General gardening topics

15 Best flowering shrubs for attracting bees

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I’ve worked in my family nursery for over 20 years and as a professional gardener for as many. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a big increase in awareness of planting bee-friendly in mind. Sadly, our local bees are declining, so anything we can do in our gardens to provide bee-friendly plants is essential.

With this in mind, if you’re looking to attract bees and other beneficial insects into your garden, most people go straight to perennials, and I’m guilty of this myself.

Ceanothus attracts bees and provides much needed nectar
Ceanothus attracts bees and provides much-needed nectar

Many stunning nectar-rich perennials are beneficial, which I talked about here. I’ve also written this guide, listing several plants for bees that may be useful here. However, there are many bee-friendly shrubs you can plant, so planting suitable shrubs provides a good source of nectar and pollen and, in some cases, year-round colour. I like to plant many of them as part of a mixed shrub border that comes alive with bees in summer.

The California lilac is fast-growing, stunning flowers, equally stunning foliage, drought-tolerant, and salt tolerant. It's a wonderful Coastal plant. ideal for attracting bees

In my guide below, I’ll be sharing 16 of my favourite flowering shrubs for bees, including information on their flowering times, growing conditions to get the most out of them, and general care such as pruning.

I’ve included some of my favourite shrubs, which I like to incorporate into my planting schemes for customers who share the same passion for bees as me, which include Hibiscus, Buddleia, also known as a butterfly bush, Weigela, Philadelphus or mock orange as many people know it as.

1. Hibiscus

Hibiscus are perfect for attracts bees into the garden

Hibiscus is one of my favourite shrubs and one that I often recommend for anyone looking for a hardy shrub that is also beneficial to bees and other insects but they also look amazing when in flower with there trumpet shaped flowers.

I really do love the vibrant flowers, which, depending on the variety, come in shades of pink, red, yellow, and white. My personal favourite is the Hibiscus, ‘Chiffon Pink’, a very hardy variety with double pink flowers. This shrub can grow to around 4 to 8 feet (120 cm-240 cm) tall depending on the variety, but ‘Chiffon Pink’ grows to around 4-5ft. They are perfect for small and large gardens and grow well in pots.

I have found that they do better when planted in a sunny position. However, I’ve also grown them in partial shade positions in well-drained soil, and they thrive with minimal care. I always give them a little water during dry periods, especially in the first 12 months, and feed them in spring. Pruning in late winter or early spring encourages more flowers, which also helps support the bees.

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2. Philadelphus coronarius (Mock orange)

Philadelphus coronarius are good for planting to help the bees

Next on my list and a popular choice in my family’s nursery is Philadelphus coronarius, also known as Mock Orange. One of the reasons I love this deciduous shrub is for the fragrant white flowers that appear in masses in late spring to early summer and are like magnets to bees with their sweet scent and nectar.

They are quite large shrubs reaching 6ft to 8ft tall, so they need a larger space, but they’re perfect for the back of borders. To get the most out of them, they are best planted in a position that gets full sun, but they still do well in a partially shaded position.

I have noticed it does well in various soil types as long as it’s well-drained. Once established, they don’t require much care, maybe the occasional watering during extended dry spells and prune after flowering to promote healthy growth and shape. When it comes to bees, mock oranges are one of these favourites and a good source of nectar.

3. Cotoneaster ‘franchetti’

Cotoneaster franchetti an excellent evergreen shrub for attracting bees into the garden

Suppose you’re looking for an evergreen shrub that will add colour year-round to your garden and, more importantly, attract bees and other pollinators. In that case, Cotoneaster franchetti is well worth considering. This shrub is a valuable source of nectar for bees, making it an excellent addition to any garden that is trying to do its part in protecting our much-needed bees. Cotoneaster franchetti is an evergreen shrub that can reach a height of 6-8 feet and a spread of 8-10ft, so ensure it is planted in a position with plenty of space. It grows best in full sun to partial shade and prefers well-drained soil. It’s smothered by pretty pink-tinged white flowers in spring, followed by attractive red berries in the autumn that also benefit birds.

4. Buddleia – Butterfly Bush

There are many plants that bees like, but the butterfly bush is particularly stunning. Butterfly bushes have been commonly referred to as butterfly bushes because they are known to attract masses of butterflies but they also attract bees too.

