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Top 5 Plants for Bees

There are many reasons why you want to help bees but if you don't know why should and how you can (other than the reason of them being amazing creatures) check out my article “Save the bees”. The effect bees have on the environment is tremendous and we should all take time to help them however we can.  A very easy and great way to do this is by growing a selection of plants that the bees can collect nectar and pollen from. This can include a number of flowering, druit, nut and vegetable plants. Unfortunately, not all plants are suitable for bees. This is the case with most ‘grains’ that make up a large part of humans and animals diet. Yet to have a thriving wildlife and avaried diet we need bees in our life. To help the bees I am recommending you plant some of following top plants for bees. I will also detail how to grow them and take care of them, so here are my top five plants to grow for bees:

Bee collecting pollen.
Bee Collecting Pollen

Lavender

Botanical Name: Lavandula

This should be one on the top of your list. You can’t walk past a lavender shrub without seeing at least half a dozen bees buzzing around it. This plant is renowned for its strong fragrant smell it omits but also for its rich purple look. One of the most common in the UK is the English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), which is a very hardy plant and commonly grown throughout.

Fields of Lavender
Fields of Lavender

To grow lavender:


Planting

Usually, you can purchase lavender as a small bush but it can also be grown from seed. You should plant this preferable in the ground but it can also be in a large pot between April and May. Place it in full sun with free draining soil, ideally with chalky or alkaline soils. However, this is hardy plant and can do well in most soils. 


Care

Once you have done the above and the plant is establish you don’t need to do much more. As this plant is very hardy you only need to water it in extreme drought or if potted. 


Result

This often flowers in early May and then blooms again in June and often lasts to late summer or early autumn (fall). Great for the bees.


Dahlia

Botanical Name: Dahlia

This is a bulbed plant that is also incredibly beautiful, usually single but you can also get semi-double flowing variety. However, be warned that the double flowering variety is often bred without the pollen-producing part making it not very useful for bees. This plant is again hardy, low-maintenance and produce incredible geometric flower.

Peach Dahlia
Peach Dahlia

To grow Dahlias:


Planting

Dahlia is a bulbed plant often planted between May to June in full sun with well-draining, light, slightly acidic rich soil (lighter soil helps them survive through the winter). They preferably need a warmer climate, as they do struggle when it is colder but the bulbs can be dug up and stored over winter and replanted the following year. They ideally should be planted around 10 inches apart  


Care

Dependant on the weather and climate this plant should be kept well- watered once it has established and is flowering. However, as always be careful not to overwater. 


Result

They bloom from early to mid-summer to autumn.


Foxglove

Botanical Name: Digitalis purpurea 

One of the pinnacles of English cottage garden is the Foxgloves. They are one of my favourite due to their unique bell-shaped flower, which is ideal for the bees to climb into. They come in a variety of colours and if you haven’t seen these in flower they consist of a couple dozen flowers at once that is truly beautiful. If you can get a couple of these in your garden you surely won’t be disappointed when they flower.

Purple Foxgloves
Purple Foxgloves

To grow Foxgloves:


Planting

Plant in the spring or autumn in moist and warm soil. If flowering plant straight away in summer. Avoid planting small plants in the autumn, instead keep in a sheltered spot in a pot over winter. The planting requirements can also depend on the foxgloves you have, so make sure to do a check before you plant. They prefer light shade and well draining soil with plenty of organic matter.


Care

Like usual, frequently water newly planted foxgloves until they are well established then they should only require watering when in summer after long dry spells. If kept in a container water regularly as the compost dries out. As mentioned above keep plenty of organic matter and then mulch over the soil and if in a poor quality soil add a balanced granular fertiliser. Deadhead foxgloves as soon as they have finished flowering (unless you want them to produce seeds). 


Results

Foxgloves produce stunning flowers from June to September. 


Wisteria

Botanical Name: Wisteria sinensis

Another magnificent plant that stands out among the college gardens and British countryside cottages. It is another one of my favourite plants that takes multiple years to grow but can last for hundreds more. This beautiful plants grows a strong woody stem, growing thick and spreads out often over cottage walls and produced beautiful mauve and white flowers. Thought It can take several years until you begin to see it flower and it does not always flower every year but due to its stunning appearance I had to add it to my list.

Flowering Wisteria by historic building
Flowering Wisteria

To grow Wisteria:


Planting

Plant between October and April in fertile and well draining soil. Plant theme where they will receive lots of sunlight if you want them to produce more flowers. Also, give them a trellis or wall to climb on (bearing in mind they can climb to over 10m). If you are planting into a container make sure to give it at least a 45cm wide pot. Give the plant a good watering while the plant gets established.


Care

Keep well watered, especially in soils that quickly dry out, also when newly planted or in dry spells. To help your Wisteria you can feed it in the spring and depending on your soil add the relative supplements. To help flowering you can prune five to six inches in July/August and in February by two to three buds to help the plant flower.  


Results 

Wisterias typically flower between April and June with a potential second flowering in August. 


Sweet Williams

Botanical Name: Dianthus Barbatus

A beautiful flower bed plant that comes in a wide range of beautiful colours. You can get them in red, white, pink, scarlet and in either patterned or monochrome. They are loved by most pollinators including bees, so make a great bedding flower. Another great plant tha suits cottage gardens and perennial beds but just at home in a container. 

The pretty perennial is also known as sweet william [Photo: A. Jakusoviene/ Shutterstock.com]
Sweet William [Photo: A. Jakusoviene/ Shutterstock.com]

To grow Sweet Williams:


Planting

Sow in late spring (after the last frost) straight into the ground and keep the area weed-free (use a trowel as it is much better for the environment). If dry, water the soil before sowing but allow it to drain. Also, be aware that they don’t bloom in their first year. In the autumn transplant 30cm apart into their flowering position. They prefer to be in full sun but can tolerate light shade (but too much shade can make the plant become leggy and floppy). Keep them in well-draining, fertile, loamy and does best in neutral or slightly alkaline soils. 


Care

As mentioned you will need to transplant the plant in autumn to 30cm apart into their flowing position and wait until the following year to flower. Keep the Sweet William well watered during dry spells and throughout the growing season. However, be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to disease. You can also fertilise while they are growing to help produce a lush bloom. Deadhead any dead flowers but avoid pruning in the fall. Add mulch to protect and insulate the roots over winter and If in a pot, move away from areas of wind, snow and ice. 


Results 

They will flower between May to October in the colours you have picked. 


This is just a small list of some of my favourite flowers but there are a tremendous amount to pick from that will attract bees into your garden and help the pollinators. To truly help the bees and pollinators in your garden look at local wildflowers and look at a range of plants that bloom for as much of the year, from early spring to late autumn to help the bees and pollinators as long as you can in the year. Even weeds can be a source of food for the pollinators, so if you can put off mowing and let them bloom is another great way to get more flowers in your garden. I want to see bees thrive and part of this is seeing them harvest and collect pollen and nectar, so tag #GoneSustainable and #BeesBums on any pictures you have taken of bees you have caught in your garden with their heads in the flowers. Get growing!

DIY Floating Flower Pots
DIY Floating Flower Pots


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