With spring a little over a week away and temperatures flirting with the low 70s, it’s time to think planting and with planting comes the quiet buzz of honeybees looking to find pollinating plants to gather from. At Wildwood Landscape, we’re always on the lookout for plants that not only add beauty to and outdoor landscape design, but also function to better the environment, help local wildlife, and control water runoff creating not only an enjoyable space but also a functioning one. Which brings us to our list of the top three flowering plants honeybees can’t get enough of.
Before planting your “bee garden,” consider planting flowers that bloom all season or types of plants that will have your garden blooming all season long. If one plant is an early bloomer, consider contrasting it with a late-blooming flower so that your garden is producing pollen during the entire season.
The Best Flowering Plants for Honeybees
When considering the flowering plants for your bee-friendly yard, it’s important to plant plants that bees actually like and can use to find pollen. In the world of limited resources for our bee friends, heavy pollinating flowers are the ideal plants for these hard-working ladies (did you know, most bees are female?).
Sunflowers are a Bee’s Best Friend
These huge bloomers are a honeybee favorite, and while they’re quite tall, if you’re going all-in to save the bees, these giants aren’t a bad option. Their wide surface area heads are the perfect landing spot for our flying friends. When sunflower heads open, they reveal a bonanza of tiny pollen- and nectar-rich flowers. Here are some tips on getting your bee garden started with sunflowers:
Early Sunflower sowing in Pots
- Grow indoors in small pots of peat-free compost from early April onwards, to avoid frosts.
- Sow 2 seeds together, push them into the compost and cover with about 1.5cm of compost. Water well and keep moist.
- The seedlings should appear after 14-21 days.
- If planting more than one sunflower in a larger container which they will stay in when you move them outside, leave about 45cm between each seed/seedling.
- If planting in the ground, wait until the risk of frost is over – usually late May onwards. Acclimatize the plants by leaving them outside in their pots for a few days.
- Choose a sunny spot and one that’s not exposed to high winds.
- Prepare the soil where they will grow by removing weeds and adding peat-free compost.
- Plant and water well.
Goldenrod for the Butterfly and the Bee
A Virginia staple and perennial, the goldenrod plant is a huge attractor for honeybees. This late bloomer lets honeybees gather pollen later in the season when most of the other blooming plants have died off helping the bee when resources are scarce. Known for their long wood like stems with tooth-like parts which are widely-spaced, these yellow flowers that grow in thick clusters. This rather vigilant plant can be found nearly anywhere as the summer season wanes making it a great choice for the less-than-green thumb.
Red chokeberry for your Bee Garden
A unique plant, the aronia arbutifolia or red chokeberry plant is a North American species of shrubs in the rose family. Growing the plant is easy – according to plantfinder.com, the red chokeberry is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. With a wide range of soil tolerance including boggy soils, the resilient plant can grow nearly anywhere. Best fruit production usually occurs in full sun which is important for our bees. This plant is not low profile, however, growing 6 – 10 feet tall. The idealic planting area includes groups or masses in shrub borders or woodland areas. With the ability to withstand wet conditions, the red chokeberry is suitable for growing on the margins of ponds or streams. Also effective in naturalized areas where its suckering, colonial growth habit does not need to be restrained.
As the Northern Virginia area begins to turn to spring, consider planting a bee-friendly garden to welcome the little soldiers that keep our area beautifully flourishing and flowering. Need help with your bee garden? Wildwood Landscape offers planting and seasonal color services for your Leesburg garden!