Best Flowers For Bees in Australia
Each year on May 20th the world celebrates World Bee Day. Coinciding with the birth date of Anton Janša, the pioneer of beekeeping, World Bee Day aims to acknowledge the role of bees and other pollinators for our ecosystem.
Although met with some stigma in the past due to their rather sharp stingers, Bees are now being recognised as a backyard must-have, with many people now populating their gardens with flowers that will help boost their numbers. Some are even purchasing a backyard hive or building their own to ensure their existence. Perfectly adapted to pollinate, bees in the backyard help plants to grow, breed and produce food. If you are looking to add a bit of colour to your home and to entice native bees to your area, below are a list of flowers that bees love.
Bee friendly flowers
The best flower species to choose for your bee-friendly garden depends on where you live in Australia and what your local climate is like. Below are some that work well in our Brisbane climate.
Bees are most attracted to flowers that are blue or violet – so lavender is a clear winner with native bees. Although it can be tricky to get it to take initially, Lavender not only produces an abundance of pollen and nectar but is also famous for its wonderful scent – said to help induce rest and sleep. Maybe pop a few sprigs in your bedroom or around the house too!
Just as herbs in a dish help bring out the flavours, herbs in the garden also help bring out the bees! As well as saving you some money at the shops, there are a number of flowering herbs that bees simply adore. Sage is a favourite for honey bees and native rosemary (or Westringia) flowers all year round and is particularly attractive to Blue Banded Bees and Teddy Bear Bees. Other herbs that are loved by bees include basil, borage, parsley, mint, rocket, fennel, chives and oregano.
There are a whole range of daisy flowers – both native and exotic – that are popular with bees due to their shallow flower making it easy for them to access the nectar and pollen inside. Stingless bees are particularly fond of cut-leaf daisies that are a hardy ground cover and grow well across most of Australia. Everlasting daisies are also a great choice. Daisies also flower for a long time, which provides bees with nectar and pollen outside of the usual Springtime blooms.
Both the spider flower and pink surprise varieties of this plant are the perfect addition to any garden. Producing large amounts of nectar, they are not only hugely popular with bees but they are also enticing to nectar-feeding birds as well. Ranging in size, it is easy to find a variety to suit your garden, regardless of how big or small it is. Although they need well-drained soil, Grevillea are also super low maintenance.
Another plant that will bring in not only your native bees but a range of native birds as well is the Bottlebrush. Abundant in our local area, this plant can tolerate dry conditions and works well as screening shrubs and hedges around homes.
Manuka honey is one of the most popular honeys around and the tea tree plant (or Manuka Myrtle as it is also known) is the reason why it exists. Bees adore the tee tree flowers and we love the honey they produce! Manuka Myrtle is also an easy plant to keep. They range from small shrubs to small trees, can be planted in full sun or partial shade and they come in white, pink or red varieties.
Flowering in December, this flowering plant is not only a favourite for a wide variety of bee species, but it provides nectar and pollen resources beyond the usual wildflower flowering season of Spring.
If you have the perfect spot for a climber then the Hardenbergia violacea would be perfect. Flowering over both winter and spring, this plant is a huge hit with bees due to its mass of dark purple flowers.
Resources to find more bee friendly plants
These are some of the best go to Australian sites when it comes to planting a bee friendly garden
Amazing Bees – this Australian site gives you a list of plants but also information about when they flower so you can provide food all year round
A 330 page planting guide – For the serious bee attractor this 330 page guide covers it all
Tips for keeping your garden bee-friendly
- Pesticides – By using pesticides, you can kill beneficial insects, including bees. Chemicals can also affect a pollinator’s metabolism or reproductive cycle, which affects the ecosystem overall. Spraying weeds can also dampen your bee numbers as when the weather is not as favourable for flowering plants, bees tend to feed off small weed flowers, such as dandelions. Luckily, there are now plenty of organic fertiliser and weed control options available.
- Maintain multiple water sources around your garden.
- Just like us, bees like to have some variety and some prefer different shapes depending on the length of their tongue. It is therefore advisable to plant numerous native bee-attracting plants (at least three or four) in one area. A clump of three or four varieties can be very effective and if possible it would be good to get ones that flower at different times so that the nectar and pollen are available for longer periods throughout the year.
- Watch out for hybrid varieties – although they may appear more attractive, many of these plants have been created for aesthetics only and can therefore lack the scent and nectar that attracts the bees.
Regardless if you are bringing them in via potted flowers on your balcony or numerous plants and trees in your backyard, the bees and our ecosystem will thank you!