shape that is very attractive. Bees love it, as do butterflies and moths. If you plant this, you will find it popular with pollinators throughout its flowering season.
It is also attractively tall, making it a great plant for the back of your borders, so it’s a win-win!
On the other end of the scale, if you want a much smaller plant that will still help to keep bees fed, Lungwort (Pulmonaria) is an excellent choice. It comes in a variety of blues, pinks, and whites, and prefers shady conditions, so it is a good plant for dark corners where little else will grow.
One of the things that makes this plant important to the bees is that it has an early flowering season. This means that it can be a source of food for bees that are just waking up from hibernation and are flying around, looking for food at a time when there is not much nectar to be found.
It flowers as early as February or March and attracts hairy-footed bees and solitary bees which are often foraging at this time. Plant this to help out your bees early in the year when they don’t have many food options.
If you would like another tall option, Verbena Bonariensis is one of the best plants for your garden. It has small clusters of flowers that allow bees and bumblebees to gather nectar quickly and easily, and it provides a plentiful supply.
Depending on where you are, this plant may not survive as a perennial, but it is still important to consider for a few different reasons. Firstly, it self-seeds readily, so you can get more of it with very little (and sometimes no) work. That means it may come back year after year, even if the original plant dies.
Secondly, it can keep flowering very late in the year, sometimes until the first frost hit. When it does this, the nectar stays available for the very last pollinating bees. That, coupled with early foods for them, is a great way to keep your bees fed throughout the year.
The purple coneflower also earns its place on this list of the best plants for bees because it – unlike many of the others – outputs nectar throughout the day.
Where many other flowers only produce nectar in the early hours of the day, and so have nothing left to offer to bees in the afternoon and evening, the coneflower produces plenty from dawn until dusk, and so it keeps feeding hungry bees all day long.
This makes it an important part of keeping bees topped up. It helps them to forage efficiently because they don’t have to constantly make longer trips to find nectar as the morning producers run out.
Fuchsia flowers are well known for their beautiful skirts and bright colours, but the great news is that they are also very popular with bees. Larger flowers are easier for bees to get into, and the clumsy, big bumblebees may struggle with little blooms, but overall, fuchsia is a popular bee plant.
They are also a late flowerer and will keep bees fed well into fall, possibly even into winter, with their big, beautiful blossoms. Other pollinators enjoy the nectar too, so fuchsias are a great addition to any garden.
You may have noticed that despite their clumsiness, bumblebees have a particular penchant for fuchsias, and this is because they seem to prefer tubular flowers with wide openings and deep cups. Perhaps the hooded flower protects them or helps them to gather more nectar – it’s hard to say.
However, that preference makes penstemons popular with them too. Of course, other bee species also like the flowers, and you will see honey bees and many native bees visiting them as well, along with other insects.
Alliums can produce some spectacular blooms, and they are well known for attracting bees. The Globemaster allium has a huge flower head that is loved by all bees, and it is a very efficient platform for them to collect nectar from because they don’t need to fly from flower to flower.
Instead, they can crawl around all over the head of blooms and take nectar from each individual cup. This saves them a lot of energy, as well as time, so alliums are a wonderful early summer feed.
Unlike the many tubular flowers we have looked at, yarrow has a flat, easy-access flower head that is again very bee-friendly. Also known as Achilleas, they can crawl across the surface, gathering pollen, and this plant offers an ample amount.
Yarrow is generally easy to grow and will tolerate most soils, and it is also popular with some birds, which take it to line their nests with, perhaps to prevent parasites. They are also found in many wildflower seed packs such as Beebombs.
Fond of shade, hellebores are a crucial early food for bees, as they flower very early in the year, providing nectar when there is little to be found elsewhere. They are hardy plants, great for planting in darker parts of your garden where other flowers won’t grow.
Once established, they will provide for your bees for years to come, so get them settled somewhere suitable and see how well they attract bees!
The quantity of pollen produced by a plant is also important to consider, and the Japanese anemone does not skimp on how much it offers.
These dainty flowers provide plenty for bees to eat, and they will spread very fast in most conditions, meaning that the bees get access to more nectar each year, without you having to do more work.
They are also attractive and will add height to your borders and flowerbeds, as well as helping other pollinators too.
These gorgeous flowers can be used to brighten up any garden, and they are one of the important fall feeders, offering nectar from August to October. Planting these will ensure the bees can find plenty of food even once the weather has begun to get cold and many flowers are dying back.
You will get lovely splashes of golden yellow, and many other insects feed on Rudbeckia too, including hoverflies, butterflies, and beetles.
It’s a good idea to combine these plants with some early flowering options so that the bees have enough to eat while they wait for the Rudbeckia to start producing, but this is a great flower to choose for a bee-friendly garden.
You have plenty of options when it comes to planting bee-friendly flowers, and if you are struggling to choose, try to think about the seasonality of your flowering perennials. Selecting only ones that flower in the spring or fall won’t help the wild bees as much; they need you to plant things that flower in succession so they can find food year-round. The great thing about this is that it makes your garden beautiful for longer, too!