Pollinator-friendly perennials

Agastache. Photos: Getty Images
Agastache. Photos: Getty Images
Want to attract bees and other pollinators to your garden? These easy-to-grow perennials are proven to benefit everyone, writes Rebecca Lees. 

Bees and flowers, they're old friends. Having evolved together over millennia, flowers rely on bees, and bees on flowers. Flowers and bees have secret ways they communicate - from colours we can't see to scents we don't notice.

Bees are drawn to flowers, and flowers attract bees. But not all flowers are equal. Some flowers are loved for their pollen, others for their nectar - and some for both. There are those, however, which are certainly more preferred than others. Bees will fly great distances to feed on a preferred plant. So, which types of flowers can we plant in the garden to attract and feed bees and other pollinators?

First take a look in your garden on a warm, sunny day, at any time of the year. Which plants look healthy and robust? Are they flowering?

Do they have bees or other insects on them? Which sort? Is it just one or two, or are there so many you cannot count them all? Which plants in your garden are literally humming with life? As long as they're free from disease it is these plants you want to see more of in your garden. They do well in your region, in your climate, and in that particular season. Collect their seeds, divide them or do whatever it is you need to do to propagate. And plant much, much more of them.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinale).
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinale).
Now, a flowering plant dotted here and there around the garden isn't much of an attractant to a bee. It's hard work flying between each plant hunting for food. Bees want copious amounts of fodder in close proximity, making it easier to collect and transport back to the hive. It's also more likely that the bees will then communicate to the other bees back at the hive the location of these flowers, resulting in more bees visiting your garden!

Depending on the season, most of us will find something flowering in the garden. Jot it down during different months of the year and remember to source more of these. Is there a particular month of the year during which nothing seems to flower or when it's difficult to even find a bee? Fill that void with a species of plant known to flower then.

Here are some ideas for blooms that may suit your climate. They're mostly very easy to grow and all proven to be loved by bees. Add some to your wildlife garden.

Bee balm.
Bee balm.
Agastache

Honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies adore the ample nectar provided by the flowering spikes of agastache. Flowers through summer and self-seeds. (It can sometimes be difficult to grow over winter.)

Alcea

Bumblebees love the nectar of this biennial, especially our most common bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). Some varieties of hollyhock will flower in their first year. A pretty and easy plant to grow.

Allium schoenoprasum

Much loved by bumblebees, chives are simple to divide and replant. They will also self-seed readily, if allowed. Bees love the sweet nectar, and you can enjoy the flowers scattered on your salad too.

Aster

Michaelmas daisies are easy to grow in the garden or in large pots, with well-drained soil, in a position with sun or part shade. With large numbers of very pretty flowers, the bees can feed for some time on these plants.

Cynara scolymus

The flower that just keeps on giving. Male bumblebees go crazy over globe artichokes. The huge flowers provide ample amounts of bee fodder for both bumblebees, honeybees and other pollinators. If you grow these plants as edibles, allow one or two plants to flower for the bees. A beautiful sight to behold.

Echinacea

Coneflowers will attract bees to your garden, and butterflies too. The large petals and conical centre provide a sturdy landing pad, especially for the larger-bodied bumblebee. Great nectar source.

Echium vulgare

Masses of flowers and masses of nectar see the viper's bugloss as a biennial winner. These wildflowers will self-seed readily, and will do especially well in free-draining soil with plenty of sun.

Michaelmas daisy (Aster).
Michaelmas daisy (Aster).
Erica

It's hard to surpass these incredible bee-loving plants. A colossal number of small flowers provide an abundance of fodder for honeybees and bumblebees. Heather is especially valued by early emerging queen bumblebees. This plant is a must for your bee gardens.

Foeniculum vulgare

Let fennel complete its full life cycle and you're providing a jungle gym for pollinators and other insects. Fennel will grow thick, sturdy stems, great for crawling up, under and over. Fennel flowers attract bumblebees, solitary bees and other insects. A super plant to sow in a place where you have extra space. Let it self-seed and go a little wild.

Hyssopus officinalis

A low-growing plant, bees go wacky over this perennial herb, and butterflies will flock to it. Plant hyssop in a group for the greatest effect.

The Lamiaceae family

The mint family members include: anise hyssop, basil, bee balm, catmint, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme, and all of these wonderfully scented plants will attract bees, insects and other pollinators to your garden. They're also good companions, when planted in and around your vege garden. - kiwigardener

 

 

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