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Last updated on January 21st, 2020
Gardens come in all manner of themes, but one theme so often overlooked is that of a garden designed to attract bees. There are many bee-friendly shrubs that you can include in order to bring about the flying yellow companions. Below is our list of the 10 best flowering shrubs for bees starting with a shrub more commonly known for its appeal to butterflies but also a favourite of bees.
Buddleia (Butterfly bush)
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 and lavender, or dark purple and all will effectively bring local bees to your area. When the butterfly bush is in growth you should water it freely and in the summer you can obviously augment the amount of water you provide. New flower spikes should be removed to encourage additional shoots and flower buds perfect for bringing about additional bees and prolonging the flowering period. Maintenance is quite simple, you need only apply a thin amount of compost to help retain moisture and prevent weeds in the springtime, deadhead, and prune on an annual basis in spring.
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 a funnel-shaped and are very fragrant. Rhododendrons grow very effectively throughout England thanks to their preference for environments that are never too hot and never too cold.
Mahonia x media (Oregon grape)
This broadleaf evergreen will reach a height between two and three metres and a spread of one metre. It earns its nickname as the Oregon grape because in the fall and the winter it presents with 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 prefers having morning sun with filtered shade in the afternoon. It needs well-drained, moist soil but beyond that is not very picky.
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. It can be found in evergreen or deciduous varieties, 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 the Autumn. The flowers tend to contrast the dark green leaves quite well with the richly lilac shades. Bees absolutely love this shrub.
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. The Evergreen requires partial to full sun with regular watering on a weekly basis, but more so if the weather is particularly warm. Not only will be stunning flowers attract bees to your garden but this stunning flowering shrub can be used at the container specimen to attract bees to a particular part of your porch or used effectively as low maintenance hedges or ground cover or as a general border shrub garden.
This hydrangea is similar to the other options on this list in so far as the flowers are really what 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.
Hypericum – St. John’s Wort
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 during spring with stunning yellow blooms. It is very effective as ground cover and once it gets established quite a drought-tolerant. It will span approximately 1/2 meter in height and spread if left to his own devices but 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 ground cover if left to spread as it chooses. You can, of course, grow it in containers to still reap the benefits of the bees and butterflies it attracts without it overtaking your garden.
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 with which to contend 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 a rich and vibrant cluster of red berries that are maintained throughout winter. Requiring full sun, it can reach heights of 3 meters and spreads of 2 meters without pruning. This makes it very effective as a windbreak or a hedge.
This deciduous shrub native to Japan and China 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 to encourage additional blooms. It will span upwards of 2 meters with a spread just over that of 2 meters 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 ground cover if you allow it. It requires full sun but can tolerate light shade. It has media 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 will come to it.
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. This shrub is very strong and equally low-maintenance. It can spread up to three meters in height and spread so be sure to afford it 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 your garden exactly what bees you want.
No matter which of these shrubs you choose, you are sure to enjoy a litany of buzzing companions.