Bulbs for bees

Find out which bulbs to plant for bees and follow our video to create a pot display of spring bulbs.

Bees need our help in early spring. A great way to help them is to plant spring-flowering bulbs in autumn. Bulbs are hardy and reliable plants, so you can guarantee the bees will have a source of pollen and nectar when there’s little else in flower.


Planting bulbs in containers is an easy way to ensure you don’t miss their colourful displays, especially if they’re along the front path, next to the back door or on your patio. Choosing varieties that are rich in both nectar and pollen will be a lifeline for the first emerging bumblebees, some of which come out from hibernation as early as February. Plant bulbs that flower over a long season, including early-flowering crocus and late-spring flowering fritillaries. By combining bulbs, you’ll not only create eye catching pots but attract different pollinators, too.

In the video above, Kate Bradbury demonstrates how to plant a succession of spring bulbs to flower over a long period, using crocuses, grape hyacinths and alliums. She explains how deep to plant them, which way up to set them, and how far apart to space them.

More on plants for bees:

Discover four spring bulb container ideas for bees and other pollinators, below.

Snake’s head fritillary and snowflake

Bulbs for bees - snake's head fritillary and snowflakes
Bulbs for bees – snake’s head fritillary and snowflakes

Snake’s head fritillary grows well with spring  snowflake and spring starflower (Ipheion ‘Alberto Castillo’). All are slim-stemmed, so give them a good amount of light to prevent them from flopping.

Anemone and species tulip

Bulbs for bees - anemone and tulip
Bulbs for bees – anemone and tulip

Anemone blanda ‘Blue’ produces masses of daisy-like flowers that will cover a bowl or trough-shaped container, creating a perfect foil for a companion, which in this case is the dazzlingly deep-pink Tulipa humilis ‘Persian Pearl’.

Winter aconite, crocus and iris

Bulbs for bees - winter aconite and iris
Bulbs for bees – winter aconite and iris

This uplifting display, featuring winter aconite, Crocus ‘Orange Monarch’ and Iris reticulata ‘Pixie’, offers a smorgasbord of pollen- and nectar-rich flowers that start blooming in late winter.

Iris and grape hyacinths

Bulbs for bees - muscari and iris
Bulbs for bees – muscari and iris

Iris histrioides ‘George’ and two grape hyacinths – Muscari armeniacum ’Siberian Tiger’ and Muscari azureum – will attract sleepy pollinators from February onwards. This combination is ideal for a window box or table decoration in a sunny spot, where you can get up close to see the pretty flowers.