The last post I wrote was about perennials for your farm. But many of these perennials are not just for farmers, they can also double as bee-friendly landscape plants for interested gardeners. Many bee-friendly plants are also butterfly-friendly and support native bird habitats. Since the plants are perennials, the labor involved is minimal (no replanting every year) Basically, everyone wins!
Below are my top five perennial bee-friendly plants (which also serve up beautiful cut flowers).
#1 Monarda (Bee Balm)
Varieties: Lemon Mint & Jacob Cline
What I love: this is serious comfort food for bees. In my fields, they practically gorge themselves on all the tasty nectar this plant puts out. a prolific bloomer, this silvery purple color is soothing and complimentary with many other flower colors. The bright red varieties really pop in landscaping.
Things to watch out for: they can look a bit raggedy if you don't cut or deadhead regularly and can get tall and floppy. Some staking may be necessary. They also spread pretty fast so extra care is required to keep them in check. OR plant them in a blank space that needs help and they'll fill it in for you pretty quickly!
#2 Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)
Varieties: Prairie Sun & Sahara
What I love: A mini-sunflower type that comes back year after year, rudbeckia is a cheerful, well-behaved plant that rarely looks unruly. No staking is needed, the stems are tall and sturdy without any flopping. Once established, they bloom early summer and again in autumn when bees desperately need food before winter.
Things to watch out for: they tend to wilt in the vase and petals are often chewed by various insect friends. The flowers can be bright and sometimes clash with other colors.
#3 Echinacea (Coneflower)
Canteloupe, Common purple, Pow Wow White
What I love: A sturdy plant with that perfect wildflower look. Lots of nectar for bees and butterflies and native to North America. New colors and fun forms are now available.
What to watch for: regular deadheading needed and lots of water to get established. They don't take up much space so buy more than you think you'll need.
#4 Yarrow (Achillea)
Varieties: Summer Pastels & Summer Berries Mix
What I love: a gorgeous array of bright and soft colors make this plant one of my favorites for cut flowers. An extremely low maintenance perennial means I don't have to fuss with it to get lots of blooms. In North Texas, it often keeps it's green foliage through the winter, giving the garden a little life in dull months.
What to watch for: like bee balm, the cutting varieties of yarrow can get tall and floppy. Staking is needed for the beautiful pink and blush colored plants. Common yellow yarrow with silvery-gray foliage is a more compact plant and less unruly. Yarrow spreads quickly so work is needed to keep it in check.
Varieties: Autumn Joy
What I love: Autumn blooming, drought tolerant, sturdy with an upright plant form. Long lasting in the vase!
What to watch for: Actually a succulent, you'll need to plant it on the outskirts of your garden to prevent over-watering.
Stay tuned for part 2, 3, and 4, where I'll share my favorite bee-friendly shrubs, hardy annuals, and summer annuals for both cut flowers and bee-frenzies. :)
For additional bee-friendly plants, we love consulting the online database of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center in Austin, Texas. Wildflower.org has a wonderful list of plants to use in your garden to feed the bees (and your soul!) all year long.