Brilliant plants for bees and butterflies!

Brilliant plants for bees and butterflies!

The furry bees, colourful butterflies, mysterious moths, darting hoverflies, and other pollinating insects that visit my garden are just as fascinating as the plants I grow.  The sound of bees buzzing and the sight of butterflies fluttering relaxes and inspires me.  I want to help you find the best pollen and nectar-rich plants to attract insects and bring your garden to life!

Many plants produce single flowers with accessible pollen and nectar, but what flowers do insects favour?  I’ve found that the following plants are beloved by bees and butterflies; they will thrive planted in any well-drained soil (or grown in containers of peat-free compost), in a bright, sunny location:

Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’

The wallflower, Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ is a flowering superstar that succeeds in poor soils.  This evergreen perennial produces pretty mauve flowers that delight bees and butterflies.  Plants bloom from early spring until the winter frosts eventually suppress flower production.  Lightly trim plants after flowering, to encourage new growth.

Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ is a brilliant bee plant that flowers from early spring until autumn. I’ve had plants blooming in my garden from January until November! Not everyone is as lucky, but Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ is pretty much guaranteed to flower from February until July.

Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ plants flower so spectacularly, that they wain after a few years.  To maintain a continual supply of plants, take semi-hardwood cuttings, during spring and summertime, to replace your stock.

Keep deadheading Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ flowers to prolong your plant’s floral display.

Knautia Macedonica

Another plant hero is Knautia Macedonica, a hardy perennial that produces an abundance of branching stems, topped with rich-cerise coloured rosette-shaped flowers.  Plants bloom from May until November.  Bees and butterflies adore the flowers, while birds eat the seed-heads.

Knautia macedonica growing alongside Alliums.

Knautia macedonica is easily propagated: sow seeds in autumn or take cuttings in springtime.  I divide large plants in spring and summertime.

Dahlia ‘Classic Rosamunde’

This is a great time to plant Dahlia tubers. Dahlia ‘Classic Rosamunde’ produces single flowers that are really rather glamorous.  The flower’s central disc is encircled by many sumptuous rose-pink coloured petals, creating a magnificent bloom that resembles something between an anemone and peony flower.  In summertime, the flowers are a buzz with bees and butterflies.  As the sun begins to set, I watch bees sleeping softly inside my ‘Classic Rosamunde’ plant’s blooms.

Bumble bees feasting from a Dahlia ‘Classic Rosamunde’ flower in my garden.

Herbs and edible plants for bees and butterflies

Thymus, Origanum vulgare, and Origanum onites

I love growing herbs.  Allow your Thyme (Thymus), Marjoram (Origanum onites) and Oregano (Origanum vulgare) plants to bloom and you’ll find the flowers attract an array of insects to your garden.

Origanum vulgare is a super herb for the kitchen and a brilliant plant for bees and butterflies.

Allium schoenoprasum

Alliums are incredibly popular with bees and butterflies.  Dead-head Chive (Allium schoenoprasum) flowers, just as the blooms begin to fade and you’ll find your plants will re-bloom in late summertime.

Agastache ‘Blackadder’

Another edible plant: Agastache ‘Blackadder’ produces spires of violet-blue flowers that are a magnet for bees and butterflies. Plants bloom from July until September, during which time their flowers are adorned with insects.

A bumble bee feasting from an Agastache ‘Blackadder’ flower. As you can from my photograph, bees will still delight in taking nectar, even when the blooms are past their best. Agastache flowers are made up of many tiny individual flowers.

Agastache ‘Blackadder’ is another short-lived plant; increase your stock by dividing plants in springtime, or taking semi-ripe cuttings in summer.

Fruit

It’s so much fun to grow edible plants!  Fruits like raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, whitecurrants, apples, and other tree fruits, are beneficial to bees, as well as gardeners.

This article was first published in the April 2020 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

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For more super bee and butterfly plants, please click here.

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