Ivy, specifically the Hedera Helix (also known as English Ivy), is a plant that is highly attractive to bees. This is because it blooms late in the year, between September and November, providing a valuable source of nectar and pollen when other plants have stopped flowering. It is particularly crucial for honeybees, which need to build up their honey stores for winter.
Bees are attracted to plants through visual and olfactory cues. They are particularly drawn to bright, fragrant flowers with high nectar or pollen content. Nectar provides bees with energy, while pollen is essential for bee larvae growth. Additionally, bees have an excellent capacity for colour vision which helps them identify flower species that provide a reliable food source.
What Are Ivy Plants?
English Ivy, is a popular evergreen climbing plant native to Europe and Western Asia. It’s commonly used in landscaping and gardening due to its versatility and hardiness. The plant forms dense ground cover if it does not have vertical surfaces to climb on, and adorns walls and trees when it does. Ivy is also often used for topiary and indoor decoration.
Growing English Ivy
Soil Type: English Ivy prefers well-drained, alkaline soil. However, it can tolerate a variety of soil conditions, including clay, chalk, loam, and sand. It can grow in both acidic and alkaline pH levels.
Sun Exposure: While ivy can tolerate full sun, it prefers partial to full shade, making it an excellent choice for north-facing walls or under-canopy planting.
Watering Schedule: Regular watering is essential, especially during the first year of growth. Once established, English Ivy is drought-tolerant but appreciates occasional watering during dry periods.
Planting Tips: When planting, ensure the hole is twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball. Backfill with a mix of compost and garden soil to provide initial nutrients. Plant in early spring or fall for best results.
Nutrition: English Ivy is not a heavy feeder, but an annual application of slow-release granular fertilizer in the spring can help support healthy growth.
Pests and Diseases: Can be affected by pests like aphids, spider mites, and scale insects. Common diseases include leaf spots, powdery mildew, and stem rot. Regular inspection and early treatment with suitable insecticides or fungicides can manage these problems.
Design Ideas: Perfect for creating a lush, green backdrop in a garden. It’s also ideal for covering unsightly walls or fences and can be used in containers or hanging baskets for vertical interest.
This reliable and versatile plant can add beauty to your garden throughout the year. However, it’s important to note that it can become invasive if not managed properly, so regular pruning is recommended.
Best Ivy For Bees
There are various types of ivy species available in the UK, but the most common ones are the English Ivy (Hedera Helix) and the Irish Ivy (Hedera Hibernica). Both these species are great for attracting bees. However, the English Ivy is more widespread and its nectar-rich flowers attract a variety of insects, including bees and bumblebees.
Factors that make certain ivy species better than others for bees include their flowering period, nectar production, and resistance to pests and diseases. Ivy that flowers late in the year, like the Hedera Helix, can be particularly beneficial as it provides food resources when other sources are scarce.
Therefore, if you’re looking to attract bees in the UK, I would recommend planting Hedera Helix. It’s a hardy plant that can thrive in a variety of conditions, and its late blooming period makes it an important food source for bees in the autumn months.
Several types of ivy are highly attractive to bees in the UK. Here’s some information about each:
- Hedera helix ‘Goldchild’: This is a variegated type of English Ivy with beautiful gold and green leaves. It’s hardy, easy to grow, and provides flowers and berries that are beneficial for bees.
- Hedera hibernica (Irish Ivy): Similar to the English Ivy, Irish Ivy also produces flowers that can support a wide range of insects, including bees. It is more tolerant of direct sunlight than its English cousin.
- Hedera helix ‘Clotted Cream’: This variety of English Ivy has cream-colored leaves. It grows well in shady areas and is known for its late bloom, providing nectar and pollen when other plants have stopped flowering.
- Hedera helix ‘Buttercup’: This variety is perfect for brightening up shady spots in the garden with its yellow leaves. Like other Hedera helix varieties, it offers late-season food sources for bees.
- Hedera colchica: Also known as Persian Ivy, this species is larger and more vigorous than the English Ivy. Its late-blooming, richly-scented flowers are attractive to bees.
Each of these ivy types plays a role in supporting the bee population, particularly in the late season when other plants have finished flowering. Providing a consistent source of food, they help bees build up their winter stores.
Where to Buy Ivy Plants?
For purchasing ivy plants, you can consider Crocus.co.uk. They offer a variety of ivy plants, including Hedera Helix, which is known to be particularly attractive to bees.
Remember, by planting ivy and other pollinator-friendly plants, you’re not just creating a beautiful garden but also contributing to the survival of these crucial creatures.