Best Bulbs for Attracting Bees
By: Brent and Becky
“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.”
- Henry David Thoreau
Bees are important to more of our daily life than many of us think. Without their bumbling pollination, the flowers in our gardens wouldn’t be the only casualties. Bees are responsible not only for the health of our gardens, but also for the sustainable growth of our fruit and vegetable plants as well. Their pollinating is essential to the vitality of our gardens, and also the health of our families.
Attracting Bees in the Garden: The Basics
Bees are helpful in supporting the health of your garden, and are rarely a nuisance if left to mind their own business. Attracting bees and pollinators to your garden boosts the health of all of your plants, and ensures that you are doing your part to help struggling populations of these important insects.
Not all gardens are created equal in the mind of a bee, however. When you are planning your garden with pollinators in mind, there are a few basics concepts to keep in mind to achieve the healthiest blooms:
Not all plants are the same. Your garden is part of the bigger ecosystem of your area. We have the ability to shop for and plant blooms from every corner of the world, but some of these plants are able to naturalize to the local climate while others cannot. Naturalized plants are plants that are either native to your region or have been introduced to and become part of your local ecosystem. These plants are familiar to the insects in your area and are welcomed as a part of the greater ecosystem. But some exotic non-naturalized plants might look lovely to us, but still won’t be as popular with pollinators.
Variety is the spice of life. Uniform, monoculture gardens might look nice and tidy to our eye, but bees won’t be such fans of “keeping it simple.” These buzzing insects prefer a little variety and won’t be as interested in a field of the same blooms as a garden full of different varieties to try out. Giving your bees more to choose from will keep them around longer, and both you, and your plants, and the pollinators will reap the rewards.
A full-season garden is best.Savvy gardeners know that every plant has its time in the season to shine. While some of the residents of your garden are early risers that love cooler temperatures, others wait until the heat of mid-summer to put on a show. A garden that has multiple types of blooms, each with their moment in the growing season to shine, your bees and other pollinators will have flowers to browse all season. Without constant blooming, bees will simply move on to other areas to feed on and pollinate. To keep your own garden full of flowers and bees, you’ll want to plan ahead for blooms at every point in the season.
Bulbs for Bees
Keeping the basics in mind, it’s easy to build your garden to draw more buzzing attention during the spring, summer, and fall. With so many great varieties available, it can be overwhelming to find bulbs that will offer the look you want for your backyard while being a hit with your local bees. There are a number of time-tested classics that have proved to be bee favorites in our yards:
Tulips are a favorite with the bees, thanks to their delicious nectar and pollen. They aren’t native to North America, but they’ve had no issue naturalizing and becoming a bee staple.
Crocuses are a pretty early-season perennial with tons of delicious pollen to start the season right. They are particularly adored by honeybees!
Primroses (also known as sundrops) are practically a buffet of nectar and pollen that appeals to a variety of pollinators early in the season, including bees. While they might not be tasty enough to be as popular with bees as other pollinators, they are a good selection to round out the variety offered in your garden.
Chionodoxa are also known as Glory-of-the-Snow are early risers that stay true to their name. They have vibrant blue blooms that are the perfect shade for luring in bees.
Alliums are from the same family as onions and garlic. Their orb-like, alien-looking blooms are great at attracting butterflies as well as bees.
Hyacinths have colorful flower clusters that are sure to impress early in the season. Their luxurious fragrance isn’t just attractive to you, it will also lure bees to your garden.
Camassias are a North-American native that bees know and love, blooming in late spring and early summer. These pretty flowers have a pretty cool history, having helped Lewis and Clark survive while they explored America - adding another layer of historical interest to your yard and garden!
Lilies are attractive to pollinators like bees, as well as hummingbirds and people. These popular flowers are full of sweet nectar and offer varieties that prefer spring and summer blooming to dazzle your garden for longer.
Pineapple Lilies are native to South Africa, but their fruity look and delicious nectar make them popular with bees and butterflies. These tropical heat-lovers give a stunning show in the summer while blooming. They might be a hit with pollinators, but they are also incredibly critter-resistant, offering the best of both worlds.
Liatris, are also known as Blazing Stars, call North America home and are packed with pollen. They are pretty in your garden as they bloom in late summer, but are also popular as a picked flower to bring inside. Their popularity is easy to see, as they are often surrounded by the sound of buzzing bees.
Mirabilis are from Mexico and offer a tropical vibe that our local bees can’t resist. While they are also known as Four O’clocks it might be more appropriate to call them Eight O’clocks for their habit of blooming in the evening.
Cyclamens are a beautiful fall bloomer, which makes them a great way to keep your local bees satisfied late in the season.
In recent years, we’ve become more and more aware of the plight of bees in our neighborhoods. Gardens that used to be alive with the busy buzzing of these pollinators are noticeably quieter. You can start to save the bees by improving your garden! Creating a bee-friendly garden requires no sacrifice, since they are already attracted to many of our seasonal favorites. Conscientious gardening will result in a healthier, happier and more vibrant garden, all while providing a much-needed boost to your friendly neighborhood pollinators.
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