What flowers do bees like??

March 15, 2011

What is a bee magnet? What do they really like?? I want too grow bee friendly plants in the yard and want to know what bee's really seem to go after?


Comments (18)

  • magala

    Great information, right here:

    The plants are even identified by which species like them the best. This list is plants for California, but hopefully there is come crossover with your climate if you are in zone 9.

    Here is a link that might be useful: UBG Seasonal Recommendations Plant List

  • Konrad___far_north

    Here was a thread on this...

    Here is a link that might be useful: Best Flowers...

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  • serenasyh

    RUSSIAN SAGE!!!!! It has all the "hive" potential. I am a rose gardener who got so frustrated with trying to find flowers that honeybees would like. I tried bee balm, scented geraniums, catmint, lavender, meadow sage-salvia, agastache spent tons of money to no avail. And yes, I'm very happy that Magala put up that wonderful link for bee attractive plants and so far that is the only in-depth site I've found that specifically addressed all the detailed questions- plant seasons, specific bee types, degree of attractiveness to the honeybees, etc. If it wasn't rated highly attractive from the get-go, that plant would fail to work in my garden.

    The only plants I've held back on were the "invasives" like honeysuckle, goldenrod, etc or those incompatible to my zone. With rose gardens one has to be careful about plants that do not go well with roses (too invasive, root competition, etc. or form-clashing like borage) I would have tried such semi-invasives like coneflowers but at the nursery I didn't see honeybees visit them much and just like the link says, you need a vast spread of coneflowers to attract the honeybee. I'm still straddling the fence about coneflowers but if someone tells me it has hive potential, I'll get it. It's these personal experiences that we need to share here at this forum. So I'm surprised that there isn't a long list of personal experiences described here. I think personal experience can really liven up and try to bring a better picture about the lifestyle of these precious honeybees.

    In Kansas, honeybees are extremely picky but I think most honeybees are picky anyway! Some seem to enjoy oregano flowers but I think it's because the honeybees mistake them for the white clover which they also love. But it's the Russian Sage which brings the hordes. I went for 2 years with a pitiful garden until I bought 2 plants of Russian sage. The honeybees appeared out of nowhere, and clustered so intensively around just those 2 plants that even my neighbors could see them as well just standing from their doorway.

    Now my next situation is fruit trees. I need to find out from the bee experts over here on what is the most attractive and longest blooming fruit-bearing tree that a honeybee is crazy about. I am almost willing to bet that honeybees are just as picky about flowering trees as they are with the perennials. Honeybees hate nasty Bradford pear trees and they don't like my very fragrant Linden tree either (the supposedly bee-attractive tree-this is a false online misconception that has to be corrected- talked to a few gardeners and they experience no honeybees as well on their Lindens). I never see any honeybees visiting any of my 2 ornamental plum trees either! However I did find a gorgeous ornamental cherry tree at a local nursery that was being bombarded with honeybees. The rest of the nursery was completely barren of bees except for that one flowering cherry tree. However ornamental cherries do not bear fruit or have to be cross-pollinated. Anyone have any luck with a honeybee swarming a flowering fruit-bearing tree without being "artificially" introduced?

  • jane__ny

    We are renting a townhouse for a year. There is a woody vine growing on the fence between our units. Last spring/summer this vine was covered with honey-bees. I have no idea what it is, and I never saw any real flowers. Just small, green growths (which I assume was some kind of flower.) In spring and summer it was so covered with honey bees you could barely see the vine. The vine was like a living thing!

    I never saw anything like this. It develops these purple, grape like fruit in fall. They are not grapes. The fruit is hard like little balls.

    This vine was so attractive to the bees, I could work around them, bees would walk on my arms and hands without distraction. I had my orchids growing on benches under the vine. They didn't bother me at all and seemed very tame. We border woodlands and there are some farms in the area. I am assuming these honey-bees came from local hives.

    Whatever this vine is, will attract every bee in the neighborhood. Maybe someone could identify it.



  • serenasyh

    Jane, I did spend an hour trying to look up that plant for you, but came up with nothing My guess is that it looks like a wild sort of non-cultivated vine.

