With many bee species becoming endangered, more and more gardeners are opting to keep our buzzing friends in mind when planning out their gardens. I know that my concern for the declining bee population has had an impact on my plant choices in the past few years.
Bees are so incredibly important to our ecosystems and way of life. Why not do your part in helping your local bee populations?
If you also find yourself wanting to make your garden bee-friendly but aren’t quite sure where to start, don’t stress. In this article, I will teach you how you can make your garden a pollinator sanctuary. From choice of flowers to layout, and more!
Two honey bees pollinating a field of lavender. The strong scent that this flower produces is a favorite of many pollinator species.
As with any undertaking, a good first step is to conduct your own personal research. Research what bee species are local to your area, and whether or not there are any specific flowers that they are attracted to. Look up what flowers are native to your area, and try to narrow down which ones you want to include in your garden.
Remember: you are trying to make your space appealing to the bees living in YOUR area. You may even want to reach out to some local wildlife experts to ask some questions.
While there are general tips that apply to most pollinator gardens, you’ll want to make sure you’ve carefully considered the ecosystems around you. That way, you can also ensure that you don’t plant anything that has a negative impact on your local wildlife.
If you’d like some tips on how you could implement your local ecosystems into your yard, learn how to create a “forest” garden.
Design your garden with bees in mind
Designing a bee garden is not just about choice of flora: the actual layout of your space has an impact on how hospitable it is to your local pollinators.
First off, you need to make sure there is a water source near your pollinator-friendly plants. This can be a small waterfall, a birdbath, a garden pond, or a water feeder. Bees often become dehydrated after hours of pollinating, so having a source of water nearby is essential.
You can get as creative with this as you’d like: maybe you’d like to create a beautiful garden with a waterfall as the centerpiece, or buy yourself a fancy insect water feeder like this one. If you opt to implement a garden pond, you can add goldfish or koi to the water to eat mosquitoes or other water attracted insects. This will keep the water safe and clean, which is good for both you and any bee visitors you may have.
If you decide to add a koi pond into your garden, learn some tips on how to make a koi pond.
Example of a garden pond that is hospitable for bees. Notice that this pond includes plenty of flowers for pollinators, as well as rocks for perching. The area surrounding the pond is also filled with wildflowers, a great choice for the local bee populations.
Bees also require stones and rocks to perch on when drinking water or resting. It may be a good idea to decorate your chosen water source with some nice stones or rocks. If you want some more tips, you can learn how to implement rock landscaping into your garden.
Next, you need to plan out a proper layout for your bee-friendly plants. If you only want a small portion of your space to host your bee garden, make sure that all your pollinator-friendly flower species are grouped in the same area. This will make it easy for you to map out where to put your water source, and where you’d feel most comfortable having bees frequenting your yard.
If you want to make your entire garden a pollinator friendly paradise, you can separate the flowers by species or color instead. This will keep your garden looking organized and neat. You can have one section dedicated to vegetables that produce bee-friendly flowers, another section that hosts a few different pollinator-friendly flowers of the same color, and other sections with the same kind of flowers. It’s up to you to decide what direction you want to go with your garden design.
An example of an untamed wildflower lawn. The owner of this yard has allowed local flower species to grow, which is incredibly beneficial for local pollinator species. Even keeping just one section of your lawn wild can make a big difference for the bees.
If you really want to go all out, you can opt to remove your lawn altogether and replace it with wildflowers. The types of grasses people commonly use for lawns are usually not beneficial for pollinators. By replacing it with native flowers, vegetables or fruits, you can turn your yard into a wild sanctuary.
However, If you don’t feel comfortable completely getting rid of your grass lawn, you can instead opt to just keep one section untamed. This will ensure that you have an area well suited for your bee friends, while also keeping your lawn neat if that’s what you prefer.
Another very important tip: be very cautious about your choice of chemicals. You have to be very careful about utilizing pesticides or fertilizers that are not safe for wildlife. I recommend carefully researching any products you are thinking about adding to your garden before using them. It also may be a good idea to switch to using compost instead of store bought fertilizers, as this is much safer for the environment.
If you’d like some tips on how to create eco-friendly fertilizer, learn how to create your own compost for your garden.
Pollinator friendly plants
The most important part of creating a bee friendly garden is choosing the right plants. As I mentioned prior, it’s a good idea to do some personal research on flowers, fruits, and vegetables native to your area. However, I’ve also compiled a list of 10 popular pollinator friendly plants, including some of my personal favorites.
