Bees have been pollinating plants for 65 million years, visiting their flowers to feed on nectar. The pollen bees carry off fertilizes other flowers so they can produce seeds. Shrubs with yellow, blue or UV-range colored, tube-shaped flowers that fit their tongues attract swarms of bees. Finding flowering shrubs with alternative bloom colors and shapes will keep most of the bees away--and may bring bright butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.
Saskatoon Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is a rose family shrub normally standing from 3 to 18 feet high and up to 8 feet wide. It grows wild on hillsides and stream banks from Alaska south to Iowa and as far east as Ontario. Between April and June, say experts at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Saskatoon serviceberry's branches have fragrant clusters of white flowers that attract butterflies but not bees. Pale green leaves that follow the blooms become yellow or red in autumn.
This shrub has sweet blue berries in early summer. Edible straight off the bush, they also make a tasty pudding, muffin and pie ingredient. Plant in sun to shade and well-drained soil. It tolerates a wide range of soils and moisture levels, but may suffer in prolonged drought. In ideal conditions, Saskatoon serviceberry can remain in bloom for up to a month.
Flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus) is a small spreading shrub up to 5 feet high. Native to south and west Texas and Mexico, it will survive as far north as Dallas, where it dies back in the fall to re-emerge in the spring. Between June and October, this hummingbird favorite's red-orange tube-shaped blossoms contrast brilliantly with its light bark and pale green leaves.
Butterflies--but not bees--also find flame acanthus attractive, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This drought-and-deer-resistant shrub's bloom peaks after rain. Plant it in a well-drained sunny to partly shady location. It accepts sand, loam, clay, and limestone-based soils and makes an effective container plant.
Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) forms wild thickets from Maine southwest to Texas. A green-leafed shrub reaching up to 16 feet, it has showy clusters of fragrant greenish-white flowers in May and June. The flowers attract butterflies but not bees. White berries suspended from bright red stems follow the flowers. Several bird species, including cardinals and bluebirds, feed on the fruit. The stems remain on the plant, providing early winter interest. Plant gray dogwood, advises the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, in moist, pH-neutral soil and sun to shade.