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Plants for bees

Gardens are extremely important for bumblebees, and vice versa. Bees need flowers for sustenance, and flowers need bees for pollination. But it's important the flowers you grow provide the food bees need. You can also help your garden wildlife by creating dead wood habitats, or with our top 4 jobs for wildlife in autumn.

Great flowers start with pollination, and for that you need bees. Find out how to get the busiest garden insects to work for you, in our feature.

Preferred flowers

Single-flowered dahlia

Single flowers

Most double flowers are of little use, as they're too elaborate. Some are bred without male and female parts, while others have so many petals that bees can't get to the nectar and pollen. So single dahlias are popular with many bees, while doubles are usually ignored.


Purple flowers

Bees can see the purple more clearly than any other colour, so grow lots of purple plants, such as lavender, alliums, buddleja and catmint.


Tubular-shaped flowers

Tubular-shaped flowers such as foxgloves, honeysuckle, penstemons and snapdragons are also favourite feeding places of long-tongued bees such as the garden bumblebee.

Flowers for all seasons

It's vital you provide flowers throughout the bumblebee's life-cycle, from March to September. It's also a good idea to have at least two nectar- or pollen-rich plants in flower at any one time during this period. The nectar feeds the adult bee, while the pollen is collected to feed the young. Of course, the more flowers you have, the more attractive your garden is to bees, so you can never have too many!

Try the following to attract more bumblebees into your garden:


Spring flowers

Bluebell, bugle, crab apple, daffodil, flowering cherry and currant, forget-me-not (Myosotis), hawthorn, pulmonaria, rhododendron, rosemary, thrift (Armeria maritima) and viburnum.

Hardy geranium

Early-summer flowers

Aquilegia, astilbe, campanula, comfrey, delphinium, everlasting sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius), fennel, foxglove, hardy geranium, potentilla, snapdragon, stachys, teasel, thyme, verbascum.


Late-summer flowers

Angelica, aster, buddleja, cardoon, cornflower (Centaurea), dahlia (single-flowered), eryngium (sea holly), fuchsia, globe thistle (Echinops), heather, ivy, lavender, penstemon, scabious, sedum, Verbena bonariensis.

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Plants for bees
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happymarion_ 24/11/2011 at 15:27

This year, having grown camassias for the first time , I find the bees love them. The bees need all the help we can give them at the present time, not only because of the mysterious decimation they are going through, but also because more and more gardeners are opting to grow their own fruit and veg. so their(the bees') services are more in demand!

dreadlocklover 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I have bees living in the drill holes that were made for my cavity wall insulation. They chirp like birds. Its amazing to watch them.

rogerdennis 24/11/2011 at 15:27

as bees are in danger at the moment I am going to put in a lot of plants that bees like, I am going to plant lots of lavender for them plus anything that atrracts them as I need them to pollinate my beans i used Hissop last year and the bees loved it and the Lavertera, the bees came out looking all pink as they were covered in pollen

annekneebone 24/11/2011 at 15:27

very helpfull i have seen bees in my garden all winter they seem to be hibernating in my hedge i will be planting alot more flowers for them as we are really starting to grow our own veg and fruit now and we need them as much as they need our help now

irishecho 24/11/2011 at 15:27

Very helpful would like to encourage more wildlife to my garden.

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