Gardening Tips: Attract bees to Your Garden

Herbs are some of the most powerful plants and flowers for attracting bees and other beneficial insects to your garden.

| June/July 2001

  • Photography by Anybody Goes

Question: How do I encourage bees in my garden?  

Answer: Bees are especially drawn to the fragrances and flowers of herbs, and there are many plants that attract bees to your garden. Bees will always be found working away to gather and spread pollen while they sip the nectar, to the great benefit of gardener and bee alike. I’ve always welcomed honeybees, bumblebees, and wasps to my garden. My experience has always been that if I leave them alone, they leave me alone, and I enjoy their companionable buzzing as I work around the garden. They are invaluable as pollinators.

If you've just started gardening with herbs and haven’t seen many bees yet, have faith: If you plant it, they will come. Flowering herbs are irresistible lures to pollinators. Let’s run down the list of sure-fire favorites that will draw bees from all over the neighborhood.

Thymes. A patch or a blanket of blooming thymes will almost always have bees working it over.
Lamb’s-ears. Bees come to these velvety plants late in the season when the plants send up their flower stalks.
Rosemary. If your climate suits this tender herb, plant a hedge of it!
Lavender. Bees will work these plants steadily.
Hyssop. This tidy shrub, which comes with white, pink, and blue flowers, is a great bee herb.
Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). Bees may pass up every other plant in the garden when this is blooming.
Monarda. This is called bee balm for a reason. Bees and hummingbirds both love Monardas, especially Monarda fistulosa, M. citriodora, and M. punctata.
Sages. If you have your own beehive, plant salvias nearby, because they contribute to a marvelous honey.
Milkweeds, especially butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Bees and butterflies find these irresistible.
Oregano and marjoram. These delicate flowers draw a crowd.

There are many other plants that will draw a steady stream of bees to your garden, moving tirelessly from flower to flower. Bees seem to love many of the same plants we herb gardeners most cherish.

I assume that herb growers, especially those who harvest for culinary use, have a commitment to gardening organically, for their own health and that of their garden. It’s especially important if you want to attract bees and other insects, as well as birds, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Be very careful of any chemicals you use on nearby grassy areas and in vegetable gardens, and be aware of what your neighbors are using. Diazinon, for example, used by some people on tomato plants, kills bees.

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