Forum home Plants

Help me choose bee-friendly plants please!

I am an experienced vegetable grower but a complete novice with ornamentals so need lots of help please!

We have a new house and the previous occupants left the garden in a total state. A full set of kitchen units was left to rot in the area with the best light and although we have dug out as much as possible, I don't want to grow vegetables there. We would like to grow flowering plants that will attract bees To help pollinate the vegetables. I think probably lavender at the front but please could you help me find a shrub that will grow to about 4-5ft, not take over the whole border, and provide as much nectar and pollen to bees as possible. It is against a low south facing fence, in the South West, on very good soil apart from dumping!

We also have the North- facing border which is in shade almost all the time and would like to plant bee friendly plants there too if possible. Nothing too poisonous as we have small children. 

Thanks in advance for any help with this!


  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Posts: 8,218

    I have a hypericum 'Hidcote' shrub in a very shady part of my garden.  The bees love the big yellow flowers.  image

    Since 2019 I've lived in east Clare, in the west of Ireland.
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,912

    For the sunny spot, look at plants with single daisy flowers - heleniums, rudbeckias, dahlias if you have the time to care for them. And/or one of the buddleia 'buzz' dwarf shrubs. And/or geranium Rozanne which flowers for months and mine is covered in bees the whole time.

    For the shade, the pulmonaria seem popular with bees here at the moment 

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • Mark56Mark56 Posts: 1,653

    Plant phacelia tanacetifolia in between your vegetables, it'll help deter slugs and is the absolute favourite of bees. It can be dug in once flowering has ended as a green manure. The mediterranean herb borage is also great for full sun and bees. Lavender is good, full sun & lots of grit for drainage if gardening on clay. 

    Lupins, Campanulas, Delphiniums, Echinacea & geranium wargrave pink (will tolerate some shade) as well as the suggestions above check the .pdf's on here:

    Shrubs like Weigela, hibiscus, pyracantha, cotoneaster horizontalis

    Plant early Spring flowering bulbs in gaps to encourage bumble bee queens to nest nearby. (usually underground)

    Stick to single flowers rather than doubles or hybrids, as they have no way to reach the pollen or generally low amounts.

    Last edited: 03 April 2017 08:57:52

  • Mark56Mark56 Posts: 1,653

    Aquilegias, fuchsias & japanese anemone will all deal with moderate to light shade as well. image

  • KatfishKatfish Posts: 56

    Try to get more than one type of bee friendly flower with different flowering times so that you provide pollen for a longer season.

    It depends where you are in the country as flowers can peak at different times depending on the location and the environment they are in.

    Att the moment the bees are loving hellebores and pulmonaria (can tolerate shade), rosemary and spring bulbs (in the sun).  The chives will be flowering soon and they'll take over in a sunny spot.  Chives are also popular with pollinators, very easy to grow and can have more than one flowering spurt in a year.

    The bees will love your lavender in the sun around June time and foxgloves may be out around then in the shade, but the pollinators will need something after that.  Once they find a good source they return.

    Ditto borage for sun - the bees absolutely love them and they have a good flowering season in summer to late summer.

    Calendula officinalis (English marigold) has a very long flowering season if you deadhead them.  In theory they can flower in every month of the year and I have indeed seen them flowering in February this year.  They self seed very easily so once you have them you never need to buy another one.  But they're also very easy to thin out when you have too many of them.

    Don't forget to put a little seat of some type near your flower patch for you.  Sitting near them and listening to the gentle buzzing of the busy bees in mid summer is one of the most wonderful sounds;)

  • TopsoiledTopsoiled Posts: 113

    Ivy if you can grow it anywhere is much overlooked as a bee friendly plant. I'd also suggest verbena, and daffodils for next year.

  • GrannybeeGrannybee Posts: 328

    All of the above and also lonicera fragrantissima, caryopteris and heatehrs.  Look at the RHS pollinators list on their website

  • Thank you for all your fantastic suggestions. So far we have bought some rosemary, lavender and a white buddleia and a few of the other suggestions. I have always grown calendulas and borage amongst my vegetables. A special thanks to Mark for mentioning weigela as our former neighbour had one and I loved the flowers on it and remember it buzzing with bees but didn't know what it was called so probably wouldn't have found it.

  • Mark56Mark56 Posts: 1,653

    You're very welcome image let us know how you get on!

  • We try to attract as many bees as possible into our garden.  We have noticed that they particularly liked our echinacea, lavender, single flowered dahlias and echiums last year, closely followed by the Knap weed and sedum.  imageimageimageimageimage

Sign In or Register to comment.