Bees and pollinators need 3 things to thrive – food, shelter and water. With some planning around the seasons, we can help our vital pollinators by growing flowers from spring to winter, and not just when the sun shines.
Use our handy guide to pollinator-friendly plants – including trees, veg, herbs and flowers – to offer a valuable source of nectar and pollen through the year.
Experiment with different shaped flowers – the tongues of bees, hover flies, moths and other pollinators vary in size – see what grows well in your garden.
Trees and shrubs for bees
Spring - Help feed queen bumblebees as they establish new colonies in early spring, by growing this small tree with fuzzy catkins. Its pollen and nectar also provide valuable food for Clarke’s mining bee and the Chocolate mining bee.
Summer - Famous for its perfumed scent and purple flowers which are a big hit with bumblebees along with leafcutter bees, flower bees and mason bees. Plant in sun and trim for new growth. Thrives even in poor, dry soils.
Abelia - 'bee bush'
Autumn - The headily-scented delicate white flowers of this evergreen shrub attract bumblebees and honeybees.
Winter - A hardy evergreen shrub. The nectar-rich bright yellow flowers help support overwintering bumblebees and honeybees.
Apple or crabapple
Spring - Bees are major pollinators of these trees, especially the Red mason bee. The attractive white or pink blossom hums with a variety of species, helping to produce tasty fruit for us.
Summer - Spiky branches make for a secure hedging plant. Bunches of open white ‘May blossom’ are important for solitary bees such as the Red mason bee, Tawny mining bee, Ashy mining bee and the specialist Hawthorn mining bee. Birds also enjoy the fruits.
Autumn - A vigorous climber. Long, tubular flowers rich in sweet-scented nectar are visited by long-tongued bees like the Garden bumblebee and Carder bumblebee during the day, and moths at night.
Winter - Leave old growth of this evergreen climber to flower in bunches of green-yellow baubles. An important late nectar source for honeybees and for queen bumblebees fattening up for hibernation. Also the chosen pollen source of the solitary Ivy bee.
Flowers for bees
Spring - Low maintenance and spreads easily in the garden. Has attractive spotted leaves, and its deep blue and purple flowers are loved by the Hairy-footed flower bee.
Monarda - 'bee balm'
Summer - Tall flowerheads with crowns of deep, curved flowers visited by long-tongued bees such as the Garden bumblebee, Common carder bee, and Wool carder bee. An impressive feature plant for beds and borders.
Autumn - Drought-tolerant succulent plant, with nectar-rich flower clusters. Sedum spectabile ‘Ice plant’ has large umbrella-shaped flower-heads which are popular with honeybees, furrow bees and the Short-tongued bumblebee.
Winter - Carpets of bright yellow flowers add colour to a winter garden and spread well in beds or lawns. The pollen-rich flowers are highly attractive to bumblebees, honeybees and spring mining bees.
Spring - Adding a splash of colour to a lawn, spring crocus are often the first port of call for the emerging Hairy-footed flower bee and queen bumblebees. Bees often emerge covered in pollen and shelter inside the flowers overnight.
Summer - Heralded as ‘the single most attractive plant for bees on the planet’ by bumblebee researcher Professor Dave Goulson!. This sweet-scented flower is simple to grow from seed and can also be used as a 'green manure', a living plant which adds fertility to the soil.
Autumn - Low-maintenance, tolerant of poor soils and offering a long-lasting riot of colour in the garden. The flower spikes attract flower bees, as well as the Red mason bee, Common carder bees and garden bumblebees.
Winter - The snow-white flowers are a first sign that spring is on its way. They contain abundant yellow pollen, helping to feed bumblebees and honeybees emerging on sunny winter days.
Spring - This aromatic herb bears some of the most nectar-rich flowers, with pinkish-white drifts coming alive with bumblebees, honeybees, leafcutter bees and furrow bees.
Summer - A fresh herb that can be eaten straight from the garden in salads. Easy to grow with some care in pots or a window box. The bunched purple florets are best left for the bumblebees, honeybees, mason bees and leafcutter bees seeking the nectar.
Autumn - An aromatic herb with attractive coloured foliage. The spikes of tubular flowers on both edible and ornamental Salvia are attractive to bumblebees and leafcutter bees.
Winter - This hardy and drought-tolerant herb can be harvested year round for the fresh needles. It also has a long flowering season, with the flared blue/purple flowers often attracting mason bees, flower bees, bumblebees and honeybees.
Fruit and veg for bees
Spring - Leaving some plants to ‘bolt’ and put out their yellow flowers will attract bumblebees, mining bees and honeybees to your vegetable patch.
Summer - An easy fruit to grow in beds, pots or a window box. The bunch of tiny yellow florets in the middle are pollinated by a variety of bees. Bees of different sizes visiting different parts of the floret result in a better quality fruit.
Autumn - It’s not only the beans that are protein-rich, their pollen is too. The bright flowers are a draw for the Common carder bee which is a major pollinator.
Winter - Cut canes to 10-12 inches in Jan/Feb to stimulate growth and fruiting. This helps attract pollinators including early bumblebees, tree bumblebees, solitary and managed honeybees on the flowers in spring.
Wildflowers for bees
Spring - The trumpet-shaped yellow flowers on stalks are evocative of old British meadows. The deep blooms are visited by the long-tongued Hairy-footed flower bee and Garden bumblebee. Plant in lawns for your own patch of spring sunshine.
Summer - A biennial with tall blue flower spikes which grows well and self-seeds on sunny, sandy ground. Highly attractive to a wide variety of bees, especially bumblebees due to its high nectar and pollen content.
Autumn - Let your corners and edges grow wild and you will likely see white deadnettle flowering almost year-round. An important wildflower for Flower bees, the Garden bumblebee and possibly even attracting the rare Large garden bumblebee.
Winter - One of the earliest wildflowers to open en-masse, shining yellow in the sun against attractive dark green leaves. They are loaded with pollen that attracts queen bumblebees and spring mining bees such as the Tawny mining bee.
Spring - A vigorous plant that is ideal for a wildlife corner. The flask-shaped flowers quickly re-fill with nectar, making comfrey highly attractive to bumblebees. The leaves can be made into a green manure for fertiliser.
Summer - The delicate sky-blue flowers make attractive ground-cover and self-seed well in bare soil- a good filler between bedding plants. Solitary bees such as mason bees, nomad bees, mining bees and small furrow bees sip nectar from the tiny flowers.
Autumn - This ferny-leaved wildflower grows easily in lawns, especially if cutting is reduced to allow flowering. The white, umbrella-shaped flower-heads offer open-access dinner plates for short-tongued solitary bees such as plasterer bees and yellow-faced bees.
Winter - Covers disturbed bare ground in drifts of delicate blue flowers. Visited by small mining bees, including the specialist Red-girdled mining bee. Queen bumblebees crawl between the dense flowers in late winter and early spring.
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