What Flowers Do Bees Like?

By Laila Alvarez
Wikimedia Commons

If you've decided to plant a garden, attracting bees may be part of your plan. Because bees help gardens thrive with pollination, they may become an intricate part of your flowerbed. To attract bees and grow a healthy and productive ecosystem, choosing the right plants and flowers is a must.

Bees and Flowers

Bees are attracted to flower nectar and pollen. Pollen is a source of direct food and energy for bees, and nectar is used to make honey, which is saved up for food as well. Bees' relationship with flowers stems even further, as bees are not the only beneficiary. Flowers also benefit from bees by way of pollination. The bees land on different flowers, pick up pollen with their electrostatic fur and transfer one flower pollen to another flower, enabling fertilization of the flowers. This, in turn, helps flowers remain strong and reproductive. It also helps diversify the flowers to keep the genes strong.

Variety and Multitude

A bee is like a human in the respect that it likes a variety of foods on which to feast. The flowers benefit from a varied garden because the more variety of pollen spread around, the better. The different pollens will attract bees, and if there is more than one type of attractive flower, the more attracted the bee will be to the area. Plants with flowers of different shapes also help attract more bees because of the shapes of the bees themselves.

Also, clusters of plants are always better than one plant. Bees are likely to go where there is plenty to feed on, so one plant with a few flowers is not as attractive to multiple plants with many, many flowers.

Native vs. Non-Native Plants

Bees travel, but most bees you'll find are native to your area, which means they are used to specific flowers and pollens that are also common to your area. Although non-native plants mixed throughout a garden will not hurt, a variety of native plants is best to attract native bees. It will also help spread pollen to others' gardens and wild varieties of native flowers that will thrive in the climate of the area.

Flowers and Herbs

While many flower and herb plants attract bees, Gardens Ablaze singles out a some notable species.

Among 18 herbs mentioned by Gardens Ablaze are basil, catnip, dill, cornflower, echinacea, fennel, evening primrose, goldenrod, hyssop, lavender, poppy, parsley, thyme and sage.

Ornamental flowers favored by bees include bachelor's button, butterfly bush, foxglove, dame's rocket, goldenrod, hydrangea, heliotrope, lantana, Mexican hat, larkspur and zinnia.

Many of the plants and flowers that bees are attracted to will also attract a variety of helpful animals, such as hummingbirds and butterflies, which will also pollinate.

Other Factors

Even with the right plants, a variety of flowers and multiple bunches of flowers, other factors may come into play with attracting bees or not. Mulch, which has become popular over the years, is something that deters bees from entering a garden. There are many bees that nest in the ground, and they prefer plain dirt. Pesticides will not bring bees, as it is a poison. Where the flowers are located could also be an issue. Sunny spots are usually best, so a bountiful flower garden may not attract bees if it is shaded throughout the day.

About the Author

Laila Alvarez has been writing professionally since 2002. She has written for Houston Community Newspapers and "L.A. Zoo View," "North O.C. Magazine," "Perpetual Phlegm" and other magazines, newspapers and websites. Alvarez has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from California State University-Fullerton.