Bee Friendly Plants for your Garden
Bees play an incredibly important role in the environment as they cross-pollinate plants worldwide every day. Without bees, our sensitive ecosystem would struggle to produce the wonderful plants that feed our population.
Sadly, due to the loss of flower meadows, climate change, and the use of pesticides, bee numbers are declining rapidly around the world, making it more important than ever for us to create a nurturing environment for bees in our own backyards.
If you want to attract bees to your garden, you'll need to plant a mix of flowers, making sure something is in bloom year-round. Many native plants are long-flowering and highly attractive to bees, but, if natives aren't your thing, many exotics offer pollen and nectar.
When choosing plants, it's good to keep in mind the design of the flowers, and therefore their accessibility to bees. Here are six flowering plants that bees are guaranteed to flock to.
Lavender flowers are bee magnets and there are many species and varieties to ensure long flowering. For humid areas, grow spring-flowering French lavender (L. dentata); in cool zones, try summer-flowering English lavender (L. augustifolia).
This self-seeding annual produces white or purple flowers in a ground-cover style, which makes it a favourite stop-off for bees and butterflies. A common variety is 'Carpet of Snow', so-called for the massive number of white flowers it produces when it's in full bloom. Sweet Alyssum like full to part shade and flowers from summer through to winter.
(Viola bederacea) This spreading native ground cover is great in rockeries or even as a lawn replacement. It has a carpet of small green leaves and lowers almost constantly during the warmer months.
With the flower head made up of multiple small florets in the centre, like numerous tiny flowers, Coneflower (Echinacea spp.) is an actual insect magnet. It's an autumn flowerer, so perfect for bees topping up their stores for winter. The leaves and flower petals are edible, and all parts of the plant have been used in tinctures or other remedies and cold and flu treatments for centuries.
This is one of those plants that you're taught to pinch the flowers off so it doesn't bolt, but don't! Let it grow and flower. When it flowers and drops seeds, these will sprout into new plants, making for an everlasting supply. Basil is an amazing bee attractor, with a sweet smell they find irresistible. Sweet basil flowers from summer to autumn.
Native Fuchsia (Correa spp.), a bee- (and bird-) attracting evergreen shrub, are available in a variety of colours. Best grown in clumps of four or more to give a decent group of flowers for insects to forage. Native fuchsia grows well in shady locations but avoid very dry or tropical areas. Native Fuchsia flower from autumn to spring.