Flower color and shape play big roles in determining whether your Florida garden will be attractive to bees. Bees, says bee researcher Dr. Karen Strickler of Pollinator Paradise, are drawn to purple, blue and yellow flowers. Pollen bees prefer taking nectar from tubeless flowers, while long-tongued nectar collecting bees look for tube-shaped blooms. Many native Florida plants are bee magnets.
An annual member of the mint family, lemon beebalm (monarda citriodora) reaches 2 feet in height. Each plant produces several stems topped by spikes of tufted lavender blooms with lavender or white bracts. Crushed leaves release a distinctive lemon scent. Butterflies as well as bees flock to lemon beebalm. Under normal circumstances, it blooms from May to July. If watered regularly, it will continue flowering into mid-autumn. Wild plants prefer sunny or partly shady locations with dry rocky or sandy loam soil. Plants adapt easily to home gardens.
Grow lemon beebalm in the spring or fall from seed available at nurseries. Rake the seed into loose topsoil. Provide additional water during dry periods until the plants are 1 foot tall. A vigorous grower, lemon beebalm can be invasive in good conditions
Native to the U.S., blue mistflower (conoclinium coelestinum) is a perennial member of the aster family. It has blunt, triangular green leaves and short stems topped with flat heads of deep blue or purple quarter-inch flowers. Both bees and butterflies feed on blue mistflower.
Blooms appear from July through November, making blue mistflower a good choice for autumn gardens. Plants do well in sunny to partly shady spots with moist sand, clay or loam soils and moderate watering. Spreading quickly, they make good borders or groundcovers in areas with poor drainage. If left unchecked, however, they can crowd out other plants. Grow blue mistflower in the fall from root divisions or from commercially available seeds.
An exotic perennial, prairie nymph (Herbertia lahue) is related to irises. This tiny plant produces unusual lavender-blue flowers and white between March and May. While each plant produces flowers for about two weeks, individual blooms survive for less than a day. Prairie nymph's leaves seldom grow longer than 2 inches, making this plant perfect for rock gardens and confined spaces.
Happiest in partly shady dry spots, prairie nymph tolerates a wide range of soils from sandy to clay. Nectar bees will visit your garden when the plants are in bloom. Grow plants from corms available at nurseries.