In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the planet’s decreasing bee population. While there remains some mystery as to the main culprit in the dramatic reduction in the number of bees, factors such as pesticides and fungicides are prime suspects. Bees are also vulnerable to parasites, such as the Varroa mite, which spreads viruses that attack bees’ immune systems.
The concern stems from the fact that pollination is a central component in both the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle. Without pollination, there are no more trees or plants, which are key to converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. Similarly, the removal of plants from the nitrogen cycle would cause us to starve.
While we have no overarching solution that will restore our diminished bee population, those of us who garden can do our part to feed our local bees, while attracting other pollinators as well.
Regardless of the size of our gardens, we all rely on pollinators to make our carefully tended plants produce fruits and veggies. Often, those cantaloupe flowers alone aren’t enough to attract more than a handful of bees. An easy way to make your garden more alluring to pollinators is to plant their favorite flowers near or in your gardens. Luckily, regardless of the region in which you live, there are many options for blooms that love sun and aren’t picky about soil conditions.
Here are some easy-to-grow flowers that will bring the bees to your yard.
Many of us are most familiar the purple salvia (or sage), which resembles lavender. However, there are many varieties of salvia, it is easy to find a type that grows easily in your region. The flute-shaped flowers are popular with bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It is a perennial that can bloom all year in milder climates.
You might be familiar with echinacea’s reputed medicinal benefits, but it is also a highly decorative and hearty addition to any garden. Some echinacea plants can grow to eight feet in height and boast flowers in beautiful shades of yellow, orange, and purple. A North American native, it can thrive in almost any zone. Plants can be started from seed or root division.
Yarrow is another plant that is often used medicinally to treat complaints from fever to toothache. This drought resistant perennial is a good ground cover. Its brilliant blooms are clusters of tiny yellow, white, or red flowers. Yarrow is virtually maintenance free, even in less than ideal soil. As a bonus, deer and rabbits show little or no interest in eating yarrow.
Long-stemmed cosmos sport delicate pink, purple, or white flowers, and their long stems that make them perfect for cutting. While some gardeners recommend starting them indoors, seeds can also be planted directly in the ground. Established flowers will self-seed, so you won’t have to replant. Cosmos thrive in full sun, but suffer when over-fertilized. Once your cosmos bloom, they will attract bees, birds and butterflies
Snapdragons are named for the dragon-head shape of their flowers. Pollination of snapdragons is best suited to bumblebees because of the difficulty of opening the flowers’ “mouths.” The blooms are clustered and stacked to create a colorful spire of bright flowers. When choosing snapdragon seeds or plants, double check the strain’s size at maturity to make sure it matches your needs. These fragrant plants grow to a wide variety of heights from dwarf varieties to 3 feet tall. This is another plant that might discourage deer from devouring your beloved vegetable plants.
Flowering hostas are perfect for gardens in areas frequented by hummingbirds. The tubular flowers are perfect for a hummingbird’s beak. Most hosta flowers also appeal to bees. Unfortunately, hummingbirds and bees aren’t alone in their fondness for hostas. Deer love them, which can be a consideration if you have an unfenced garden. Hostas are low maintenance, versatile plants, but unlike many other easy-care flowers, they thrive and flower best in partial shade.
Sunflowers are famous for being incredibly easy to grow. They love full sun, and will bloom more quickly than many other flower choices, bringing birds to feast on their plentiful seeds. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, all of which seem to sprout before your eyes. Large varieties are huge and top-heavy. The massive leaves and flowers can block precious sun from other plants. Keep their sun-hogging tendencies in mind when you choose a location.
Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan)
Rudbeckia is a genus that includes various coneflowers, such as the black-eyed Susan. This member of the daisy family is a tough flower. It is heat and drought resistant, loves full sun, and is easy to germinate either indoors or outdoors. If allowed to go to seed, it will reseed itself. Rudbeckia can grow in a variety of soil types if there is ample drainage. Its flowers attract bees, flies, and butterflies.
Zinnias are known for being easy to grow and quick to bloom. Unlike some flowers that can take 120 to 140 days to bloom, Zinnias grown from seed to bloom in approximately 60 days. They are also known to attract butterflies with their bright, abundant flowers. If your garden needs pollination, zinnias might be your best bet. However, it’s better to grow zinnias from seed than to transplant them.
Asters are hearty flowers with an abundance of thin, colorful petals that resemble fireworks. Asters can be grown in containers or in the ground, and they thrive in full sunlight. Many asters continue to bloom into late summer and early fall, which makes them a great way to attract pollinators to a garden featuring pumpkins and other fall vegetables.