Flowers are a fabulous way to introduce color and fragrance to a garden or vegetable patch. They also play a vital part in a healthy ecosystem, attracting beneficial insects and deterring others. Flowers that attract bees and other pollinators are particularly useful.
Pollinators, as the name suggests, spread pollen around flowers and from plant to plant. The more pollinators that visit your garden the more plants that become pollinated. This, in turn, increases the amount of blooms, fruit and vegetables that your garden produces. This list of flowers that attract bees will highlight the best bee blooms for your garden. The plants on this list are suitable for a range of different planting schemes and gardens and can be used individually, in mass planting or mixed up with other plants for a colorful mixed flower bed.
Planting some flowers that attract bees, such as asters, is a great way to help pollinators and boost your own garden.
Also known as starflower thanks to its star shaped blue bloms, borage provides visiting insects with lots of sweet nectar. The delicate, soft green foliage adds interest long after the blooms have faded. A self-seeding plant, borage returns to your garden year after year. Also borage seeds, foliage and blooms are all edible.
2 Butterfly Bush
As the name suggests the butterfly bush draws scores of butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Flowering in shades of purple, lavender, white and pink, the fragrant blooms of the butterfly bush also attract pollinators during the spring and summer months. Ideal for USDA Zones 5 to 9 these woody shrubs can last for decades with just a little regular care and pruning. Mature plants can reach a height and width of upto 10ft.
Cornflower, or Echinacea to give it its other name, is another popular plant for butterflies. The 2ft flower stalks provide lots of sweet nectar which can also attract smaller pollinators. Ideal for perennial borders and the edge of a vegetable garden these attractive perennials come in a range of colors.
The sweet nectar of the cornflower makes it a popular plant for pollinators.
4 Cow Parsnip
One of the best sources of nectar, cow parsnip is popular with a range of pollinators, in particular bees and wasps. The compound umbels or flower clusters, which are typical of members of the parsley family, make this an elegant perennial plant. Also known as Indian celery, cow parsnip is native to North America. It thrives in woodlands, grasslands and forest clearings.
Flowering in shades of light pink to deep red, these bushy herbaceous plants are a popular choice for many pollinators. The open blooms of the single and semi-double varieties are particularly attractive to a range of pollinators.
Avoid planting pom-pom and cactus varieties. On these blooms the petals are too close together making it difficult for pollinators to access the nectar. As well as being a colorful addition to the garden the dahlia is also pleasingly hardy and low maintenance. In cooler climates gardeners will need to store the bulbs overwinter.
One of the most common plants on our list, almost everyone can identify a daisy. It is also one of the best flowers that attract bees. The classic white and yellow daisy, or Shasta daisy, is particularly popular with pollinators. If you want something a little different you can also find daisy varieties in a range of colors including pinks and yellows.
The open flower of the daisy provides easy access for pollinators.
Another common flower that is sometimes unfairly regarded as a weed, the dandelion is a great pollinator plant. Hardy and colorful, a mass of dandelions are one of the most reliable flowers that attract bees into your garden. Flowering from early spring until late summer, they provide a reliable source of food for many different pollinators.
A late summer and early fall flowering plant, goldenrod is a great source of food for pollinators. Late season flowering cultivars like Solidago provide a valuable source of food when other plants are fading. Another cultivar, Fireworks, is a vibrant choice, producing masses of attractive, yellow cascading blooms. As well as being one of our key flowers that attract bees, the late flowering goldenrod also brings color to dull fall gardens.
Strictly speaking the fragrant lavender plant is a perennial herb not a flower. But it does draw pollinators to the garden by the dozen. They also help to deter unwanted insects such as mosquitoes, flies and fleas. A rewarding plant to grow, lavender is a popular choice for the edge of the vegetable garden. It is also one of the most useful inclusions on our list of flowers that attract bees.
One of the most colorful flowers that attract bees, many people like to plant marigolds close to their vegetable patch for a range of reasons. These colorful blooms can improve soil health, ward off soil nematodes and attract pollinators, maximizing your yield. Select open centered varieties to help pollinators access the pollen.
Bright and colorful, marigolds benefit the garden in numerous ways.
Milkweed, or butterfly weed, is a herbaceous perennial whose sweet nectar filled blooms draw scores of butterflies, particularly monarch butterflies, to the garden. Many different types of bee as well as hummingbirds love these attractive blooms. Start the seeds early indoors or purchase tubers for spring planting. Some cultivars such as Red Butterfly, a striking orange and red flowering plant, thrive in hotter weather.
Snapdragon is one of the best flowers that attract bees. Everything about these unusual plants, the scent (at its strongest when the bee is most active), color and shape are all perfectly suited for the visiting bee. Easy to grow, Snapdragons come in shades of yellow, ultraviolet and blue. All colors that the bee can see. This makes the snapdragon the ideal addition to a flower garden.
Sunflowers draw a range of visitors to your garden. From small bees, drawn to the bright, colorful blooms up to large birds, who love the seeds, the sunflower is an ideal pollinator plant. In addition to bright color and pollinators they also add height and structure to a garden. Popular with growers of all ages, sunflowers come in a range of shapes and sizes, including smaller dwarf cultivars that are ideal for planters.
For a smaller plant with a similar standout effect, try planting black eyed susan. These yellow flowering wildflowers are closely related to the sunflower. Tolerating drought well, they love the sun and flower well into the fall.
