You can make a difference on the lives of pollinators with an eye-catching bee garden. Up close, you’ll experience the wonder of nature’s colors, sounds, and abundance — with a parade of blooms available to you and the bees, through the spring, summer, and fall.
A simple pollinator garden is doable and fun to create — whether your yard is large or small, whether you have a deck, patio, or balcony, or whether you live in the city or the country.
Attracting bees to your space doesn’t require a master gardener — just these basics:
- A diversity of pollinator friendly plants high in nectar and pollen
- A fresh water source
- Ample shade
- Minimal weeding
- No chemical pesticides
Planting a pollinator garden does more than keep our honey bee friends healthy and productive. In addition to attracting beneficial “pest-control” insects like lady bugs, bee gardens support native pollinators such as butterflies, birds, and other bees.
Support our planet’s most dedicated pollinator
Honey bee gardens provide a vital food source for our planet’s most active pollinators. These industrious yet tiny animals are good guests who give and take, cross-fertilizing the flowers and increasing garden yields.
Over the past 100 million years, the honey bee evolved with flowers into the perfect partnership. Feasting on flower pollen and nectar, bees in turn pollinate more than 100 kinds of produce, nuts, and seeds, as well as fibers like cotton.
Given that 90% of flowering plants require pollination in order to reproduce, it’s no surprise that honey bees pollinate 80% of U.S. agricultural crops.
Give the bees a big welcome
To provide a natural habitat that bees will want to visit, make the most of the space you have — every square foot.
Your nearby garden center can help you make the bee-friendliest plant and flower choices, based on growing conditions specific to your region — whether for an existing garden or one created from scratch with common native garden plants that are easy to grow.
Be honey bee-wise, and your garden will also be popular with other creatures like neighboring frogs and birds:
Room permitting, plant at least 10 high-nectar, high-pollen, seed-producing flowers (annuals and perennials). Plant each flower type close together. Follow the “right plant, right place” approach.
Honey bees love a profusion of flowers and plants, so provide as many of each kind as space allows and include some autumn-blooming ones as well as bee-friendly native shrubs. Start by researching the best bee-friendly plants for your region.
Single-and-open-petal and tubular flowers are ideal for bees, along with bee-friendly native shrubs.
Honey bees love colors as much as people do, especially yellows, blues, purples, and white—but any nectar-rich flower will do. Avoid highly hybridized, “extra fancy” plants from garden centers.
To ensure a wide variety of flowers in bloom at any given time, plant flowers that will bloom at different times, and those with long bloom periods.
How to make your bee garden hum
- Clean water, shade, organic gardening, weeds, and less-frequent mowing are all key to making your bee garden a place where honey bees thrive.
- Provide a dependable fresh water source, with safe landing areas for the bees. This can be as simple as sinking shallow pans of water into the garden, or a bee bath (a tub or plastic pond with rocks, twigs, and goldfish).
- If a trouble spot in your yard collects rain, consider turning it into a rain garden, which also helps prevent soil erosion.
- Small pockets of leafy shade let the bees cool down when they need to rest.
- Avoid or reduce all outdoor pesticides and herbicides. Use organic methods when possible, even if the garden won’t look perfect. The bees won’t mind. Consider bird boxes and homemade vinegar weed killer as environmentally safe options.
- Bees go for a more random garden arrangement, flowering weeds and all. You’ll have a valid excuse not to mow as often. The less mowing and weeding, the better for the bees.
Honey bees call many kinds of gardens home
- Your lifestyle, and the type of space it offers, can readily accommodate these high-energy creatures with the nourishment and respite they need to thrive:
- A roomy corner of your yard works just fine.
- Hanging basket plants on a balcony or deck are a good choice if space is limited. Growing bee-friendly plants in this type of container or patio pollinator garden is easy.
- Vertical gardening stands can also help with space issues.
- A bee hotel, either purchased from a garden store or homemade, is another space-saving option, and provides secure shelter for nesting or visiting native bees.
A bee garden is best — and most safely — enjoyed at a proper distance that gives bees the space they need to do their jobs, without the distractions of human foot traffic.
Honey bees are generally quite docile. Typically they sting only if provoked or when you’re too close to their hive, so avoid planting bee-attracting flowers along narrow paths and away from play areas. In those areas, consider using plants that won’t draw bees.