Gardens Illustrated
Salvia 'Amistead'

The best bee friendly plants

Published: July 6, 2022 at 12:02 pm
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Bees and pollinators are vital for our environment and ecosystem. Encourage them in your garden by picking the plants that pollinators love best

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.

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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.

The best bee friendly plants

Best flowers for bees

Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’

Echinacea purpurea 'Fatal Attraction'
© Jason Ingram

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.

Salvia ‘Amistad’

Salvia 'Amistead'

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. Discover more about salvia with our plant profile.

Rosa rugosa

Single rose flowers with petals pink shading to white in center. Leaves very deep green.
Photo: Getty Images

The single, fragrant 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.

Filipendula ulmaria

Filipendula ulmaria
© FlowerPhotos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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.

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. Looking for how best to grow alliums? Don't miss our allium plant profile.

Prunus padus 'Colorata'

Prunus padus 'colorata'
Photo: Sharon Pearson

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.

Echinops ritro subsp. ruthenicus

Vibrant blue globes, loved by bees and wildlife, look great next to silver-grey plants. 1m. AGM.

Trifolium rubens ‘Peach Pink’

This pale-pink clover will flower for several weeks, longer if deadheaded regularly, providing honey bees with abundant nectar to take back to their hives. Easy to grow in most soils and the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their root nodules will increase fertility. 50cm. USDA 3a-8b.

Linaria purpurea

A British native with spires of purple flowers for many months. It seeds freely in disturbed or stony soils and is a cafeteria for bees and hoverflies. Try Linaria purpurea ‘Canon Went’ (soft pink) and Linaria purpurea ‘Springside White’ (pristine white). 1m. USDA 5a-8b.

Geranium pratense

Geranium pratense 'Wisley Blue'
Geranium pratense 'Wisley Blue'. Photo: Jason Ingram

With the desperate need to stem the declining honeybee population, these pastel-coloured flowers are a perfect food source for bees and other wildlife forms. They will happily naturalise themselves in the garden. Dead-head geraniums in July and they will often flower again. Here's more on perfect geraniums.
Height 90cm. Hardiness ratings USDA 4a-9b. Season of interest Summer

Centaurea nigra

Centaurea nigra (Common Knapweed - Rayed form)
Photo: Jason Ingram

A native plant, common knapweed is easy to grow in borders as well as meadows and is perfect for wildlife. Provides pollen and nectar for a wide range of foraging insects – bees, butterflies and moths. Finches devour the abundant seed. Forms vary considerably and some, such as Centaurea nigra, are particularly garden-worthy. Here's how to grow centaurea.
Height 60cm. Hardiness ratings USDA 7a-10a. Season of interest Summer

Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Lavendelturm’

Veronicastrum virginicum 'Lavendelturm'. Photo: Jason Ingram

Long spires of lavender flowers appear in June and July on this tall perennial. Useful for vertical accents in a border, it is beloved by bees, hoverflies, moths, butterflies among other forms of wildlife. Leaves a graceful skeleton through the late summer months. Read our veronicastrum plant profile.
Height 1.5m. Hardiness ratings USDA 5a-9b. Season of interest Summer

Euphorbia palustris

Euphorbia palustris
© Andrea Innocenti/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Lovely bright-green leaves will tolerate heavier soils more than most other euphorbias. Perfect for wildlife. 90cm. AGM. Shrubs

Echium vulgare

Also known as viper’s bugloss, this British native biennial with tubular blue flowers, is ideal for a sunny, well-drained site. One of the best bee attracting plants, it flowers for several months. Echium vulgare ‘Blue Bedder’ is an annual cultivar, useful for topping up nectar sources in the garden. 90cm. USDA 3a-11.

Eryngium bourgatii

Eryngium bourgatii 'Picos Blue'.
Eryngium bourgatii 'Picos Blue'. Photo: Jason Ingram ©:Jason Ingram

This prickly character is a member of the cow parsley tribe. It grows best in full sun with good drainage. Beloved by wildlife and beneficial insects especially bumblebees. It flowers in summer then leaves an elegant skeleton and plenty of seeds for hungry birds.
Height 50cm. Hardiness ratings USDA 7b-8b. Don't miss our eryngium plant profile.

Best climbing plants for bees

Clematis ‘Freda’

Clematis montana 'Freda'

Pretty pink flowers in May and June and attractive bronze foliage. Bees and other wildlife love it. 5m. AGM. For more on clematis montana, here's our guide.

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.

Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina’

Lonicera Periclymenum Serotina A scented deciduous honeysuckle for early summer. It produces pink and white flowers and attracts wildlife. Photo: Jason Ingram
Lonicera Periclymenum Serotina A scented deciduous honeysuckle for early summer. It produces pink and white flowers and attracts wildlife. Photo: Jason Ingram © Jason Ingram

Known as the late Dutch honeysuckle, because it continues flowering longer than other cultivars, usually into October. The highly perfumed flowers are a deep reddish-purple on the outside and yellow within. 8m. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 5a-9b. Here's everything you need to know about honeysuckle.

Evergreen plants for bees

Carex pendula

Carex pendula
© Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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 bees. 1.5m. USDA 5a-9b.

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For more on how to attract wildlife in your garden, head to our wildlife guide.

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