Bees are extremely important garden bugs that pollinate many of our favorite edibles and ornamentals. Native plants are always a great choice for attracting native bees, but many ornamental flowers will also help feed and support the bee population. So when you’re selecting plants, be sure to choose those that bloom at various times throughout your growing season. This will ensure that bees have a reason to return to your backyard month after month.
Nepeta x faassenii, Zones 3 to 8
Don’t let the name sway you from planting this bee favorite. Look for well-behaved varieties that do not reseed and take over the garden. You and the bees will be rewarded with blue flowers that top silvery foliage all season long.
Why we love it: One haircut midseason will keep this heat-and drought-tolerant plant looking its best throughout the growing season.
- MIke Cumberbatch/Alamy
Calendula officinalis, Annual
You may also know this edible flower as pot marigold. The yellowish white and orange petals were once used to flavor soups and stews. Grow in full sun with moist, well-drained soil. It thrives in cooler temperatures.
Why we love it: This plant reseeds providing years of beauty and nectar in the garden.
- Walters Gardens Inc.
Monarda, Zones 4 to 9
A list like this would not be complete without bee balm. It is a favorite of not only bees but also hummingbirds and butterflies. This vigorous plant reseeds readily, but the fragrant leaves provide a bit of aromatherapy when thinning in spring.
Why we love it: The leaves of this North American native plant can be steeped to make tea.
Sedum, Zones 3 to 10
Planting both summer and fall blooming varieties will appeal to more bees and you’ll get season-long blooms. Grow these heat and drought tolerant plants in full sun for best results. There are lots of varieties out there, so select one that best suits your garden design.
Why we love it: There are so many options from ground-hugging varieties great for ground covers to more upright types for perennial and mixed borders.
Lavandula angustifolia, Zones 5 to 8
Full sun and well-drained soil are keys to successfully growing lavender. One of its appeals: The leaves and flowers are fragrant. Lavender’s silvery leaves will persist in mild winters adding to the winter garden’s beauty. Plant hardier varieties, like Hidcote and Munstead, in zone 5 and even 4.
Why we love it: Bonus! Deer and rabbits tend to leave this plant alone.
- Matteo Sani/Shutterstock.com
Borago officinalis, Annual
The clear blue star-shaped flowers of borage stand out in the garden. You can eat the cucumber-flavored leaves raw, steamed or sautéed. This annual self-seeds, so it will be a long lasting member of the garden. And you will have plenty of seedlings to share with family and friends!
Why we love it: Once it’s established it is a drought-tolerant annual.
- Proven Winners
Digitalis purpurea, Zones 4 to 9
Spires of large bell-shaped flowers add vertical interest to the late spring or early summer garden. Foxglove is a great option for those gardeners with shady spaces and moist, organic soils.
Why we love it: Though a biennial, foxglove reseeds and tends to stay in the garden for years. If you want to enjoy these stunners every year, plant them two years in a row.
Crocus, Zones 3 to 8
Start off spring with a burst of color in the landscape and nectar for the bees. Grow these small early bloomers in full sun or partial shade. Planting crocus in bulk will make an even greater impact in the garden.
Why we love it: There are cultivars that squirrels tend to leave alone. Try Little Tommies (Crocus tommasinianus) if you’ve had trouble with squirrels digging up your bulbs in the past.
- Walters Gardens Inc.
Agastache foeniculum, Zones 4 to 8
This North American native produces spikes of blue flowers above anise-scented leaves in late summer. The plants grow 3 feet tall, self-seed and tolerate drought once they’re established. Be sure to deadhead to encourage more blooms.
Why we love it: Anise hyssop will also attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Heliotropium arborescens, Zones 10 & 11, annual elsewhere
Fragrant purple, violet or white flowers will attract bees, but you’ll enjoy the lovely fragrance in the landscape as well. Grow these annuals in the garden or a container in full sun and moist well-drained soil.
Why we love it: Potted plants or those started from cuttings late in the season can be overwintered indoors.
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