Flowers for Bees

I saw my first bumblebee of the year yesterday. I believe it was a queen, due to its immense size. I know that mathematicians have now worked out how this buzzy bug manages to get airborne, but all the same an amazing sight.

I can’t imagine that there is a single person in the UK who hasn’t heard that global bee populations are in decline. Many Entomologists now suggest that this may be due to a loss of natural habitat and lack of biodiversity in the plant world. Bees that gather pollen from a wide range of plants usually have stronger immune systems, enabling them to fight off common and deadly disease.

It has been noticed that bees generally do better in urban areas. This may due to a wider diversity in flower plants. Many of our own gardens will provide valuable nectar for bees and it’s not just our own indigenous species that can benefit them, but a whole plethora of varieties – good news for the gardener.

Feed the bees or humanity gets it!

Einstein was once rumoured to say:

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man. “

There is little evidence that Professor Einstein ever made this remark, but there is certainly a truth behind it. Bees are crucial in the pollination process for many plants on which we depend. If bees disappeared, we would stand to lose 80% of all plant life on earth. This would surely result in the mass extinction of most species, possibly even humanity.

I don’t like to be a scare monger, and I hate to dwell on the negative, but it’s not all doom and gloom. We can all make a difference by growing more flowers in our own back gardens and put this worrying decline into reverse.

Flowering plants & shrubs to encourage bees

If possible, plan your flower scheme so that it offers a continuous and varied supply of colour throughout the warmer seasons. This will keep the bees coming back for more and ensure a rich and healthy food supply. Don’t be afraid of bees! They will keep out of your way, so let them get on with their important work, unhindered.

Shrubs & Trees

  • Apple
  • Cotoneaster
  • Gorse
  • Buddleia (Budleja)
  • Rhododendron
  • Crab Apple
  • Rose
  • Rosemary


  • Bluebells
  • Daffodil
  • Crocus
  • Snowdrops

Border Plants

  • Aubretia
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Scabious
  • Thrift
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Dahlia (not pompom varieties)
  • Flowering Current
  • Helleborus
  • Lavender
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Penstemon
  • Geranium
  • Astilbe
  • Primrose
  • Potentilla
  • Cornflower
  • Heather
  • Sedum
  • Sweet Pea
  • Honeysuckle
  • Teasel
  • Delphinium
  • Michaelmas daisy
  • Asters
  • Fuchsia
  • Bugle
  • Thyme
  • Goldenrod
  • Pansy
  • Columbine (Aquilegia)
  • Verbascum
  • Convulvulus (Morning Glory)
  • Forget-me-not
  • Lupin
  • Red Campion
  • Foxglove
  • Borage
  • Comfrey

Other consideration for encouraging bees

  • Don’t use pesticides in your garden. It is highly likely that pesticides have got bees into this mess in the first place, so opt for organic options.
  • Mix the colours of your flowers. Bees are attracted to colours such as violet, purple, blue, yellow and white.
  • Although bees are happy to feed on many non-indigenous plants, they still do prefer wild flowers.
  • Plant your bee-friendly flowers in warm, sunny spots in your garden.

James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Seed Parade

    What a great source of helpful plants for the bees. One other plant which is not very well known is the honeywort or cerinthe. The plant itself is very attractive and the honey bees love the blue flowers. Strangly mine self-seeded in the autumn and sprouted as weel and to my surprise the plants survived the winter and were among the first plants to flower in the alotment.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. James Middleton

    An unusual flower, but lovely in the garden all the same. The Honeywort is classed as a hardy annual but can survive as a perennial and is a prolific self-seeder.

    Very nectar rich. Thanks “Seed Parade”. If there are any other bee-friendly plants that anyone can think of, please do add your comments. I’m sure there are 1000’s!

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