    I did get the name of the flowering ornamental (non-fruiting) cherry tree that the Kansas honeybees were going crazy about. I will be visiting my local nursery and observing the fruiting trees since no one is yet replying to my questions about which fruiting trees the honeybees are most attracted to in a natural setting (non-farmer introduced) and which of those ones are the longest blooming.

    The name of the cherry tree is the Snow Fountain Cherry Tree (Prunus x Snofozam). It is a modern-day hybrid. Stayed tuned for more updates to come late May. I will report on my assessment/observation of amount and activity of the honeybees at my local nursery. Still it would be nice to know which of these flowering fruiting trees have the longest bloom season :).

    What's tricky about rose gardens is again, companion planting issues and aesthetics. Great thing about Snowfountain is that it's got the ideal size (takes up the least amount of real estate-smallest and most manageable of cherries) and is a prolific bloomer. But lol, I did research clover last year because I was so desperate until I bought my Russian sage. There's an actual art to Clover. Certain breeds will not attract honeybees, they are biennials and have to be reseeded and you have to alternate the clover mix. Too complicated, lol! But I just miiiiight try a patch, just for fun. It will be the crimson clover - not red clover which honeybees don't like- since I lack an early spring bloomer that the honeybees would love. Anyway, I will have 21 incoming Russian sage for 2011 as well. I am probably stupid for trying Hollyhocks-- probably am just wasting my money on another so-called honeybee attractive plant that ends up a failure, but it can't hurt. I can always dig up those Hollyhocks next year or give them away if it fails to attract honeybees. I am choosing hollyhocks because I saw a gorgeous rose garden (cottage style) that had hollyhocks in it so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I am also trying out a mini-spire Russian sage for color contrast. Again, one has to be careful with hybrids. Sometimes they lose their "bee power". Those likewise will be dug up if they fail to perform. Have wasted hundreds of dollars trying to find the perfect bee plant, lol! Yeah, at this rate that crimson clover is lookin' mighty attractive price tagwise, haha!

    Will be back at this forum when I find something definitive that I can report on.

  • bbcathy

    The vine is porcelain berry. It is not recommended in many areas because it is invasive and takes over native plants.

  • lavender_lass

    Can't help you much with honey bees, but if you're just looking for bee magnets...the bumblebees in our area love catmint, Hidcote lavender, apple tree blossoms, Italian plum blossoms, dandelions (yes, they really like them), spearmint, cosmos, coneflowers and butterfly bushes.

    They also seem to be attracted to some roses and the lilac bushes...oh, and sunflowers. They love to sleep on them, in fall evenings. When it starts getting cool at night, they really gravitate to the sunflowers. Hope that helps :)

    Yellow jackets are also attracted to butterfly bushes, but in our experience, it makes them very mellow and non-aggressive. Add a few bug baths or shallow bird bath for a water source and they're not nearly as bad, in the late summer, early fall. Don't know if they're a problem in your area, but they get really aggressive (normally) in our area.

    One other funny thing...when the bumblebees sleep on the sunflowers, the yellow jackets sleep under them, on the stems. Makes me wonder, if maybe the bumblebees are in charge! LOL

  • gardenfullofswallowtails

    I love that vine across my screen porch. We love the pollinators. Very invasive vine, but love it.

  • jbraun_gw

    I get lots of bees around my fall asters. There isn't much else for them at that time. I'm a gardener who started with bees 2 years ago to help pollinate my garden and fruits trees. Maybe this year my trees will start fruiting. I hope the bees in my yard help. Bees are much more of a challenge than gardening.

  • zippity1

    sweet almond verbena is a bee magnet in my yard
    butterflies also love it
    it's ugly and large (8-15 ft) and supposedly freezes back (mine hasn't yet)
    I wouldn't try it in under zone 8 conditions
    has a wonderful smell and flowers look like slender butterfly bush flowers (white)
    they also like my rosemary and salvia

  • kazyaka

    In todays world everyone keeps there gardens and yards well manicured. to be perfectly honest Bee's love weeds. Yes that is right Bee's love weeds! the nectar they gather is high in vitamins and the sugars that the Bees need to remain health and strong while they overwinter. So if you want Bees to visit your garden let some of the weeds grow.

