The Best Plants to Attract Bees

bumble bee on a purple coneflower

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

Bees are essential to a garden. Without their help in pollinating plants, there would be few flowers or vegetables. There are many things we can do to make our gardens more attractive to bees. One of the simplest is to grow plants that are rich in nectar and pollen. Not all plants provide these two basic needs. Many modern hybrids are sterile and don't offer any sustenance to bees. That doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful garden and still encourage bees to visit it. The following plants are both lovely and offer a food source for bees.

  • 01 of 25

    Anise Hyssop (Agastache Foeniculum)

    Giant Hyssop (Agastache rugosa)

    Rachel Husband/Getty Images

    Not only is anise hyssop rich in nectar, but it also blooms for weeks and keeps several species of bees busy feeding. The honey from bees that forage on anise hyssop is very sweet.

  • 02 of 25

    Aster (Aster)

    Beautiful late summer flowering Aster flowers also known as Symphyotrichum or Michaelmass Daisy with a honey bee collecting pollen
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    Stick with native asters, like Michaelmas, or New England, daisies. Since they bloom late in the season, they help bees stock up on energy, before winter.

  • 03 of 25

    Basil (Ocimum)

    Growing Fresh Basil
    Marie Iannotti

    You will need to resist harvesting and allow some of your basil plants to flower. If you do, stand back; they will be covered with hungry, happy bees.

  • 04 of 25

    Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

    Close up of black eyed susans

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    These garden staples are part of the aster family. There are many good species of Rudbeckia, in a variety of heights. Their yellow color will help attract bees to your garden.

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  • 05 of 25

    California Lilac (Ceanothus)

    California Lilac (Ceanothus)

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    Ceanothus is a genus with over 50 species, most of which are native to North America. The blue varieties in particular, like the California lilac, are magnets for all types of bees, including honeybees.

  • 06 of 25

    Clover (Trifolium)

    Bee pollinating on white clover

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    Both white and red clover are excellent flowers for bees. Scatter seed in your lawn and allow them to forage. The clover will do double duty, providing your lawn with a source of nitrogen.

  • 07 of 25

    Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster)

    Two bees on Cotoneaster Flowers

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    Cotoneaster is a favorite of native bumblebees. If you can plant more than one variety, there will be flowers for them to visit all season.

  • 08 of 25

    Currant (Ribes)

    Red currant plant

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    Currents and their cousin, gooseberries, are early bloomers and provide a food source before a lot of other flowers are open. They appeal to a wide variety of bees. Gooseberries are great for smaller bees and are also popular with hummingbirds.

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  • 09 of 25

    Elderberry (Sambucus)

    Elderberry (Sambucus)

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    Look for the less cultivated varieties of Elderberry. Many of the more ornamental hybrids on the market now, are not good food sources for bees. Bumblebees will seek out the wilder varieties.

  • 10 of 25

    English Lavender (Lavandula)

    Purple lavender flowers

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    Lavender flowers are rich in nectar and bloom in mid-summer when bees are most active. The honey from bees who feed on lavender has a wonderful floral flavor.

  • 11 of 25

    Globe Thistle (Echinops)

    Globe thistle flowers

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    Although its common name suggests a thistle, Echinops is actually in the aster family. Its purple-blue color calls out to many species of bees and butterflies, too.

  • 12 of 25

    Goldenrod (Solidago)

    Goldenrod Flowers (Solidago)

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    Goldenrod is yet another member of the bee-friendly aster family. These plants are some of the last bloomers of the season and provide much-needed food, before the onset of winter.

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  • 13 of 25

    Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium)

    Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium)

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    This tall, eastern North American native is yet another late-blooming member of the aster family. Joe-pye weed is very easy to grow, in full sun or partial shade.

  • 14 of 25

    Lupine (Lupinus)

    Close up of purple lupine plant

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    The white spot in the center of the flowers, on the reflexed banner petal, changes to purple after it is pollinated, telling hungry bumblebees not to waste precious time there.

  • 15 of 25

    Oregano (Origanum)

    Oregano Plant

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    Many herbs are attractive to bees if you allow them to flower. Oregano is a favorite with honeybees. They will cover the plant and make it impossible to harvest from it, but they'll move on soon enough when the flowers fade.

  • 16 of 25

    Penstemon (Penstemon)

    Penstemon Flowers

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    Full of nectar and pollen, native penstemon plants are tubular flowers that several types of bees are happy to squeeze into and feast on. The lines on their petals act as "nectar guides", so the bees waste no time finding dinner.

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  • 17 of 25

    Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)

    purple coneflower

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

    Honeybees flock to coneflowers. It's not uncommon to see more than one bee foraging on a single flower. They provide both nectar and pollen and bloom throughout most of the season and well into fall.

  • 18 of 25

    Rosemary (Rosmarinus)

    Close up of rosemary plant and flowers

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    Rosemary is a perennial evergreen shrub. When it blooms in early spring, the blue flowers call bees from far and wide. You will have to wait, to harvest from your rosemary bush, but rosemary honey is a treat worth waiting for.

  • 19 of 25

    Sage (Salvia)

    Ornamental sage plant in sunlight

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    Both culinary sage and many of the ornamental salvias are popular foraging plants for bees. Since the flower stalks bloom from the bottom of the stalk upwards, they are worth repeat visits.

  • 20 of 25

    Scorpion-Weed (Phacelia)

    Scorpion-weed (Phacelia)

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    As with clover, Phacelia is most often grown as a cover crop. However, the beautiful blue flowers are magnets for many types of bees. Find a space outside of your garden, to grow some.

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  • 21 of 25

    Stonecrop (Sedum)

    Sedum (Stonecrop)
    Marie Iannotti

    It doesn't matter what type of sedum you plant, whether the short ground covers or the tall, garden plants if you plant them, bees and butterflies will come.

  • 22 of 25

    Sunflower (Helianthus)

    Close up of a wild sunflower (Helianthus salicifolius)

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    Both the perennial and annual varieties of sunflowers rely on bees for their pollination. The center disk is dense with individual flowers that can keep a bee busy for quite a while until it is covered in pollen.

  • 23 of 25

    Wallflower (Erysimum)

    Wallflower (Erysimum)

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    Wallflowers start blooming extremely early in the season, waiting for bees to arrive. The variety 'Bowles’s Mauve' is particularly attractive to all kinds of bees.

  • 24 of 25

    Wild Buckwheat (Eriogonum)

    Wild buckwheat (Eriogonum)

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    The buckwheats are native to the west coast of North America and a handful of them are suitable for the landscape. If you prefer not to plant them in your garden, at least let them be when you find them along the road.

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  • 25 of 25

    Zinnia (Zinnia)

    Colorful zinnia flowers

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    These summer stalwarts are intense bloomers and bees will make many repeat visits. Zinnias are popular flowers for vegetable gardens, where they lure bees to visit and pollinate vegetables with less showy flowers, like tomatoes and beans.