Plant flowers that attract bees to your garden for healthier plants and to keep the bee population strong.

Bumblebee populations have been declining, and that’s bad news for our flowers, fruit trees, home vegetable gardens and other crops. Honey bees pollinate everything from celery to tomato fruit. Even though they have stingers, they’re important to our backyard gardens and our global ecosystem.

Bring the bees back to your garden by choosing plenty of plants that attract pollinators. See a complete and searchable list from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.. And choose plants that bloom throughout your growing season, to keep bees active.

  • Lupine is a pretty blue flower that usually blooms in May and grows just about anywhere in the country.
  • New England aster is a favorite flower for many gardeners, with its delicate, thin petals and pink-to-purple color.
  • Salvias are part of the sage family, and there should be one that works for your zone as an annual or perennial. Bees love most salvias, especially blue sage and clary sage.
  • In fact, bees love many herbs, including tarragon, rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, mint and marjoram. Bring the bees and have culinary herbs right off your patio!
  • Catmint or catnip is an herb that drives bumblebees wild. Speaking of wild, the plant self-sows like mad. But it makes a pretty ground cover, with bluish-purple spikes.
  • Another nice groundcover that is a little less wild is poppy mallow, or wine cup. This perennial loves sun and dry conditions. It’s perfect for a rock garden.
  • Need a shade tree? Several redbud varieties attract bees. They also give you great seasonal color.
  • Bees love most types of coreopsis, also called tickseed, a versatile flower with dozens or more species that comes in many colors, all with a pollen-filled center.
  • Need a nice, winding vine? The honeysuckle attracts bees and people with its pleasant aroma.
  • If you want a bee-attracting shrub, the rhododendron pleases with brilliant spring blooms. It only does well in areas with cool, moist summers, though.
  • Sunflowers are the majestic towers of pollinating flowers. You can plant the seeds nearly anywhere and offer up a giant bloom that more than one bee can share at a time. If left to go to seed, the birds will do their share and reseed the sunflowers for you, though the location might not match your garden plan!

If you’re not sure if these plants are suitable for your area, or just want to learn more about protecting honey bee populations, check out this publication from the Xerces Society.


This post is adapted from the April 26, 2014 episode of Home Wizards that was released on iTunes April 27, 2014. You can find this segment during Hour One of the podcast.