14 Bee Balm
A perennial flowering plant, flowering from midsummer to early fall, bee balm is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8. Flowering in a range of shades including pink, lavender and white you can also find showy spotted cultivars. The dense flower clusters and aromatic green leaves draw a range of pollinators. Thriving in woodland areas this is one of the best flowers that attract bees to shady and sunny areas.
Zinnias are one of the best reliable annual flowers that attract bees from late spring until the first frosts of fall, this colorful plant is pleasingly easy to grow. Zinnias flower in a range of oranges, pinks, purples, reds and yellows. Both bumblebees and honeybees, as well as various solitary bees, adore the plant’s colorful blooms. Rich in nectar the central disk enables every type of bee easy access to its pollen.
16 Joe Pye Weed
Another one of our perennial flowers that attract bees, Joe Pye Weed produces dusky rose or purple blooms from July until September. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8 the plant can reach up to 8 ft. The honey bee in particular adores the large vanilla scented blooms.
The distinctive blossoms of Joe Pye Weed are popular with a range of pollinators.
Easy to care for, these low growing plants are ideal for the front of a flower border. Also known as stonecrop, bees find the pollen easy to access. Butterflies also love sedums. Late flowering varieties are a vital source of nectar for queen bees fattening themselves up before the winter months.
An easy to grow, edible plant, nasturtiums are a great addition to the flower bed. Their bright blooms, which sit above lily-pad like leaves, draw scores of pollinators to the garden. One of the most versatile flowers that attract bees, you can find trailing, bushy and climbing varieties.
Flowering in the fall, the Aster is a valuable source of late season nectar for bees and pollinators. Their large open flowers that attract bees by the dozen, are an easy source of food. A versatile flower, plant in full sun and water regularly for a good display.
Another daisy-like flower, cosmos is easy to grow from seed and, with a little care, can flower from midsummer until the first first. A great cut flower, if left in the garden this is one of the best flowers that attract bees who love their open blooms. Cosmos plants come in a range of colors, they also draw butterflies and beneficial insects such as hoverflies to your garden.
Like the daisy, the large open blooms of the cosmos attract a range of beneficial insects.
As well as being one of the best flowers that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds also love pentas. Their large flower clusters also provide an ideal resting place for busy pollinators. Easy to care for, pentas bloom throughout the summer months. A versatile plant they thrive in container gardens and planters.
A classic cottage garden flower, plant hollyhocks in the fall for the best results. These tall, elegant plants thrive in full or partial sun position. Coming in a range of bee friendly colors, pollinators find the large, open blooms an easy to access source of nectar. .
A key member of the cottage garden, phlox is a fragrant herbaceous perennial. Typically flowering in shades of pink, white and purple from midsummer to fall. The blooms attract masses of pollinators and insects to the garden.
Not the most common flower on our list, I love honesty plants. Typically flowering in pink or purple you can also find white varieties. However, for gardeners the main draw emerges as the blooms fade. As the seed pods of the honesty plant develop they mature into flat, translucent disks.
A member of the brassica, honesty plants have a deep taproot so you need to allow room for roots to form. The delicate fragrance and rich stores of nectar make this one of the best flowers that attract bees.
The spectral seed pods of the honesty plant.
25 Flowering Thyme
Technically a herb, fragrant flowering thyme draws pollinators from spring until mid summer. As well as being a reliable way to draw pollinators you can also use the plant to garnish various dishes.
What Makes Certain Plants Popular with Pollinators?
Ideally flowers that attract bees should provide both nectar and pollen. These are key sources of protein and carbohydrates in the bee diet.
The color of the flower is important. A popular belief is that the blooms in shades of yellow and red attract bees. However, the bee is naturally drawn to blue and purple hues. They can also see ultraviolet light. Many flowers that attract bees have ultraviolet nectar which helps to draw the insects in.
Shape is also key. Depending on the type of bee, the shape preference varies. Long tongued bees like tubular deep throated blooms. Short tongues species prefer open easily accessible flower centers such as daisies.
Open blooms provide easy access.
As well as shape, the flower has to be the right size. Again this depends on the type of bee. Large bees like large blooms while smaller specimens such as honeybees prefer smaller flowers. All types of bee tend to prefer single blooms to more showy double blooms.
Other Ways to Draw Pollinators to your Garden
One of the easiest ways to attract more pollinators to the garden is to go chemical free. Pesticides are toxic to pollinators. Eco-friendly and organic options are better. Apply solutions either early in the morning or late at night when there are fewer pollinators around.
Why not provide a home for pollinators? This doesn’t mean taking up bee keeping. In fact, many types of bee don’t require a hive.
Bumblebees prefer to nest in unmulched soil or the ground, tunneling down to make a home. Others, such as the solitary bee like to make its home in cavities in stems or dead wood. You can provide a home for a mason or solitary bee with a KIBAGA Mason Bee House. A bee or bug hotel is a great way to encourage helpful insects to your garden. They are also pleasingly easy to build and a great project to do with young children.
Water is also helpful, a shallow wide dish in a garden. Fill with clean water and some stones for the bee to stand on. Or put some smooth rocks in the bird bath.
Snapdragons are just one of the many flowers that attract bees to your garden.
Pollinators help to produce around one-third of our food. Planting a range of flowers that attract bees and other pollinators not only helps them but also enables your garden to thrive. While gardens can be filled with a large range of flowers that attract bees, with a little judicious planting even a balcony filled with the right kind of flowers can attract masses of pollinators.
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.