Top Tips when planting for Bees

As an urban beekeeper in training I am increasingly interested in planting flowers that provide nectar for bees and other pollinators.

Kate Cox at Border Designs based in Colchester, Essex, specialises in planting plans and has been providing lots of advice on how to create a bee friendly garden.

There are many rewards of planting for bees and pollinators and you can do so in any environment, whether a small balcony, window box or hanging basket, you can provide bees with pollen and nectar throughout the year.

Top Tips from Border Designs for planting for honey bees:

1. Good winter flowering plants for honey bees include tall shrubs such as Lonicera fragrantissima; spring bulbs such as Galanthus nivalis (snowdrop), Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite), and perennials such as Helleborus niger (Christmas hellebore)

2. Honey bees and bumble bees don’t necessarily feed from the same plants. Honey bees are particularly drawn to borage and marjoram.

3. Double flowers, where extra petals have obscured or replaced the reproductive parts of the flower, will not provide food for bees. Such flowers may not have nectar, or insects may have difficulty in gaining access.

4. Bees are not attracted to red flowers. They can not see this colour but they can see ultra violet, which reveals markings on flowers that act like flight path indicators towards the nectaries.

5. Do not spray open flowers with pesticides or herbicides if you want to support bees. Aphids can be knocked off with a jet of water. Ladybirds are a brilliant aphid predator

6. British wildflowers can be an attractive addition to planting and can support a wider range of pollinating insects.

Season Summary of plants:
Winter: crocus, snowdrop, hellebore (shade plant)
Spring: Muscari, borage (flowers through to October), Erysimum (Bowles Mauve) Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender), Jasminum officinale (common jasmine)
Summer: Rosemary, Eryngium giganteum (Miss Wilmott’s Ghost), Marjoram, Salvia nemorosa (caradonna)
Autumn: Aster novi-belgii , Sedum spectabile, Agastache foeniculum

The above are just some examples of perennials that should come back year after year – cheaper than using annuals. There are many other options.

You can read more about ways to make your garden as perfect for pollinators as possible on the RHS website.