Bee Friendly Plants

Bee-Friendly Plants & Flowers

Do you remember day trips in the summer as a child when the windscreen was full of bug road kill by the end of the day?  Well, the Big Bug Count in 2004 by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) revealed just one squashed bug on a car windscreen for every five miles driven.  So, today we don’t need so much windscreen wash but the lack of bug life is an urgent signal that vital polinators and a key part of the food chain are disappearing.

Honeybees are under attack from man destroying their habitat.  Perfect looking lawns are sterile wastelands for bees and many beautiful flowers contain little pollen and nectar.

A Call For Action – “Flower Power”



In the BBC programme “”Bees, Butterflies & Blooms”, broadcast in February 2012, Sarah Raven, backed by evidence, claims “One of the main reasons our pollinators are under threat is due to their poor health and nutrition. A lack of a rich and varied supply of pollen and nectar throughout the year to feed our insect workforce is leaving them vulnerable to the effects of pesticides and parasites and threatening some species with extinction. “

She goes on to make a call for action “If we all make small changes in our local areas and grow more wildflowers and insect-friendly plants, then we can lend a strong helping hand to our bees, butterflies and pollinating bugs. Together, we could help to reverse the trend, maybe stop extinctions and secure a future for our threatened pollinating insects.”  I reckon she knows what she’s talking about. And I reckon it’s time for some action!

So, if you have fond memories of those bug-splattered windscreens, care about our environment and worry about the possibility of not having anything to drizzle on your crumpets, then it’s time to do something. Say “no to the patio”, “don’t do decking”, “no more lawn”.  And yes, unashamedly, and without the need for a moustache, shout “flower power”.

I confess, before I started beekeeping, all that I knew about flowers was my nearly-wife didn’t like the ones from the garage. But now, I could probably hold my own over a pint with Alan Titchmarsh.

Top Three Bee-Friendly, Garden-Friendly Flowers

The best garden flowers for bees were researched by rosybee and published in the BBKA News.  This research ranked garden flowers by taking the average number of bees observed per square meter and multiplying this by the number of weeks the plant was in flower. The results showed how to get the most out of one square metre of garden.  See results below.

Best Bee Friendly Flowers
Best Bee-Friendly Flowers (rosybee research)

Top came Echium vulgare, which grows up to 150cm high and produces blue flowers.  But, whilst worth mentioning, having read that this flower is covered in sharp spines which can become lodged in the skin much like those of a cactus and are a skin irritant I have not included this in the the top 3 below.

1. Borage
- Flowers for 12 weeks
- Propogation: divide, cuttings or self seeds
- Can be used as herb
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Borage (Borago officinalis)
2. Hyssop
- Grows up to 60cm
- Can be used as herb
- Photo from rosybee
Hyssopus officinalis
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
3. Helenium autumnale
- Grows up to 1m
Helenium autumnale
Helenium autumnale

Bee-Friendly Flowers By  Season

Bees need flowers throughout the foraging period from March to October. It’s a good idea to have nectar and pollen-rich plants in flower at any one time during this period. The nectar feeds the adult bee and the pollen feeds the brood.

Bees love the following flowers:

  Spring flowers:  Bluebell, bugle, crab apple, crocus, daffodil, flowering cherry and currant, forget-me-not (Myosotis), hawthorn, hellebore (Helleborus corsicus, H. foetidus), pulmonaria, pussy willow, rhododendron, rosemary, viburnum, thrift (Armeria maritima).
  Early-summer flowers:  Aquilegia, astilbe, campanula, comfrey, everlasting sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius), fennel, foxglove, geranium, potentilla, snapdragon, stachys, teasel, thyme, verbascum.
  Late-summer flowers:  Angelica, aster, buddleia, cardoon, cornflower (Centaurea), dahlia (single-flowered), delphinium, eryngium, fuchsia, globe thistle (Echinops), heather, ivy, lavender, penstemon, scabious, sedum, Verbena bonariensis.

