Connecticut Garden Journal: Growing Plants for Bees | Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut Garden Journal: Growing Plants for Bees

Jan 28, 2016

Choose heirloom varieties that are naturally high in both pollen and nectar.
Bees love the high amount of nectar and pollen in heirloom flowers.
Credit David Levinson / Creative Commons

Winter is a great time to sit down and plan the expansion of existing gardens or creation of new ones. But don't just think of growing gardens for yourself. 

While there are many flower garden designs to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and even bats, what about the bees? Honey bees, bumblebees and native bees are essential to our food supply.

It’s estimated that one-third of every bite of food we take can be attributed to bees. But bees have been having a rough time with mites and diseases destroying their hives. So let’s help bees by growing some plants just for them.

What types of flowers do bees like? It's good to know bees need pollen and nectar from flowers. So when selecting varieties for your bee garden, choose heirloom varieties that are naturally high in both, and avoid hybrids that have been bred for color, but lack the food bees need.

Grow flowers in patches, instead of individually, and choose single flowers versus double ones. This makes them easier for bees to find and access.

Honey bees can’t see the color red, so emphasize blue, white, violet, and yellow colored flowers.

Grow a mix of flower sizes and shapes that bloom throughout the season. Flat flowers, such as zinnia and echinacea, and tubular flowers, like snapdragon and bee balm, are favorites of honeybees, while large-sized flowers, such as hollyhocks, are great for fat bumblebees. 

Zinnia is just one flower that is a favorite of bees.
Credit Distant Hill Gardens / Creative Commons

Provide shelter for your bees when they're foraging. Consider planting evergreens and leaving old snag trees and fallen branches around your yard. And don’t spray any pesticides -- even organic ones -- that can harm bees.

Next week, I’ll be talking about arugula and mache. Until then, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.