Many people are looking to make their gardens more bee-friendly these days, and if you are trying to choose plants for your garden, you may have come across yellow rattle as an option. If so, you’re probably wondering if it’s good for a bee-friendly garden and what types of bees are attracted to it.
This plant is known for being popular with the bees, and it is often a component in beebombs for this reason. It is attractive to many different pollinators, including hoverflies, bumblebees, and solitary bees, and it’s a must-have if you want to attract insects to your garden.
What Is Yellow Rattle?
Yellow rattle is an extremely important plant when it comes to establishing an insect-friendly garden, and it’s something that you should absolutely include if you are attempting to create a wildflower meadow or an area with a high intensity of wildflowers.
It is an annual plant, and is quite unusual in that it gathers some of its nutrients by stealing from its neighbouring plants. As the name suggests, it produces long stems with yellow flowers spread across the top in bunches that look rather like a rattle.
The seeds of this flower tend to be spread effectively by traditional hay making methods, but if you want to establish it in your garden, you will have to put in some work – we are going to discuss the methods for this later.
Do Bees Like Yellow Rattle?
Yes, bees are very fond of yellow rattle, and if you plant it, you will probably find that you attract solitary bees and many types of bumblebees in particular. Among the wildflowers for bees, yellow rattle might just be one of the most important, because it has an impact upon the local environment, as well as providing nectar and pollen.
Its main pollinators are bumblebees, and you will often find these beautiful insects busy around its flowers during the summer, helping to spread it and ensure that it is propagated for the following year. The more bees it attracts, the more successful yellow rattle will be in spreading!
Remember to couple it with some bee hotels so that you know your pollinators have safe hideaways in your garden, and to attract more insects. You should provide shelter for both solitary bees and bumblebees if possible, as both are important to the spreading of wildflowers, and solitary bees in particular are under threat.
Where Should I Buy Yellow Rattle?
What is the best place to buy yellow rattle? You can purchase it here, and you’ll get 50 seeds very inexpensively. It is important to use yellow rattle seeds that are fresh, or you will find you get a low germination rate and little success with the plant.
Seeds should have been gathered the previous year; they will not keep well, and are unlikely to grow if you try to store them for more than a year.
When To Plant Yellow Rattle
You can plant yellow rattle in the autumn, and it’s a good idea to find a sunny spot. Remember, it is an annual plant, not a perennial. However, once you have a good bed of it established, you will probably find that it self-seeds quite reliably, and does not need too much input from you.
How To Sow Yellow Rattle
To plant yellow rattle, you need to clear some of the grass away, and the best way to do this is to scarify the grass. This involves taking a wire rake and using it to scratch away the grass, free the thatch and clear it away, and expose some bare soil.
It is important to take your time doing this. The seeds need to be able to get to the soil and need enough space in order to grow well, or else you will find that they do not germinate. You should be able to see bare patches of soil when you have finished.
Ideally, you want around fifty percent of the soil to be free from other plants, or a little more. Don’t worry if this seems a lot of work, because in future years, the yellow rattle should spread itself reasonably well, and won’t need as much input. You can just let it shed its seeds, and they will work their way into the ground.
It is important, however, to cut the grass back hard each year if you want the yellow rattle to continue self-seeding. This will usually be in August or September. By this time, the yellow rattle will have stopped flowering and will no longer be providing food for the pollinators, so you want to make sure its seeds can reach the soil.
When Does Yellow Rattle Flower?
Yellow rattle flowers from May to July most years, so it provides a good three months of food for the pollinators. It is not the longest flowering wildflower you can find, but it is reasonable, and it creates better conditions for the other flowers too.
It is also quite a hardy flower, and it will cope well with most soil types, although it does prefer well-drained soil to clay.
If you want to get rid of your yellow rattle, you can simply cut it before it has managed to produce flowers. This will stop it from seeding, and because it is an annual, it will then disappear. However, you will have to start again if you wish to have it back again.
Does Yellow Rattle Kill Grass?
As mentioned, yellow rattle has an effect on the plants that surround it, and you can use this to your advantage if you are careful about it. The roots of the yellow rattle will spread out beneath the soil quite fast, and they will search out the roots of other plants.
Once they find these roots, the yellow rattle’s roots will tap into them and start to steal the water and nutrients that they are taking up, suppressing the other plant’s growth by reducing its access to food and moisture.
Yellow rattle is particularly keen on grasses, so it is an excellent way of controlling grass, which otherwise is quick to suffocate a wildflower meadow. Indeed, if you want to grow wildflowers in a garden that has turf, you will need something like yellow rattle, or you will quickly find that you lose your flowers to a sea of grass.
Having yellow rattle in a wildflower meadow can suppress the growth of grass by up to sixty percent. Given that grass is so voracious and takes over so quickly, this is a useful tool to have.
By planting yellow rattle, you give other plants a chance against the grass, because it favours grass over other plants when it comes to parasitizing them. Of course, if no grass is available, the yellow rattle will attack your wildflowers instead, but in general, this will not have a significant effect on your meadow and its diversity.
Yellow rattle is a key part of establishing a wildflower meadow in your garden. The bees love it, and it provides both nectar and pollen to a range of bumblebees and solitary bees. Its effect on grass is also important, because it makes it easier to create a meadow that will not get instantly choked by turf taking over! Grab some seeds and kick start you wildflower meadow today, the bees will thank you for it.