Planting for Bees


Honeybees are in trouble. Most people are aware of that, but did you know you can do your part to help the honeybee population? If you have a yard space, it is possible to plant flowers that will provide nectar rich nutrition, which is one part of helping bee colonies.

Even if you are a new gardener, easy annual flower mixes like American Meadow’s wildflower seeds formulated for particular regions of the U.S. I am trialing some in my own garden this year from seeds sent to me.

What Makes A Bee Garden?

  • Encouraging honeybees is one part of the formula. Attractive flowering plants, from trees to humble annuals will draw them into your garden
  • Remembering that pesticides kill the beneficial insects along with pests, forego using chemical warfare on your garden. Learn about organic methods to grow a healthy, environmentally friendly space.
  • Either replace some lawn with a flowering meadow (This garden has such a space which I call my “Prairie Patch“) or consider sowing some clover into the grass. I remember when backyard lawns usually had a fair amount of clover incorporated into them.It makes a good play surface, clover is nitrogen-fixing (which helps feed the grass), and stays green during the summer dormancy of grasses like ‘Kentucky Blue Grass’.
  • It is full of nectar and pollen producing plants that bees love.
flower garden

Wildflower garden

What Seeds Are Included in a Honey Bee Wildflower Mix?

This list is just one example of the kind of flowers that can make a good bed of wildflowers for attracting and helping bees.

In a Honey Bee Wildflower Mix there would be both annuals and perennials. Several of the perennials are native to prairies along with some introduced garden annuals:

Prairie Natives for Bees

  • Coreopsis lanceolata
  • Coreopsis tinctoria
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Ratibida columnaris
  • Rudbeckia hirta

Clovers for Pollinators

  • Trifolium fragiferum
  • Trifolium incarnata
  • Trifolium repens

Planting for Bees

  • Chrysanthemum maximum
  • Cosmos bipinnatus
  • Cosmos sulphureus
  • Helianthus annuus
  • Lobularia maritima
  • Nemophila menziesii
  • Phacelia tanacetifolia
  • Tagetes erecta
  • Zinnia elegans

Putting in a mix is economical in money and time. I’ve grown all these choices in the past at some point, and several of them will attract hummingbirds, while the cosmos are magnets for Goldfinches.

This garden is a colorful blend of gold, orange, and pink with several levels of heights which should make for a nice landscape feature.

The Honeybee Conservacy recommends focus on native plants that are geared for your particular region.

I have a mixed garden style that is moving towards greater amounts of native plants in a more natural style of design. It suits my ambitions and abilities, but you should choose your own style, design, and think of how to create your own honeybee -friendly garden.

Lupines by Studio Beerhorst

Lupines by Studio Beerhorst

A Few Inspirations:

… a formal herb garden

…a row of flowers for cutting in the vegetable garden

…meadow flowers in an orchard area

… a child’s garden

… a hellstrip that does not need to be mowed

…pots of attractive pollinator blooms

Peaceful Places

bee and clover

Rodney Campbell photo of clover and honeybee

The Human Benefits

Much of the joy of being outdoors is the peaceful way we are connected with nature. Sounds and the ever changing displays are not always something we think of including in our plans, but the lazy buzzing of bees, the soft song of flowing water, rustling leaves in the breeze are part of the symphony of an oasis of respite. Whether you have only a balcony garden or acres of land, it is possible to include all these facets of nature, even if not entirely natural!

Too often we leave it to accident whether our yard draws in birds, bees, and butterflies, but with some attention to the creation of some habitats with the right inclusion of plants and the fauna that give so much dimension will come!

Recap of Important Features for Bees

  • Shallow water source
  • Large group or Drift of their favorite plant: one square yard of a chosen bee plant
  • Allow plants that you might consider weeds: clover, dandelion, milkweed, goldenrod
  • Stop using pesticides and other harmful chemicals (they aren’t good for you, your children, or pets, either)

One last thing, try not to fear bees.

My mother taught me that if I don’t bother them, they won’t bother me, and I find that generally true. Their stingers are protection, so if you regard them with a healthy measure of respect, you will probably just watch them industriously gather pollen. There are so few bees I no longer think about accidentally stepping on them, but wear foot protection, just in case.

Pollinators (and bees are very important members of this group) are vital to the environment. They help feed other creatures, they provide the means by which many, many plants propagate. When they are in trouble, much of what we need to survive is in trouble. Every gardened place is but a small part of the earth, yet when many are taken together they produce a measurable group that makes a difference. That is why our small efforts to increase forage for bees, places free of chemicals that harm and kill them will create a larger difference than simply our one garden.

Start with the one, your own place.

More info… Perennials for Pollinators
Bees and Friends
Feature photo by Dendroica cerulea on Flickr