Grow Yer Own: Bee Friendly Plants from Seed

29 Jan

Tis the season — restless and cold-weary — to dream up the summer’s homegrown delights. This year, consider adding a few nectar-rich items to your smorgasbord for neighborhood bees.

Bee Balm (Monarda citriodora)

Bee Balm

Used by Native Americans to brew a tea; replaced black tea during the Boston Tea Party. Citrus-flavored leaves can be minced and added to fruit and used for jellies. Beautiful purplish bracts, 24-30″ tall, aromatic and colorful in fall. Excellent bee forage plant. Hardy perennial in zones 5-9.

Available at SeedSavers

Bee’s Friend (Phacelia tanacetifolia)

Bee's Friend

Can be used to strongly attract bees to your garden. “Bienen-freund” in German translates as “bee’s friend.” Subtle lavender-blue flowers with curved spikes that are absolutely covered by many different species of bees. Excellent results when used as an annual cover crop. Approximately 16,000 seeds per ounce. Annual, 12–24″ tall.

Available at SeedSavers

Borage (Borago officinalis)


Bushy, fuzzy-leafed plants produce edible 1 in. blue flowers that bees love. Tasty in tea and salads, the flowers also make pretty cake decorations.

Available at SeedsofChange

Cleome, Spider Plant (Cleome hasslerana)


Bees and hummingbirds love this flower! Multi- branched plant produces whorls of pale pink to purple flowers at the top of the stems. Flowers have long protruding stamens, giving a spidery appearance.

Available at SeedsofChange

What else?

What have you found attracts bees in the ‘hood?


8 Responses to “Grow Yer Own: Bee Friendly Plants from Seed”

  1. Nora January 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    Mom learned fairly quickly that if she’s bringing cut irises to people, she can’t cut them in the morning, because sometimes they came with a bonus sleeping bee in them.

    • mistress beek January 29, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

      Now that’s just adorable. Sweetest. Thing. Ever.

  2. Loretta January 29, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Bees in our suburban area (north front range in CO) love our hyssops. A lot of the native bees like the currants we’ve planted. The humming birds always stop by in the fall on their way home for the nectar from the hyssops.

  3. dancingmorganmouse January 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    Rosemary and tomatoes, our local native bees love tomoato flowers.

  4. Dean February 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    I’ll 2nd the hyssops (agastache foeniculum and hyssopis officianalus), and add lavenders – These plants have the added benefit of being useful in soap making later after the wax is harvested! Gorse if you can find seeds bloom early for spring build up, clover and buckwheat bloom like crazy and make wonderful cover crops for choking out weeds.

    ~Dean, Front Royal, VA

    • mistress beek February 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

      Hyssop — now that’s an excellent idea!

  5. Franclyn February 16, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    Yes to all of those plants mentioned. We let Borage self-seed. Bees love it. Plant it right next to squash and other mid- to late summer flowering vegetables. Best veggie garden ever!

    Have to add Oregano and Thyme to the list of bee faves. Expect these herbs add beneficial components in addition to (or through) nectar. Thymol is used against varroa mites, and Oregano also has shown to be beneficial against mites. See Diana Sammataro’s research on essential oils and bee health. The bees and other pollinators already know these things. Our plants are loaded with all types of pollinators when these herbs are in bloom. Plant some. Your kitchen and your bees will thank you!

  6. John Ray May 8, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    I’ve seen large numbers on Eryngium planum (Sea Holly) and Dalea Purpurea (Purple Prairie Clover)

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