Gardens that offer a variety of native, bee-friendly plants stand a better chance of attracting bees, according to the University of California-Berkeley. Bees act as pollinators in the garden, helping the plants reproduce by carrying pollen between the female and male parts of the flowers. Without bees or other pollinating insects and birds, gardens would look much different with far fewer flowers.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
The daisy-like flowers of the purple coneflower work well to attract bees. The perennial plant grows up to 5 feet tall. Single flowers grow on top of each stem, featuring a domed, brown center, and pink- or lavender-colored petals that droop downward. The flowers bloom from April through September with each bloom lasting several weeks followed by a seedhead. Break open the seedhead to collect the seeds to plant after keeping them cold for at least two months. Purple coneflower thrives in sun or partially shady areas in well-drained sandy or slightly acidic soil. The plant also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)
Fringed bleeding heart offers bees a source of nectar from early spring through the fall. The perennial plant grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9, reaching up to 2 feet in height and featuring pale-green, fern-like leaves. Clusters of pink, white or purple heart-shaped flowers appear on long, leafless stems, drooping over the branches. One inch long green pods with black seeds appear after the flowers fade. Fringed bleeding heart thrives in partial to full shade, especially in acidic, rich soil in forested areas. The plant tolerates heat, as long it stays moist in a shady area. Collect the black seeds before the pod dries up, then sow the seeds after they’ve been stored in a cool place for at least four weeks.
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Also known as button willow, buttonbush grows up to 12 feet in height as a multistemmed bush. The glossy leaves grow up to 8 inches long with pointed tips. The flowers appear as rounded 1-inch balls of white or light-pink blossoms. Bees find the long-lasting blooms irresistible, as do butterflies. The plant grows in swamps and near ponds and streams in a variety of soils, including poor-draining soil. The plant even grows in standing water. Buttonbush grows in partial to full shade in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 10.
Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
Solomon’s seal features arching stems reaching up to 5 feet in length. Bell-shaped flowers in shades of greenish-white hang in pairs from the branches with many of them hidden beneath the leaves. Bees find the small flowers provide a valuable nectar meal. After the flowers fade, blue berries appear that attract birds. Solomon’s seal thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9 in partial to fully shaded areas. The plant grows best in rich, acidic soils, such as that found beneath trees. However, the versatile plant also grows in other soil types and can tolerate some drought.