Bee Plants

     This a just a few of the flowers, shrubs, trees and crop plants that provide bees with nectar and pollen.  I took the photos of the plants below from our garden (Cottonwood Community Garden in Vancouver - Plant hardiness zone 8) and we will add to the list as we observe our bees through the years to come.  A good book, "Plants and Beekeeping" by F.N. Howes (1945) is an oldie but a goodie.  Click on the link to view and if you wish download the book.  For more information on "Bee Plants" go to the Planting for Pollinators section of our Beekeepers' Library.  For a list of high yield honey bee plants click here.  The Dirt Doctor, Howard Garrett provides a Natural Organic Library here which I find helpful in my life long pursuit of organic plant growing knowledge.   I find Leafsnap very useful for identifying tree species, many being great sources of pollen and nectar.  A good resource for growing food is the Grow Biointensive website which offers a complete sustainable agricultural learning experience. 

Find your plant by searching PlantFiles:

Seasonal Floral Search for Canadian Beekeepers  Floral Search 

     Although the plants listed here are grown in hardiness zone 8 at our garden in Vancouver (Cottonwood Community Garden) most of them will grow in zones 4-9 and there are varieties that will grow in most areas.  To start planting for pollinators you must first discover what plant hardiness zone you are in.  This will tell you what plants are suitable for your specific location. Below are plant hardiness zone maps of North America and the World.

                                           Anemone (Japanese)

      The Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis) is native to China but has been naturalized in Japan for hundreds of years. It will grow 90-120 cm (3-4 ft) high and likes to grow in partially shady areas under the protection of large plants.  It likes slightly acidic soil, grows in hardiness zones 5a-8b and blooms from late summer into the fall.  It can be propogated by rootball division.  It is particularly important for us as a bee forage plant because of it's late season October blooms.  In our area (Vancouver) I concentrate on planting those plants which will flower in October and November when there is a lack of forage for the bees.  The primary autumn flowering plants for us are aster, anemone, calendula and borage. 

                                  Artichoke Thistle

     The Artichoke Thistle or Cardoon is native to the Mediterranean and because it self-sows freely is considered an invasive species in California, Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America (Check your local sources to see the invasive status of the Cardoon in your area).  The Cardoon is not invasive in our region, has large, purple edible flowers, can be grown in zones 4-9 and likes a full sun.  This beautiful, flowering plant can grow in poor (clay) soil and is drought resistant.  It grows to 8 ft (2.5 meters) and is a favourite of all the pollinators. 


     There are a wide range of asters in virtually every colour in the rainbow.  Following a genetic discovery in the l990's the formerly North American Asters were reclassified to other genera though still referred to as asters.  The genus Aster is now restricted to the Old World species (Eurasia).  This plant is easy to grow, will grow in hardiness zones 4-8, likes full to partial sun and most species bloom in late summer to fall.  In our garden we have a number of common Asian Asters that grow to 1.5 meters (5 ft) in height and produce a mass of flowers from August to October.  This is particularly important to the bees for late season foraging when there tends to be a shortage of available bee food.


      This flowering Allium (from the latin for garlic) is a member of the onion family of plants.  There are hundreds of distinct species of Allium, predominantly native to temperate climates 
of the northern hemisphere.  The flowers form at the top of a leafless stalk and like flowers of all members of the onion family (chive, onion, leek and garlic) are attractive to bees.  This plant is easy to grow and can reach heights of 150 cm.  


     People might be surprised to see a picture of a bean plant but bees forage in vegetable flowers as well as fruits.  The picture above is of a scarlet runner bean flowering in October but there is a wide variety of beans that flower from late spring to early fall.  Beans are easy to grow and prolific producers.  The two main varieties are bush bean and pole and the green bean is the most popular but you can also find yellow, purple, red and streaked varieties. 

                                          Bee Balm

     Bee Balm is native to North America and may go by the common names Oswego tea, Horsemint and bergamot.  The flowers colours include pink, red and white and the plant will grow to a height of between 60-120 cms (2-4 ft).  It likes full sun to partial shade and should be divided every 3-4 years.  Bee Balm will bloom from mid to late summer and will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds (but not deer).


     Blueberries (Cyanococcus) are native to North America and are one of the favourite fruits of bees and humans.  They have one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food type which makes consumption of bluberries important in the prevention of illnesses like cancer and coronary diseases.  Although there are over 100 different varieties of blueberries there are two basic types being the smaller species known as lowbush or wild and the larger commercially cultivated highbush blueberries.  Due to hybridization you can plant blueberries in our area that will produce berries from May to the beginning of October.  They like full sun and acidic soil (important).  The popular method of acidifying your soil has been to add peat moss but the depletion of peat from the few remaining bog ecosystems makes this an environmentally insensitive choice.  Other methods of acidification include pine needles and bark, coffee grounds, sulphur and commercially available acidifiers.          

Nutrients in
1.00 cup (148.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value

vitamin K35.7%


vitamin C23.9%


Calories (84)4%


     The latin name is Centaurea Montana and the numerous common names include Mountain Bluet, Mountain Cornflower and perrenial Cornflower "Gold Bullion".  This plant is easy to grow and a friendly invasive (controllable).  It likes full sun, neutral ph, grows 24-36 inches and can bloom from late spring to fall.  The early flowering plants will self seed the fall bloomers.  It is rated to grow in hardiness zones 3a to 8b.  Bees and butterflies are attracted to this plant.


     Borage (Borago Officinalis) also referred as Starflower originated in Syria but has naturalized throughout the world.  It is an annual herb that readily self seeds but is an easily controllable volunteer.  I have never planted Borage but it pops up each year throughout the garden and is a favourite of bees.  It grows to a height of 60-100 cm (2-3.3 ft) and has blue star shaped flowers.  It's considered a good companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries and both the flowers and leaves are edible (leaves when young) and have a cucumber like flavour.  Naturopathic practitioners use borage to regulate patient's metabolism and hormonal system.


     There are approximately 100 different species of Buddleia (Butterfly bush) coming in a variety of colours (white, pink, red, orange, purple and yellow) and sizes.  The most popular varieties grow about 5 mts (15 ft) tall, are easy to grow, like a full sun, good drainage, are drought tolerant and can be invasive in some areas.  In our garden it is a controllable volunteer.  It flowers from mid summer to fall and you can deadhead (remove spent flowers to encourage reflowering).  The plant can be pruned hard in the spring to maintain the compact bush shape.  It is wonderfully fragrant and attractive to butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.



     Calendula is one of the most important plants for bees simply because it flowers well into autumn when few other sources of food for the bees are available.  The Calendula is in the daisy (Asteraceae) family and is native to the Mediterranean east to Iran.  It is an annual but is a prolific self-seeder (a friendly invasive).  Calendula is easy to grow and will tolerate most soils, likes part sun to full sun, grows 30-60 cms (1-2 ft) tall and comes in different shades of yellow and orange.  An autumn favourite for the bees.  


     Chives (latin - Allium Cepa) like all members of the onion family are a favourite of bees.  There are a few varieties including garlic chives.  They like full sun, grow to 18 inches (45 cm), prefer mildly acidic soil and self seed.  This plant is a favourite of mine because it grows easily, can be harvested 12 months of the year and adds an onion flavouring that goes well with many foods.


Post a Comment

Recent Posts

Recent Posts Widget