7 Plants to Attract Bumble Bees to the Garden

bumblebee on coneflower

Honey bees get a lot of attention and credit as hardworking pollinators, and we all understand the benefits of keeping a hive or two of honey bees near the garden. But amidst all the buzz about honey bees, we sometimes overlook the contributions of the humble bumble bee to the success of our gardens.

There’s just something endearing about bumble bees and their sweetly sleepy ways. Honey bees always seem to be foraging with a purpose, busily intent on fulfilling the demands of their colony while keeping one eye on the time clock. Bumble bees meander their way through the garden, never in a hurry, slowly shuffling and savoring and passing the time of day. They don’t madly rush back to their hive when dusk falls—bumble bees are content just to curl up in an obliging peony blossom and dream the hours away.

Relaxed though the bumble bee’s approach to life may be, it’s a highly effective pollinator! Encouraging bumble bees to frequent your garden is easier when you provide them with their very favorite plants and flowers, so let’s look at a few bumble bee-approved options:

 

Chives

Those gorgeous purple flowers add a dash of brilliance to your spring garden, and bumble bees love them! Chives are nice because they bloom earlier than many other plants, providing an early food source for bees. Plus, the blossoms are purple, which is a favorite color of bumblebees.

 

Dandelion

Okay, so you’re probably not cultivating these in your garden intentionally, but perhaps think twice before mowing down dandelions when they pop up near your garden. Bumble bees are quite fond of dandelions and they’re another excellent early season food source.

 

Nasturtium

Besides being a delight to have in your garden, nasturtiums are paradise for bumble bees. They like the shape and color of the flowers and will happily pass the time of day in nasturtium flowers.

 

bumblebee on Autumn Joy sedum

A beefy bee rests on 'Autumn Joy' sedum. Photo cred: Paulette Johnson / Fox Hill Photo

Purple coneflower

Another lovely summer flower in the bumble bee’s preferred color! Purple coneflowers add a splash of color to your garden beds and bumble bees give them two enthusiastic thumbs (wings?) up.

 

Bee Balm

The name says it all: bumble bees love bee balm. And we love bee balm, too, though perhaps for different reasons. The fragrance and the beauty of the blooms are a true delight.

 

Spearmint

When spearmint finally produces its delicate flowers in late summer, it’s as if the bumble bees have been impatiently waiting for that moment. And given the almost-invasive growth tendencies of spearmint, you can guarantee that there will be plenty of spearmint to satisfy even the most thriving population of bumble bees.

 

‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum

It seems fitting that the bumble bee’s single-most, absolute favorite flower is the last one to bloom in the fall, like a glorious pre-winter celebration. When ‘Autumn Joy’ blossoms, the bumble bees forgo their sleepy tendencies and rush with abandon to enjoy all they can of those lovely pink flowers. ‘Autumn Joy’ is a gorgeous addition to your autumn garden too (and actually, the foliage is beautiful all by itself, even when the plant isn’t in bloom.)

 

And there you have it—seven splendid plants that are sure to brighten your garden and delight all your neighborhood bumble bees. Now that’s a definite win-win.

 

 

Samantha Johnson is the author of several books, including Garden DIY (CompanionHouse Books, 2020). She lives on a former dairy farm in northern Wisconsin with a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Peaches and writes frequently about pets, gardening and farm life.

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5 Comments

  1. Randall Benson on June 25, 2022 at 11:13 am

    Agastache x ‘Blue Fortune’ is the top bee plant in my garden.

    • Gavin Watt on June 25, 2022 at 2:28 pm

      Same in my garden. Anise hyssop — just the plain, wild Agastache foeniculum
      which has, in my opinion, a stronger anise presence than the cultivars.
      Seeds itself readily on bare ground especially in with potted plants.
      Chew the leaves for the anise taste, but don’t swallow!
      They have little hairs that catch in your throat.
      https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/anise-hyssop-agastache-foeniculum/

    • MSHS on June 26, 2022 at 2:24 am

      Ooh, good pick. Thanks for adding to the list.

  2. Maurice Spangler on June 26, 2022 at 2:02 am

    Comfrey–bumblebees love it.

    • MSHS on June 26, 2022 at 2:23 am

      Yes!

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