Flowers That Attract Bees

Walker's Low catmint
Bright, showy flowers are magnets for bees. Add plants that bees love, and watch your garden become a favorite snack bar for these pollinators. Another way to make your yard a bee haven is to avoid spraying it with pesticides, which are harmful to bees and other beneficial insects. After all their hard work, bees get thirsty. Provide a nearby water source, which can be as simple as a bowl of water or a birdbath with rocks on which the bees can rest. A few simple measures will have your garden buzzing. Here are a few plants that bees love. They may become some of your favorites, too -- along with other pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds.

Arkansas Bluestar

Named for the tiny, blue, star-shape blooms that form in masses, this plant was recognized a few years ago as the Perennial Plant of the Year. It blooms in late spring and early summer in sunny areas. It has feathery foliage in the summer, which complements many annuals and perennials. In the fall, its leaves turn a beautiful golden-yellow.

Name: Amsonia hubrechtii

Growing conditions: Sun to light shade

Size: 3 feet tall; 4 feet wide

Zones: 5-9

Stoke's Aster

Stoke's aster has evergreen foliage and cornflower flowerheads, in lavender, blue, pink, white, or yellow. Place in a sunny or lightly shaded border. This makes a nice cutting flower. A late-blooming dwarf variety, 'Peachie's Pick', grows just a foot high and wide and shows off with intense cornflower-blue flowers in July and August. It works well as a edging for walkways or perennial borders.

Name: Aster spp.

Growing conditions: Sun or part shade

Size: 1-3 feet tall; 1-1/2 feet wide

Zones: 5-9

Beardtongue Penstemon

Penstemon, commonly called Beardtongue, will attract not only bees but other pollinators such as hummingbirds. The plant is available in a variety of colors -- pink, red, white, lavender -- and features tube-shape flowers that flare out, reminiscent of tiny bells. The top lip forms two lobes and the lower lip has three lobes. It gets its common name, beardtongue, from the fuzzy stamen that resembles a tongue extending from an open mouth.

Name: Penstemon

Growing conditions: Sun to part shade

Size: 6 inches to 8 feet tall; 1-2 feet wide

Zones: 3-9

Bee Balm

Monarda, commonly called bee balm, lives up to its name when it comes to a favorite of bees. Its crown-shape blooms appear in mid to late summer and is a nice addition to a perennial border. Varieties are available in shades of red, blue, violet, white or pink. The foliage is dark green.

Name: Monarda

Growing conditions: Full sun

Size: 2-4 feet tall; 1-1/2-3 feet wide

Zones: 4-9

Baptisia

Baptisia, sometimes called false indigo, is a perennial that is low-maintenance and stands up to heat and dry conditions. It blooms March through early May, depending on species and region. The flower spikes can be 12-24 inches tall, boasting pea-shape flowers. After the flowers die back, the plant has a shrublike appearance. Look for Baptisia alba for white blooms or Baptisia australis for blue blooms.

Name: Baptisia spp.

Growing conditions: Full sun to part shade

Size: 3-4 feet tall; 3-4 feet wide

Zones: 3-9

Learn how you can help pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, with a few simple changes.

Help Pollinators With Your Garden

Learn easy ways you can help pollinators of all kinds with your landscape.

Purple Coneflower

Coneflowers are a mainstay in perennial gardens that attract bees. Their daisylike blooms make pretty cut flowers. They tolerate tough conditions like summer heat and dry stretches. They are available in purple, lavender, pink, and white cultivars with gold to brownish centers. They grow 1-3 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide.

Name: Echinacea purpurea

Growing conditions: Full sun to partial shade

Size: 1-3 feet tall; 2-3 feet wide

Zones: 4-10

Lanceleaf Blanketflower

Blanketflower evokes a beautiful Southwest sunset with its blooms that have tinges of yellow, orange, and red. It gets its name from the colors often seen in blankets woven by Southwest Indians. Blanketflower blooms from May through October and is a lovely accent to the purples of coneflowers and the blues of agastache and other plants on our list.

