Gardening Advice

Bee-Attracting Plants for Your Garden

Daniel Prudek /

Gardeners are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of our honey bee population. Bees have been under attack for several years from a variety of sources and anything we can do to help them is worth doing. It makes perfect sense to incorporate more of their favourites and grow bee-attracting plants in your garden.

In this article:

Why do some plants attract more bees than others?

There are two main reasons why bees are attracted to some plants more than others – nectar and pollen.

  • Nectar is the raw material used by bees to produce honey. It is the bees’ source of energy. Honeybees collect nectar by placing their tongues inside a flower and sucking up the nectar into their honey sack. The depth of blossom is, therefore, an important feature. In fact, blossoms that are deeper than six millimetres are pretty much out of reach of a honey bees’ tongue. Also, double blossomed cultivars usually produce little or no nectar and pollen and are, therefore, of no value to honey bees.
  • Pollen is an essential part of the diet of young bees and without it, a colony cannot grow and develop. While bees are busy foraging on flowers they become dusted with pollen and pack the pollen into two sacks on their hind legs. From here they carry it back to the hive where it is stored in open cells.

What can you do to attract bees in your garden?

We all know bees are extremely important as they are responsible for biodiversity. We need them to pollinate our flowers, fruits and vegetables. They have an important role in agriculture, as they pollinate many agricultural crop species and honey bee pollinators are estimated to contribute around $6 billion a year to the Australian economy.

From a gardeners point of view, the plants having those attributes – nectar and pollen, are the ones that will be the most useful in attracting bees into their garden.

Equally important in choosing plants will be their cold hardiness rating in relation to where you garden. Bees appear to prefer blooms in the blue-violet to purple tones best and then white and yellow.

Bee plants planted in clumps as opposed to scattered throughout the garden is preferred, as well as, having a collection of bee plants that bloom throughout all the gardening seasons. Honey bees are also sun lovers, so place your bee plants in sunny locations.

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You can attract good bugs to your garden by planting sweet-smelling small flowers and if you still need to reach for an insecticide choose an organic one rather than something synthetic.

Keep nectar and pollen-rich plants away from kids play spaces. If you’re concerned about stings, teach your kids to respect bees but also keep in mind that little kids often have an allergic reaction to bee stings and you should always be cautious about that.

Other than that, don’t be scared about bringing bees to your garden. After all, our plants need them, we need them, so give bees a chance.

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Plants that attract native Australian bees

Whether you want to have a bee-friendly garden or you want to avoid having bees around your home altogether, you should be aware what flowers tend to attract them. Certain plants are strongly preferred by native bees. Native plants are usually easier to grow in Australia, as it’s their origin. Planting bee forage for honeybee and native bee nutrition offers major benefits to agricultural industries through increased rates of incidental pollination.

1. Pin-cushion hakea (Hakea laurina)

Image by oldlarry from Pixabay

Hakea laurina, more commonly known as pin-cushion hakea, is a small evergreen shrub, which blooms from April to August. It can be grown both as a tree or shrub. Pin-cushion hakea is widely cultivated in Southwest Australia and highly preferred by stingless bees. Symbolizing nobility and longevity, this lovely plant will make an excellent addition to your collection. As far as native plants that attract bees goes, this one takes the cake in its ability to gather stingless bees.

2. Tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium)

Image by Beverly Buckley from Pixabay

Leptospermum scoparium (tea tree) is an evergreen shrub with small, needle-like leaves and lovely flowers. It’s red, white and pink blooms are enchanting to the native bees. It blooms in late spring and summer.

3. Lavender (Lavandula)

Image by Rebekka D from Pixabay

Lavender is a particular favourite of the blue-banded bee. Besides, it has a lovely aroma and the colours are gorgeous, especially during the “golden hour”. With its vibrant flowers, attractive foliage, and pleasing scent lavender is extremely attractive to native bees. It flowers all year round and is high in nectar. If you want to have beautiful blue-banded bees, as well as fantastic purple blossom, lavender is the perfect flower for you.

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4. Grevillea pink surprise (Grevillea whiteana & Grevillea banksii)

Image by sandid from Pixabay

Pink surprise is a hybrid. Its parents are Grevillea whiteana and Grevillea banksii. It comes in a wide range of sizes and can reach up to four metres. It produces a lot of nectar and thus, attracts bees and birdies. What is surprising about this plant is the large variety of shapes and sizes it comes in. It’s flexible enough to accommodate any sort of gardening needs and the high amount of nectar it produces is perfect for attracting native Australian bees.