The Butterfly Bush, named because of its ability to attract butterflies in large quantities, is also quite effective at bringing bees to your garden. You can pick flowers that are white, pink, lavender, or dark purple, and all will effectively bring local bees to your garden. New flower spikes should be removed to encourage additional shoots and flower buds, which are perfect for bringing about additional bees and prolonging the flowering period. Maintenance is quite simple; you only need to apply a thin amount of compost to help retain moisture and prevent weeds and deadhead in the spring, and prune on an annual basis in spring

5. Lavender Angustifolia ‘Munstead’

Lavender Angustifolia is beneficial to bees
Lavender Angustifolia is beneficial to bees

Lavender Angustifolia ‘Munstead’ is one of my favourite picks for creating a bee-friendly garden. While it’s often sold as a perennial or found in the herb section of garden centres, it’s an evergreen shrub that can provide year-round interest in the garden. This beautiful shrub/herb is an excellent source of nectar for bees, with its fragrant, purple flowers that bloom throughout the summer. Lavender Angustifolia ‘Munstead’ is only one of many varieties that are attractive to bees.

However, this variety typically grows to a height of 1-2 feet (30-60cm) and a spread of 2-3 feet (60-90cm), making it an excellent choice for a smaller garden or for planting in containers. It’s also relatively low maintenance, requiring only occasional pruning to keep its shape and prevent it from becoming leggy and woody. It thrives in full sun on well-drained but fertile soil, so be sure to plant it in a sunny spot in your garden to get the best from it. It’s also a great choice for window boxes on a balcony.

6. Rhododendrons

If you want to encourage a bee-friendly garden, cultivating different rhododendrons are sure to help.

Rhododendrons are a fabulous flowering shrub to grow in your garden, not just because they help to cultivate local bees, but because of the showy clusters of flowers and the oversized green leaves that remain present all year round. In addition to the large, leathery leaves that you get throughout the winter, the flowers take on a bell-shaped, sometimes funnel-shaped and are very fragrant. Rhododendrons grow very effectively throughout England thanks to their preference for environments that are neither too hot nor too cold.

7. Mahonia x media – Oregon Grape

This evergreen shrub will grow in an upright fashion. It produces large leaves that take on the appearance of holly. Starting at the end of autumn through the beginning of winter you can find bright yellow flowers growing along racemes

This broadleaf evergreen will reach a height between two and three metres and a spread of one metre. It earns its nickname Oregon Grape because in the autumn and winter it produces yellow flowers. Come spring and winter you can enjoy purple fruit. Very flexible, it is a low-maintenance plant that grows quite slowly so you don’t have to worry about pruning heavily or the plant overtaking your garden. It needs partial sun and actually prefers having morning sun with filtered shade in the afternoon. It needs well-drained, moist soil but beyond that is not very picky.

8. Ceanothus – California Lilac

The California lilac is fast-growing, stunning flowers, equally stunning foliage, drought-tolerant, and salt tolerant. It's a wonderful Coastal plant. ideal for attracting bees

The California Lilac is fast-growing, produces stunning flowers and equally stunning foliage, is drought-tolerant and salt tolerant. It’s a wonderful coastal plant. It can be found in evergreen or deciduous varieties as well as mounding or prostrate varieties.

All of the above are very easy to grow and very tolerant of not only heat but sea and coastal conditions. From the middle of spring onwards, you can find an enormous collection of sweetly fragrant flowers. These are truly some of the most charming flowers to enjoy throughout the summer, sometimes even in autumn. The flowers tend to contrast the dark green leaves quite well with the rich lilac shades. Bees absolutely love this shrub.

9. Escallonia

grows in compact mounds of shiny green leaves with tiny clusters of flowers that truly stand out. The flowers are typically a crimson or pink shade with a trumpet shape.

This plant grows in compact mounds of shiny green leaves with tiny clusters of flowers that truly stand out. The flowers are typically a crimson or pink shade with a trumpet shape. This evergreen shrub requires partial to full sun with regular watering on a weekly basis, but more so if the weather is particularly warm. Not only will the stunning flowers attract bees to your garden but this flowering shrub can be used as a container specimen to attract bees to a particular part of your patio, used effectively as low maintenance hedges, as a groundcover, or as a general border shrub garden.

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10. Hydrangea paniculata

This variety of hydrangea is part of a flowering species which produces panicle shaped blooms which take on elongated cone forms. The abundance of flowers you receive from each cone makes it well worth investing in this particular plant if you want a garden chock full of flowers.