Name: Gaillardia aestivalis

Growing conditions: Full sun

Size: 1-3 feet tall; 6 inches to 2 feet wide

Zones: 3-11

Threadleaf Coreopsis

Threadleaf coreopsis has daisylike flowers on fine, threadlike foliage. Its cheery yellow blooms are like tiny orbs of sunshine in your garden. They are a lovely complement to many other plants, particularly those with lavender or purple hues. This easy-to-care-for plant grows in a variety of conditions and tolerates dry soil and heat. Its cousin, the tickseed or lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) is another good choice.

Name: Coreopsis verticillata

Growing conditions: Full sun to partial shade

Size: 6 inches to 4 feet tall; 1-3 feet wide

Zones: 3-9

Black-eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susans always add a cheery note to the landscape. If a flower were used to describe happiness, this would be it. They can be the starring attraction paired with ornamental grasses, or they can complement a mix of other plants such as 'Autumn Joy' sedum, Nepeta 'Walker's Low' catmint, or just about any other plant on the list. Their daisylike blooms are in showoff mode from summer into early autumn. They are lovely as a cut flower for summer bouquets.There are some cultivars available with salmon or red blooms.

Name: Rudbeckia hirta

Growing conditions: Sun to part sun

Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-7

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is a bee magnet. It's a favorite of butterflies as well. A mass planting with ornamental grasses creates both beauty and a bee haven in your landscape. It also is pretty in border plantings. It blooms from August into late fall and is drought tolerant. The blooms start as a dusty pink and change to a coppery look in the fall. This plant is often referred to as a stonecrop and is right at home in a rock garden as well as a perennial garden.

Name: Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

Growing conditions: Full sun to part shade

Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-8

Trailing Verbena

Trailing or clump verbena is a low-spreading form that produces striking blooms from spring through late summer and even to early frost. 'Homestead Purple' has large dark purple flower clusters and is a lovely plant at the front edge of a perennial border. There are numerous cultivars available in pink, red, purple, and white.

Name: Verbena canadensis

Growing conditions: Full sun

Size: 8-18 inches

Zone: 6-10

Herbs: Chives, Oregano, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme

Herbs are a favorite of bees, whether they are in a designated herb garden or are planted with other perennials in your landscape. While catmint gets a spot of its own on our list, we're grouping herbs such as chives, oregano, mint, rosemary, and thyme as other herbs to consider. Bees love them, and you will, too, for both landscape value and culinary purposes.

Name: Allium schoenoprasum (Chives), Origanum vulgare (Oregano), Mentha (Mint), Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary), Thymus (Thyme)

Growing conditions: Full sun

Size: 6 inches (thyme), 1 foot (chives, oregano, mint),
3 feet (rosemary)

Zones: 3-10, overwintering may be necessary in colder zones depending on variety

Blazing Star

Blazing star evokes fireworks starting their ascent into the sky. It makes a dramatic statement with its unusual erect spires of deep pink to purple-pink, sometimes white flowers. It has grasslike foliage at its base. It can grow 1-8 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. Place this one in the back of your border behind smaller plants.

Name: Liatris spicata

Growing conditions: Full sun

Size: 1-8 feet tall; 1-2 feet wide

Zones: 3-9

Agastache 'Blue Fortune'

Anise hyssop, or Agastache 'Blue Fortune', has large, deep green foliage that sends up sturdy spikes covered with tiny, tubular, violet-blue flowers. This plant pairs well with the many daisylike flowers on the list. It grows 1-3 feet tall and wide. It blooms from July through September.

Name: Agastache x 'Blue Fortune'

Growing conditions: Full sun to part shade

Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-9

'Walker's Low' Catmint

Nepeta 'Walker's Low' catmint presents mounds of lavender blue flowers and grayish green leaves. It is beautiful paired with roses and also is lovely edging a perennial border. Its striking foliage accents yellow plants such as coreopsis or black-eyed Susan. It deserves a spot in an herb garden as well. Bees love it and so do other pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. It blooms throughout the summer. It performs so well that it was awarded the Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year several years ago.

Name: Nepeta faasenii

Growing conditions: Full sun

Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-8

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