5. Cutleaf daisy (Brachyscome multifida)

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Brachyscome multifida, the cutleaf daisy, is a hardy and colourful perennial that grows well across Australia. It is preferred by native bees and there’s a bonus – they flower for an extended period of time.

The idea of daisies and bees almost goes hand in hand. So it should come as no surprise the cut-leaf daisy made the… ahem… cut. These wonderful flowers are beautiful, easy to grow and they attract different native bee species. Stingless bees are particularly eager to include cut-leaf daisies in their diet, so if you want to have bees around, but dread the idea of being stung – this is a great option.

6. Purple coral pea (Hardenbergia violacea)

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Hardenbergia violacea (Purple Coral Pea) is a great plant for garden beds, rock and bush gardens, retaining walls and of course, for attracting bees. Usually, its flowers are purple and have yellow markings. It is well known across Australia by the name Happy Wanderer.

7. Red flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia)

Image by Zesty from Pixabay

Its botanical name is Corymbia ficifolia. There’s so much to love about flowering gums. These native trees are hardy and easy to care for with aromatic gum leaves and flowers that deserve to be the centre of attention. Bees love them for their plentitude of spring flowers.

8. Costal rosemary (Westringia fruiticosa)

Image by Gerardo Antonio Romero from Pixabay

The costal (native) rosemary, Westringia fruiticosa, is one of the particular favourites of teddy bear bees, this native shrub flowers through most of the year. It prefers full sun and is quite resistant to most forms of damage that would do in more vulnerable plants.

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9. Bee balm (Monarda)

Image by DawnSuzetteSmith from Pixabay

Monarda is a fragrant, perennial herb. It is also called bergamot but it’s most well-known for then name beebalm. As you can guess there’s a reason for that. Its colourful blossoms ranging from white, through pink and purple shades to even reddish, along with the aromatic leaves, are a real bee magnet.

10. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Image by Daniela Britti from Pixabay

Echinacea purpurea, purple coneflower, is well-known for its economic value to the pharmaceutical industry, as all of its parts stimulate the immune system. But didn’t you know it is extremely valuable for bees too? Learning how to care for coneflowers is easy. The best part is that in spring established clumps can be divided to increase your garden.

11. Autumn crocus (Crocus sativus)

Image by Johan Puisais from Pixabay

You might know autumn crocus as a spice – saffron. It’s a very beautiful bulb flower, that blooms in many different colours and is really easy to grow. From purple and lilac-blue, through orange and white to even striped flowers, the crocus truly means cheerfulness, especially for bees. You can choose varieties with prolonged blooming time to ensure your bees will be happy for longer.

12. Sweet joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Image by Jan Haerer from Pixabay

Sweet joe-pye-weed, Eutrochium purpureum, is a perennial plant, which blooms with large white, pink and purple flowers. Also called joe-pye weed, it is very easy to start growing it from stem cuttings in spring. Once you do that, your garden will be a great place to accommodate bees.

13. Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

Image by suju-foto from

Not many people know that sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) that before sunflowers were used for oil extraction, they were grown as garden flowers. And are extremely beneficial for bees! The large central discs of the plant give the bees a great opportunity to forage for nectar and pollen.

14. Roses (Rosa)

Image by Andy M. from Pixabay

From all the plants that attract bees, roses are maybe the best. One thing you should keep in mind, though, is that not all kinds of roses are bee-friendly. You should look for the ones that are single-petal with open centres. Roses are extremely fragrant and that attracts bees but if the bee cannot see the tuft of stamens at the centre they won they are of no use.

15. Catnip (Nepeta)

Image by Daniel Wanke from Pixabay

Catnip attract bees even more than it does cats. Nepeta, or catmint, is a herb from the mint family, which has pink, purple, white and blue flowers. They are extremely fragrant and serve as a bee magnet. The best part is that the catmint is extremely easy to grow, it is drought tolerant and all it needs is a sunny spot to flourish.

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  • Bees are endangered but we can help them by planting flowers that provide them with food.
  • You can choose what plant to have in your garden not only by how beautifully the blossom but also if they attract native Australian bees too.
  • Herbs are also a suitable choice, useful in the kitchen too.
  • When in doubt, always consult a professional gardener.

Do you have any of these plants in your garden? Did we miss any? Tell us in the comments below!

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