This Hydrangea is similar to the other options on this list, as far as the flowers are really what draws your attention. The panicles of flowers you can enjoy are very stunning and bring to your garden all manner of flying friends. Of course, the Hydrangeas range in available colours too,  so you can select the one you want for your garden. They are incredibly easy to maintain and work very effectively when grown as specimen plants or used as border plants. There is very little maintenance required for the Hydrangea and limited pruning

11. Hypericum – St. John’s Wort

One of the most popular of plants for attracting Wildlife is commonly referred to as St John's Wort. It produces a collection of golden yellow flowers that get up to 5cm in diameter spanning from the summer into the autumn. When planted it will become dense which makes it great for a shrub border. It does well in dappled shade or partial shade so long as the soil is well-drained.

St John’s Wort can be grown quite easily in well-draining soil. It will grow in full sun or partial shade. The amount of sun to which it is exposed is indicative of the floriferousness. During the winter it might die back but rest assured that it will come back in spring with stunning yellow flowers.

It is very effective as a groundcover, and once it gets established quite a drought-tolerant plant too. It will span approximately 1/2 metre in height and spread, and if left to its own devices it will grow quite quickly, but it does respond well to pruning. It can grow quite rapidly because it spreads aggressively by way of underground stems, which is why it can be so effective as a groundcover if left to spread as it chooses. You can grow it in containers to reap the benefits of the bees and butterflies it attracts without it overtaking your garden.

12. Pyracantha – Firethorn

Pyracantha hedge with orange berries, flower summer, produce berries in Autumn and winter
Established Pyracantha hedge

Commonly referred to as the Firethorn, this evergreen shrub is very useful when grown directly in the ground or in containers. You can even train it up a trellis or along a wall if you have a younger plant. There are certainly thorns to contend with, which is why this particular plant is so effective as a hedge.

The bright clusters of berries are sure to guarantee that birds, bees and butterflies flock to your garden. Late in the season, this plant will display rich and vibrant clusters of red, orange and yellow berries (depending on the variety) that are maintained throughout winter. Requiring full sun, it can reach heights of 3 metres and spreads of 2 metres without pruning. This makes it very effective as a windbreak or a hedge.

13. Spirea japonica

Taking on a more unique shape, the bridal wreath spirea is a medium-sized deciduous shrub which has tiny flowers on it. when you look at a single branch you will see that the flowers themselves grow off thin and long stems that all shoot from the branch itself which is what allows for that fanned out the appearance of a bridal wreath.

This deciduous shrub is native to Japan and China and can be effectively grown throughout most of the UK and is very good at attracting bees. This low-maintenance shrub produces pink flowers between June and July and you can deadhead them to encourage additional blooms. It will span upwards of 2 metres with a spread just over 2 metres at full maturity.

In fact, thanks to suckering it is an aggressive self-seeder that can effectively fill an area in your garden as a groundcover if you allow it. It requires full sun but can tolerate light shade. It has medium moisture requirements but is otherwise tolerant of a wide range of soil types. It is tolerant of deer so wherever you grow it rest assured that deer will not eat it but butterflies and bees will come to it. 

14. Weigela

An old fashioned beauty, the leaves produced on this plant are a stunning representation of green lined with creamy yellow edging. They are made all the more beautiful by the profuse springtime blooms but take on tones of pink and white.

An old-fashioned beauty, the leaves produced on this plant are a stunning representation of green lined with creamy yellow edging. These are made all the more beautiful by the profuse spring blooms that take on tones of pink and white. This shrub is very strong and equally low-maintenance. It can spread up to three metres in height and spread so be sure to provide it with enough room to grow or prune effectively to keep its size minimal. It will require full sun and so long as you give it these conditions rest assured it will bring to the garden the bees you want.

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15. Pieris japonica ‘Forest flame’

Watering and feeding pieris forest flame

Pieris japonica ‘Forest Flame’ is another excellent evergreen shrub and I have a large Pieris in my garden that literally gets smothered in bees every year. This shrub not only produces stunning cream flowers in summer but it’s the stunning foliage, which emerges bright red in spring before maturing to glossy, dark green which really makes it a show stopper. It produces clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers in late winter to early spring, which are a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees.

Pieris japonica ‘Forest Flame’ is a great option for those shadier spots in your garden, as it thrives in partial shade to full shade. It can reach a height of 6-10 feet and a spread of 4-6 feet at maturity, making it a substantial presence in the garden. However, it can easily be controlled with a little pruning after flowering and even grows well in pots but ensure you use ericaceous compost as they are acid-loving plants and needs to be planted in acidic soil. Overall, if you’re looking to add some colour and interest to your shady garden while also supporting the bee population, Pieris japonica ‘Forest Flame’ is an excellent choice.

No matter which of these shrubs you choose, you are sure to enjoy a litany of buzzing companions.

Last update on 2024-04-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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