Modelling your garden around attracting bees and other pollinators is a great way to contribute to the natural functioning of surrounding ecosystems. It’s also really easy to do with some of these bee-friendly shrubs, which will naturally attract bees to your garden, keeping your patch of paradise healthy and literally buzzing with life.
Why do bees like shrubs?
Shrubs are bushes with multiple stems that typically bloom in the spring and summer. They vary in size, colour, and shape, which makes them a versatile addition to any garden. There are a few reasons why bees like them so much:
• Accessible Flowers: The flowers on shrubs are typically large and flat, which makes them easy for bees to land on and collect nectar and pollen.
• Long-Lasting Bloom Times: Some species of shrubs can bloom for several months at a time, giving bees a consistent source of food throughout the growing seasons.
• Varied Colors and Scents Attract Different Species of Bees: The wide variety of colours and scents found in different species of shrubs attracts different types of bees, providing them with a greater diversity of food sources.
• High Nectar and Pollen Content: Typically they have high amounts of nectar and pollen, which makes them an ideal food source for bees.
Creating a Bee-Friendly Shrub Garden
If you’re interested in creating a bee-friendly garden, here are a few things to keep in mind.
• Consider Climate and Available Space: When choosing plants for your garden, it’s important to consider your climate and the amount of space you have available. Some shrubs can be quite large, so make sure you choose plants that will fit the available space.
• How to Plant and Care for the Garden: Once you’ve chosen the right plants for your garden, it’s important to plant and care for them properly. Make sure you plant them at the correct depth, and spacing and water them regularly. You may also need to fertilize them periodically to ensure they have the nutrients they need.
For more information on how to care for shrubs, Andy McIndoe has a book that is well worth a read ‘Shrubs: Discover the Perfect Plant for Every Place in Your Garden’
Planting shrubs is a great way to help bees in your local area. Not only do bees benefit from the high amounts of nectar and pollen found in shrubs, but they also provide us with many benefits, such as pollinating our crops and helping to produce honey.
One of the main benefits of shrubs in your garden is that they provide a natural habitat for bees and other pollinators, which helps to support their populations. Additionally, many evergreen shrubs can help to protect your garden fence or garden walls from harsh weather, while also providing a natural privacy screen and providing shelter for smaller animals like birds and insects.
Which shrubs are best for attracting bees?
Some of the best shrubs to attract bees include Common Thyme, Dogwood, Erica Carnea, Bilberry and Blackberry. All of which are sure to draw in pollinators and keep your garden buzzing with life. These shrubs typically produce abundant amounts of nectar or pollen that is attractive to bees and other pollinators, making them perfect additions for anyone looking to support bees.
Whether you’re looking for an evergreen shrub that provides year-round sustenance for bees, or a colourful flowering shrub that will add some colour to your garden, there are many different options to choose from.
Bumblebees absolutely love the tiny purple flowers produced by lavender plants. As it flowers all year round, Lavender is the ideal shrub to have for bees to buzz around during summer. There is usually a gap in the summer with plants that bloom so having lavender will keep bees happy most of the year.
Lavender also provides a beautifully scented flower that is commonly used for relaxation in aromatherapy.
If you’re just as much a fan of deep colours in your garden as well as having bees, then you should definitely think about investing in a fuchsia shrub. Fuchsias will last until the weather gets cold and frosty.
Having a fuchsia in your garden will attract bees for most of the year. They also provide nectar for the bees, so they also love the red-pink flowers on the shrub. These blooms hang down and look like dolls in pretty little dresses.
Hebe’s are another type of shrub whose flowers grow together in clusters. They grow on long stamens and come in colours like blue, pink, white, and purple. Hebe’s are good for bees too and will definitely attract the pollinators your garden needs to become its own buzzing ecosystem.
Although Hebes are getting better at surviving cold winters, you may want to protect them with bubble wrap or garden fleece.
Another winter flowering shrub to have to complement your Viburnum Tinus is a Mahonia. Some Mahonias are scented and some aren’t, so whichever one you go for depends on your preferences.
Bees seem to be attracted by the appearance of their yellow flowers. Mahonias usually require a lot of maintenance, and they need to be trimmed often to maintain their shape and to make sure they do not take over your garden.
Blooming for most of the year, California Lilac plants are great flowering shrubs bees. You can actually train them to grow into a tree. The flowers come in variations of blue and purple, so they’ll add some stunning colours.
Beekeepers say that honey bees who consume the nectar of these plants produce fantastic sweet honey. They are also ideal because they are low maintenance and have good stamina against seasons of drought.
You should note that not all hydrangea types attract bees. There are specifically two types of hydrangea that attract them, namely the Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea anomala. If you’re in doubt, always go for the cultivar of hydrangeas that have loads of fertile flowers when they are in full bloom.
Hydrangeas with flowers also provide nutrients for the bees and will become healthier and bigger through the process of natural pollination. The flowers generally bloom between June and July and provide nectar and pollen. The climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea anomala) can sometimes get up to 30 – 40 inches long.
For a holly push to bloom, it absolutely needs bees before it can produce berries. Holly also provides good nutrients to bees like nectar and pollen. Holly bushes in themselves are really sweet little ecosystems. Their branches provide ideal nesting spots for birds, as the prickly leaves are ideal for protecting their young.
If you’re lucky, you may also find hedgehogs at the base of a holly bush, because they also provide safe hibernation spaces for them during the winter. We highly recommend having a holly bush if you have a keen green thumb. Their stunning deep green coloured leaf will add dynamic to your garden, and their red berries are gorgeous during springtime.
Viburnum Tinus is a must-have for any garden. They are a stunning shrub that produces bunches of little white and pale pink flowers. While these are appealing for people to look at, they also attract bees and butterflies. Your garden will be a hive of activity for the whole year with this shrub in your garden’s sunny spots.
Another benefit is that this shrub is evergreen. This means that bees will have something to keep them going even in the winter months. Known for being reliable and quite hardy, they bloom in the winter and can survive during droughts, making them an ideal low-maintenance plant.
The pyracantha is another plant that’s super easy to maintain and can survive cold winters and warm to hot summers. What’s more, bees love them because of the clusters of bright red berries that say on the shrub all year.
Pyracantha is also known as the firethorn shrub. Much like holly, birds will also build their nests here because the thorns protect them from predators. The Pyracantha can get to around three meters tall and need to be kept in the sun.
Hyssops produce nectar and pollen for bees, so they are really good to have as bee feeders. They do not flower often, only in the months between July and September.
This bee-friendly herb of the mint family, unfortunately, does not last very long and needs to be replaced around every three years. But, they are worth having. Our buzzing friends will love this addition and will make your backyard one of their regular pitstops.
Don’t be fooled by the name, the Russian sage shrub is actually not from Russia, and it’s also not a type of sage. It is however considered to be a type of herb, but not the type you would typically eat. Bees, however, love this plant!
The shrub sprouts a stunning blue flower and silver leaves that are heavily scented. They are very popular with bees and will attract them while in bloom from summer to winter. These are easy to maintain and do well in shadier areas.
Your Bee Loving Shrub
With all of the different colours and varieties of shrubs that bees love, your garden will quickly become a busy paradise if you invest in these shrubs.
A useful resource I use that is full of practical advice on planting, general care, propagation, and pruning shrubs is a book released by Alan Titchmarsh, How to Garden: Flowering Shrubs. This book gives Alan’s expert advice and guidance, providing everything you and bees need to enjoy growing shrubs in your garden.