We have all heard about the decline in the bee population, and as gardeners we can learn the best flowers for native bees to help. We are specifically talking about the native bees to an area, not the honeybee, which you may also see in your garden which are great pollinators as well.
Our life really does depend on bees pollinating our crops, so we can do our part to help by planting the right flowers to support them, and providing a safe area for them to live simply by reducing our insecticide and pesticide use on our property.
There are over 4000 species of native bees native to North America and they come in many different shapes and sizes. All of these native bees rely on your garden to provide flowers for them to harvest nectar and pollen from.
Below I’ll talk about what are the best flowers for native bees!
Echinacea is a wonderful perennial for your garden and will support native bees. It is a perennial in zones 3 to 9, and will do well in hot and sunny conditions. Echinacea, sometimes called coneflower, is a medium to large sized perennial, producing tall spikes of unique flowers in mid to late summer. This plant can reach 2 to 5 feet tall depending on the variety, so be sure to give it some space to grow.
Every year it seems there are more colors of coneflower available but the normal color is a bright purple. You can find them in white, purple, pink, red and even green colors!
Globe thistle is a fast growing, large, perennial that will attract many pollinators to your garden. Accordingly, it is a great plant to add to your pollinator garden to support the native bee population. Globe thistle will grow in hot and dry areas that a lot of other plants will not. It grows best in zone 3 to 9 and will reach 3 to 5 feet in height and 2 to 3 feet in diameter so ensure you have a nice space for it to grow.
Globe thistle products large balls of flowers at the top of their stems. You will see these balls produce large amounts of blue flowers and they will be covered in native bees. Like an invasive native thistle (though glove thistle is not invasive in most parts of the world), this plant requires basically zero care for it to do well and it will thrive in many environments that other plants will not.
Another easy to grow perennial, bee balm will attract native bees and hummingbirds to your garden. It produces tall, unique, flower stalks in mid to late summer. Bee balm will grow well in zones 3 through 9 and will do okay in part sun but prefers a hot and sunny location if given the choice.
Bee balm flowers are normally purple, red or white and the foliage of the plant is beautifully fragrant as well! There are many different varieties available, some of which are a more compact plant, making it good for any garden. Try to plant bee balm in an area with good air circulation and not a lot of standing water, as its leaves are prone to powdery mildew if left wet.
Sunflowers are an annual that are wonderful for native bees and pollinators, but you must choose the right varieties. Many varieties of sunflowers are now actually bred to be pollen free, so make sure you choose a variety that will produce pollen to help attract native bees to your garden.
Sunflowers are tall and striking and look wonderful at the back of a garden bed or in front of a fence. As an added bonus, if you leave the seed heads on at the end of the season, the birds will be able to harvest from them all winter. Sunflowers will prefer to grow in a sunny location and do well in hot temperatures. You are able to find sunflowers that range in height from 2 feet up to 10 feet with flower heads the size of a dinner plate. Look at my post on five great annuals to learn more about why I love sunflowers!
Yarrow is a perennial that is native to North America, meaning it will grow easily and is a wonderful plant to attract native bees to your garden. This plant is hardy from zones 3 through 9 and prefers a sunny location to grow well.
This plant produces flower heads with clusters of small flowers in yellow, red or pink. A favorite variety is pink lemonade which has flowers with both pink and yellow in them. Because yarrow is native to North America, in some settings it can spread, so be sure you are choosing a location that you are comfortable with. It does great in borders and even as a ground cover! Check out this post from The Almanac to learn more details about how to grow yarrow in your garden.
Let me know below which plant is your favorite for attracting native bees to the garden!