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 four 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.

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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.

Early-summer flowers

Late-summer flowers

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Kate Bradbury

Kate Bradbury says

The perennial wallflower, Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ flowers pretty much every day of the year, particularly in milder regions. It’s a great nectar plant and a good choice for a small, bee-friendly garden.

Discover more ideas and inspiration

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