Photograph of the lavender growing in my garden. Adding lavender to your yard is an excellent choice if you are looking to add bee-friendly flowers. The bumblebees spend the whole day hard at work collecting pollen from the tiny purple blooms.
A personal favorite of mine, lavender is a beautiful purple flower that blooms throughout the summer months. The leaves and shrub portion of the plant are a beautiful light green color, which makes for a great addition to any garden even when it is not flowering.
Lavender also produces a beautiful smell, and can be used as an herb in a variety of different recipes. The beautiful scent of lavender attracts all types of pollinators, and this includes a wide variety of different bee species. However, the strong scent deters pests like mosquitoes, making it an excellent choice to add to your garden.
Personally, nothing brings me more joy than seeing the bumblebees hard at work all over my beautiful lavender bushes. If you’d like some help getting started, you can learn how to properly grow lavender.
A picture of a few of the poppies growing in my garden. Since adding them, I’ve noticed a huge increase in the amount of honeybees that have visited.
Bees absolutely adore poppies! These beautiful wispy flowers come in a variety of different colors and species. This makes it easy to tailor your choice of poppy to what fits best for you.
Poppies produce a large amount of pollen, which makes them an excellent choice to add to a bee-friendly garden. Honeybees in particular have an affinity for these flowers, and they will likely make your yard a part of their daily rounds if you add a few.
Ever since adding poppies to my garden, I notice that the local honeybees show up at the same time everyday to collect pollen.
Poppies are also self seeding, which means it is very easy to keep them going in your garden for a long time without having to plant more. I haven’t had to reintroduce new seeds in 2 years!
3. Wild Raspberry
Wild raspberries growing on a bush. Bees are attracted to the flowering stage of this plant, which they help to pollinate. Both the raspberry bush and the bees benefit from this relationship.
The delicious berries that this plant produces start off as flowers that are very attractive to bees. The branches, stems, and twigs of the bush also provide nesting materials for certain bee species. This means that this plant will help supply valuable housing for them. Furthermore, you get to harvest the berries for your own personal use once the time comes.
Wild raspberries grow best in full sunlight, so try and place these bushes in a well lit area.
This photo was taken in my friend’s garden. Since adding sunflowers, more and more pollinators have begun to visit.
These big, beautiful, bright yellow flowers are a favorite of many different pollinators. Sunflowers are an excellent addition to your garden, as they are sure to attract a wide variety of bee species.
Sunflowers require a lot of sunlight, so make sure to put them in a location that receives full sun for at least 8 hours a day.
You may want to consider making these tall flowers the centerpiece of your bee-friendly garden, as their big yellow petals are likely to attract a large amount of them. Their graceful beauty is sure to add elegance to any space
5. Cherry Tomatoes
Photograph of cherry tomatoes in various stages of ripeness. When in their blooming stage, cherry tomatoes produce yellow flowers that are very attractive to pollinators.
When planning out your vegetable garden, you may want to consider adding some bee-friendly veggies to your harvest. Cherry tomatoes are an excellent choice, as the little yellow flowers that tomato plants produce attract tons of bumblebees.
Tomatoes are quite easy to grow and are self seeding, making them an easy choice if you’re trying to make your vegetable patch more hospitable to pollinators.
If you’d like some more tips, learn how to successfully grow cherry tomatoes.
Beautiful purple lilac trees. Notice that a honeybee is collecting pollen from one of the flowers. The sweet scent that lavender produces is very attractive to most pollinators
Lilac is a sweet smelling flowering tree that makes an excellent addition to your back or front yard. The strong sweet scent of these flowers is sure to attract a wide variety of pollinators. Which, of course, includes lots of different types of bees.
Because lilac trees can grow to be considerably large, it might be a good idea to plant lilacs in an area where you’d like to add a new tree. Rather than plant a tree that does not produce any flowers, consider adding lilac instead. The bees will surely appreciate it.
A honey bee collecting pollen from a cornflower. The beautiful bright blue petals of this flower make it a beautiful pollinator-friendly choice for any garden.
These cute bright blue flowers are not just a charming addition to your garden, but also a great choice if you’re trying to be bee-friendly. The nectar these flowers produce is very attractive to honeybees, which is sure to draw them to your yard.
Cornflower, also aptly nicknamed “bachelor’s button”, requires full sunlight and frequent watering. Make sure to plant them somewhere that receives a lot of sun, and don’t let the soil around them dry out.
