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What to Plant to Attract More Pollinators

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The right flowers, fruit and vegetables in your garden will welcome visitors such as bumblebees and solitary bee species (those that don’t form a hive, including mason bees).

A bumblebee visits Gilia capitata, a western United States spring-to-summer bloomer that often appears in packaged wildflower seed mixes.

A bumblebee visits Gilia capitata, a western United States spring-to-summer bloomer that often appears in packaged wildflower seed mixes.

Two factors contribute to a successful bee-friendly garden: Flowers planted in full sunlight, and flowers arranged in groups. Bees often overlook flowers grown in shade, even though the produce pollen and nectar. Individual plants grown by ones, twos or threes may fail to attract bees; a bigger mass or sweep will be more noticeable and make the bees’ work more efficient.

Unfortunately, some of the most spectacular garden flowers are of no use to the bee. In contrast, many flowers dismissed as weeds, including dandelions, provide a rich source of food. One of the best and easiest things you can do to make your garden more bee-friendly is to forget the weed killers and let your lawn and beds go toward the wild.

If you’re not ready to let go of the neatness of your well-tended garden, could you leave a patch to run wild? Sowing a locally appropriate wildflower mix is one way to start, or begin by choosing among these plants that contribute to a succession of bee-feeding bloom:

  • Crocus, allium and violets (Viola), which supply much-needed pollen and nectar after the long winter months
  • Salvia, coneflowers (Echinacea and Rudbeckia), yarrow (Achemilla) and tickseed (Coreopsis) for summer
  • Late-flowering goldenrods (Solidago), asters (Symphyotrichum and Aster) and tall sedum, which supply the bees with final sustenance before the winter

Image credit: Colin Durfee/CC BY 2.0