Salvia 'Amistead'

The best bee friendly plants

Bees and pollinators are vital for our environment and eco system. 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.

Best flowers for bees and wildlife

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 'Amistad'
© Claire Takacs

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.

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.

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

Betula nigra

Betula nigra
© Alamy

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

Clematis ‘Freda’

Clematis montana 'Freda'

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’

Carex elata Aurea
© DeAgostini/Getty Images

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’

Deschampsia cespitosa
© FlowerPhotos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A clump-forming wildlife-happy grass with lovely plumes of golden flowers in summer. 45cm.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’
© Claire Takacs

This stripy grass is a real eye catcher and perfect for natural wildlife habitats. 1.2m. AGM.

And here’s our focus on gorgeous grasses to grow.

Best perennials for bees and wildlife

Achillea ‘Summerwine’

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.

Eupatorium cannabinum

One of the best plants to grow for butterflies. 1.2m.

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

Cornus mas

Cornus Mas
© Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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. 

Don’t miss our piece on perfect perennials for your garden.

Cotoneaster horizontalis

http://e.gardensillustrated.com/q/119zhSznyJlP/wv
Photo: Sharon Pearson

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.

Rosa rugosa

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

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’

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.

Buddleja davidii

Photo showing the large purple flowers of a buddleia tree growing in the wild (Latin name: Buddleja davidii). This is also known as a 'butterfly bush', as the extremely fragrant flowers are often covered in colourful peacock butterflies.
Photo: Getty Images

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.

Centaurea nigra

Centaurea nigra (Common Knapweed - Rayed form)