These beautiful wildflowers are sure to attract lots of pollinators, while also adding a well needed blue “pop” to your outdoor spaces.
8. Wild Roses
Photograph of a white wild rose growing in my garden. Notice that a honey bee has visited one of the flowers to collect pollen.
Ever since introducing a wild rose bush to my garden, the bees just can’t keep away! The sweet scent of these flowers is irresistible to them.
While there are hundreds of different rose species, wild rose varieties seem to be the ones that attract the most pollinators. Fortunately, wild roses come in a multitude of different species and colors. Because of this, there is a large variety of wild rose species native to ecosystems around the world. It should be easy to choose one that is best for both you and the local bees.
Wild roses are a beautiful addition to any garden, and the lovely smell they produce is sure to add some extra personality to your space.
If you’d like to learn more about the wide variety of rose species that exist, you can learn how to grow different kinds of roses
Photograph of yellow honeysuckle. These flowers produce a sweet nectar that is irresistible to pollinators.
Honeysuckle vines are a great way to decorate any bare wall space or trellises in your garden.
The flowers of this plant produce a sweet scent that is sure to attract all kinds of pollinators. And, as an added bonus, you can actually consume the nectar that these plants produce as well!
Honeysuckle plants come in a variety of different colors, which means there are plenty of options to choose from to best suit your garden aesthetic.
Wild daisies growing near my home. Daisies tend to flourish in wild and untamed fields, where they receive frequent visits from pollinators.
These adorable white and yellow flowers are an excellent choice to add to your bee friendly garden. Daisies produce a large amount of both nectar and pollen, which your local pollinators are sure to appreciate when they visit your home.
Furthermore, these flowers commonly grow wild around the world. This means that you can easily add them to any spaces you want to leave untamed in your yard. There’s a good chance that wild daisies have already sprung up as weeds in your yard at some point!
If you decide to go all out with creating a pollinator friendly garden, you can also choose to fill your yard with patches of local wildflowers and weeds. When it comes to bees, the messier the better!
If you are hesitant to convert your entire garden into a wild and untamed field, you can choose to dedicate a certain section where local weeds and flowers can grow freely. You can also leave a few harmless weeds or wildflowers to grow between your other flowers.
If you’d like some more flower suggestions, you can learn about other pollinator friendly flowers that are beneficial for bees
Provide bee homes
If you want to go the extra mile when making a bee-friendly garden, you can even provide housing for your local bees. There a few ways you could go about this:
Provide empty patches of earth for nesting
Many people are unaware of the fact that many bee species actually nest underground. Pictured here is a bee about to enter its underground nest.
Many people are unaware of the fact that a large portion of bee species actually make their homes underground . By leaving small patches of earth bare, you are providing an ideal space for them to create a suitable nest or hive. This coupled with a water source and bee-friendly flowers will make your yard the perfect sanctuary for them.
Provide nesting material in your backyard
Piles of dead leaves and branches can be valuable nesting materials for a multitude of bee species.
Leaving piles of twigs, leaves, or dead tree matter around your garden or backyard space will provide adequate nesting materials for a variety of bee species, both solitary and colonial .
If you’re worried about this being a bit of an eyesore, you can choose a location that is out of the way, or disguise these materials amongst your flowers. I try to leave a few dead leaf piles in between my lavender bushes. That way, I can help the bees without creating an eyesore in my garden.
Make or buy insect houses for your backyard
Example of an insect hotel in a garden. The cute design of these houses make for both good decor, and functional housing for insect pollinators.
Many solitary bee species require specific kinds of housing in order to flourish. If you really want to do your part, consider adding insect houses to your garden space. You can find these houses for sale online, like this one, or you can even make your own.
Making a bee house is quite easy: all you need is a few common household materials. There are plenty of guides available online that detail how to make one yourself from home.
Here is a video from the Avon Wildlife Trust to help guide you on how to make your own bee hotel:
You could also check out these guidelines from the David Suzuki nature foundation for further tips on how to make/buy the perfect bee house.
As gardeners, we have a responsibility to ensure that we prioritize bees when planning out our gardens. They are important to our local ecosystems, and therefore we need them to survive. With these tips in mind, you now have the proper tools and information to get started creating your own bee-friendly space.
If you’d like to read further on how to implement pollinator friendly practices into your gardening, you can also add hummingbird friendly flowers to your garden.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.