It has been said that without bees we would struggle to feed much of the world’s population, so encouraging bees and other pollinators into our the gardens is not just lovely to see, it is important for our wider existence. There are many ways you can do this and featuring plants and flowers that bees, pollinators and wildlife in general love is the perfect place to start.
For more on how to attract wildlife in your garden, don’t miss our piece on a wildlife garden for pollinators. And here’s Chris Packham’s suggestions for encouraging bugs, butterflies, bees and more into your outdoor patch.
Best flowers for bees and wildlife
Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’
The fabulous daisy-like flowers look beautiful even before they burst into bloom. What’s more, wildlife, including butterflies, bees and birds, is attracted to them. 80cm.
This is a new cultivar with a long flowering period from May to October. It is drought tolerant and wildlife and bees love it. Plant in drifts alongside bright greens. Also looks good in pots. 1.2m.
This native meadowsweet has creamy, fluffy flower heads and is easy to grow. It’s often seen growing on the banks of streams and is ideal for boggy areas of the garden and it’s great for wildlife. 90cm. USDA 3a-9b.
A native, evergreen sedge with arching, slender flower spikes that will help give a naturalistic look to the swale and is a strong choice for supporting wildlife. Prefers heavy clay soils and can be a bit thuggish, but great for pollinators. 1.5m. USDA 5a-9b.
More commonly known as river birch, this tree is wonderfully suited to a rain garden. Its peeling bark starts reddish-brown then turns increasingly dark. Good for wildlife including beetles. 12m. USDA 4a-9b.
Best climbing plants for bees and wildlife
Pretty pink flowers in May and June and attractive bronze foliage. Bees and other wildlife love it. 5m. AGM.
Clematis ‘Warszawska Nike’
Rich velvety purple flowers from July to September. If you plant it alongside ‘Freda’ you’ll enjoy a much longer flowering period and should maximise the wildlife attraction. 3m. AGM.
Don’t miss more clematis suggestions from our piece on the best clematis montana for pots.
Best grasses for bees and wildlife
Carex elata ‘Aurea’
A low, mound-forming sedge that’s great for wildlife and happy in moist soil. Semi-evergreen and a real brightener. 70cm. AGM.
Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldschleier’
A clump-forming wildlife-happy grass with lovely plumes of golden flowers in summer. 45cm.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’
This stripy grass is a real eye catcher and perfect for natural wildlife habitats. 1.2m. AGM.
Best perennials for bees and wildlife
Provides wonderful shapes and colour mixed in with grasses. 75cm. AGM.
Allium cernuum ‘Hidcote’
Very pretty, pendulous pink flower heads which is very attractive to bees and other forms of wildlife. Makes a great cut flower too. 50cm. AGM.
Echinops ritro subsp. ruthenicus
Vibrant blue globes, loved by bees and wildlife, look great next to silver-grey plants. 1m. AGM.
One of the best plants to grow for butterflies. 1.2m.
Lovely bright-green leaves will tolerate heavier soils more than most other euphorbias. Perfect for wildlife. 90cm. AGM. Shrubs
It flowers yellow in February and its foliage has a lovely purple tint in autumn. 5m. Here’s a few more cornus and dogwood suggestions.
This species – along with all the cotoneasters, but surpassing others in popularity – offers pollen and nectar to wildlife such as insects, as well as berries for birds. It has attractively coloured autumn foliage and an architectural form for either ground cover or as a wall plant. It produces small, white-blushed pink flowers in May, and are inconspicuous until the hum of bees make you stop.
Height 3m. Hardiness rating RHS H4, USDA 5a-7b. Season All year round.
The single, fragrant wildlife-happy flowers offer a mass of easily accessible pollen and nectar for bees. It has huge hips to nourish birds and small mammals. They are among the healthiest and easiest roses to grow. For more roses, head to our piece on Libby Russell’s perfect roses.
Prunus padus ‘Colorata’
A charming medium-sized open textured tree characterised by a distinctly gaunt appearance. Its loose, rounded crown is made up of a criss-cross of long think, dark coloured drooping branches, which in spring are dressed in reddish bronze leaves. These fade to sombre green. The gappy five-petalled flowers are pale pink with creamy green centres. Small, rounded, bitter fruit with glossy skin follow before autumn turns the scene orange red.
Height 12m. Hardiness rating RHS H4, USDA 3a-8b. Season of interest April-May for foliage and flowers. October-November for autumn colour.
Buddlejas famously attract wildlife, specifically insects and especially butterflies. This cultivar flowers latest in the season, when the largest numbers of butterflies are on the wing. If you’ve got Buddleja davidii you can delay it by pruning later in spring. Extend the season by deadheading to encourage side flowers. Deadheading also decreases the risk of self-seeding as buddleja is increasingly considered as an invasive plant.