And the UK Herb Society believe the following herbs are bee-friendly: Angelica, Bergamot, Betony, Borage, Catmint, Chicory, Chives, Clover, Comfrey, Common Poppy, Cornflower, Dahlias, Dill, Echinacea, Evening Primrose, Fennel, Feverfew, Foxglove, Goldenrod, Heartsease, Horehound (White), Hyssop, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lungwort, Marjoram, Mint, Motherwort, Mullein, Nasturtium, Pot Marigold, Rosemary, Sage, Savory (Summer & Winter), Soapwort, Sunflower, Tansy, Teasel, Thistle, Thyme, Tobacco Plant, Valerian, Viper’s Bugloss, Wild clary, Woad, Yarrow.

Where To Buy Seeds

Many cultivated garden plants have been carefully bred for their colour and flowers size but the breeders were not considering their pollen and nectar loads and the results is many are sterile.

Amazon is as good as place as any for seeds.  I have done the hard work and selected seeds based on most bee-friendly and best-value.

Wild flower meadow seeds

Bee-friendly herbs

Spring flowers


Early-summer flowers

Late-summer flowers

Recommended gardening books*


* The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) book is the “gardening bible”.

Adopt A Hive

If you don’t have anywhere to sew your seeds, you can always adopt a beehive (and essentially sponsor a beekeeper). The scheme opposite, makes a great present and:

  • Supports a honeybee swarm rescue programme and Schools Education Service
  • Provides a jar of their honey (from Devon and Cornwall) and some wild flower seeds
  • Sends 3 newsletters each year

Please let us all know of further bee-friendly plants and seeds.

If you want to know more about the plight of the honeybee and the benefits of planting meadows, please visit my honeybees page and especially watch the video at the end.  Or for some lighter reading you might like to read some of my favourite posts.

10 thoughts on “Bee Friendly Plants”

  1. Hi! I love your site on bees! I am writing because I am a kinder teacher in Denver and am in need of some guidance. We are actually teaching a unit on bees and metamorphosis and the students have decided that they would like to plant a garden that will attract bees, (we are also writing letters to the district to request that they allow a bee box on school property, but that will probably take a little longer). I saw that you have a list of flowers above that bees love, but I was wondering if you would be able to tell me which ones are seeds (not bulbs that needed to be planted in the fall), which ones are perennials so that our kinders next year will be able to plant a new garden without previous years coming up, and if you think they will be successful in Denver? Thank you so much for your time! I have become so excited about bees that I think I may get a bee box of my own!

  2. Thanks for the informative website!. I have just discovered Tree Bumblebees nesting in a wall cavity on my house. I’ve had a bee box in my garden for years but the bees weren’t interested, so I was thrilled to see them on the house, apparently they won’t cause any damage. My kids and I have been enjoying watching them. We have a large space at the bottom of the garden covered in stinging nettles, we’re going to dig it up and plant some of the plants and herbs you have recommended on your website. Thanks.

  3. Russian sage attracts more bees for a longer period of time than anything else I’ve seen. It is also very easy to grow.

      1. In the US Intermountain West, they bloom straight on from mid-June to early October. Bees are present the entire time. In fact, the later in the season, the more bees there seem to be. Perhaps it’s because nearly every other species has closed up shop by then.

        I can’t speak for the quantity or quality of nectar that Russian sage produces – but the bees won’t leave it alone. Meanwhile, the flowering just goes on and on – a most remarkable reproductive strategy.

  4. We’ve had great luck with our tulip tree and a chinese boxwood, plus a bunch of herbs including lavender, sage, chive, oregano, bee balm and thyme…we let all the herbs go to flower and the bees love them. oh, and raspberries too! a friend told us to take the dried herb stems and end-of-season cuttings and use them in our smoker — the bees love the essential oils, and when you spritz yourself with the smoke they don’t mind you either. it really worked for us. we haven’t been stung since we’ve started using the herbs…we used to be stung frequently!

  5. Is it true Fushia is dangerous for bees and that they may die? Never heard it before but a friend told me.

  6. Echium is certainly a winner with our hives of Irish Black Native bees and 2nd comes Oregano which self-seeds quiet happily,Then comes Teasel, also a self seeder, and Buddleia

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