  • organic_greenjeans

    Among others in my garden, they've particularly enjoyed the salvias & lavenders. These are fragrant old fashioned primrose I plant in a cobalt blue planter each spring very early for those first brave souls to visit! Took this pic this afternoon; been up into low 50's here last few days & these Prim's have been popular!

  • anac1979

    By Carole Sevilla Brown

    Butterfly Bush is an Invasive Species. Caution recommended
    Yes, Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp) is an invasive plant. Oregon has even banned the sale of this plant. I’ve seen it in action myself as it is blocking out fragile dune vegetation on the beaches in Cape May, NJ. I’ve also seen it taking over an entire streambank for miles along a stream in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.
    In order to prevent Butterfly Bush from escaping out of your garden and into the nearby natural areas, you really need to dead head every bloom, and never let it go to seed. This can be almost a full time job because as you’ve probably noticed, this plant has TONS of flowers…….
    Where is Butterfly Bush invasive you ask? Check out this map. It’s considered invasive in each of the green shaded states. If you’re not in one of these states, I’d still exercise a huge amount of caution, because it may be only a matter of time.
    Rosemary at Toronto Gardens has written an excellent post covering some great native alternatives to the invasive Butterfly Bush.

  • anac1979

    I'm new to this Forum but i just read this info about Butterfly Bush right before i saw your post..thought you might be interested in the info. I think it is better to plant native flowers & trees to invite wildlife like Bees. :)

  • tracey_nj6

    -Vitex/chaste tree
    -Agastache "Honey Bee Blue"
    -Buddleia/butterfly bush (mine never reseed; keep deadheaded)
    -Sedum/great late summer magnet
    -Joe Pye weed
    -Verbena bonariensis (heavy reseeder, and worth it)
    -Trifolium pratense (red clover)
    -Repeated; Russian Sage; adored by bees
    -Datura/moonflower; bumblebee frenzy every night at dusk (important tidbit: all parts poisonous)
    -The dreaded purple loosestrife; I had a volunteer pop up a few years ago. It hasn't spread, since I'm pretty diligent about deadheading it before it produces seed. 7' and filled with all kinds of bees (honey, bumble, carpenter...)

  • Liz

    In my garden the bumblebees like cleome. They have also really liked Thalictrum rochebrunianum. They are both non-native, which I tend not to like, but they volunteered and and they are attractive, so I left them. They both self seed. They are not too hard to pull out if you catch them early in the season.

    I don't have any in my current garden, but I second the motion about Russian sage. I used to have it and the bees adored it. They have also been very fond of Joe Pye weed. Butterflies love it too. Nepeta also attracts them.

  • parker25mv

    We have 34 rose bushes in the yard—the high end ones with big 4-5½ inch blooms, and fragrant. Bees love these flowers, and they also bring the bigger bumble bees. Unfortunately the blooms on each bush only last a few days and do not appear very often, so although bees do love the flowers, I am not sure how well a rose bush keeps them around. There is always at least 1 or 2 blooms somewhere in the yard though.

    We have a big rose geranium (unrelated to roses) bush that, and although the flowers are very small, there are plenty of tiny little purple flowers on the plant for most of the year. I can see a few bees collecting among the tiny little flowers, but I do not think the plant has much nectar and the bees do not stay very long, so it does not seem to be their preferred flower species.

    The bees really seem to like the big fragrant hybrid tea roses, where they can get into the stamens in the center of the flower. Some of the floribunda blooms are just too compact and the bees cannot get into the center.

    The bees also like the orange and lemon blossoms, but the trees only blossom once a year. There will also be many bees buzzing around in the pepper tree when it sends out its tiny blossoms (not really a flower). I cannot imagine the bees really like these blossoms, but it is a huge tree so it attracts many bees—too many in fact.

    One more thing I have noticed, the bees seem to be very tranquil around the roses, they will rest in each rose for a long time and take their time resting, not really buzzing around from flower to flower so much. It makes me feel more comfortable to be around the bees when they are not flying everywhere.

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