Bee Happy, Bee Friendly Plants for California
Monday, June 7, 2021
Would you like to be a BFF to bees? Invite them to a tasty smorgasbord of sweet, fragrant delights. Your garden will benefit from an aesthetically beautiful interpretation of nature while keeping our hard-working pollinators healthy and happy. Bees do so much for us, pollinating 80% of the fruits and vegetables we eat, that the least we can do is offer them a tasty meal. What do bees love to see on the menu? Sweetly aromatic flowers in shades of blue or yellow.
The following plants have low-water requirements and are some of the best producers of pollen, nectar, or both that attract honey bees and a variety of native bees.
Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman'
– This California lilac bursts into dramatic spring bloom with heavy clusters of honey-scented medium-blue flowers. Pale yellow stamens give the flowers their starry-eyed effect. This large glossy green shrub grows quickly up to 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide or can be shaped into a small tree. Best suited for the garden. Ceanothus are an excellent source of spring pollen for many bee species.
Nepeta x faassenii 'Six Hills Giant'
– This vigorous perennial is bee-loved for its nectar and clouds of small violet-blue flowers atop aromatic gray-green foliage. Arching stems are smothered in trumpet-shaped blooms from late spring through summer. This catmint is twice as large as the species, growing 2 to 3 feet tall with somewhat greater spread. Continual sequence of bloom from late spring through fall if sheared.
– Cheerful yellow daisy-shaped flowers break the gloom of late winter on this shrubby sunflower relative. Silvery brittlebush forms neat mounds 1 to 3 feet high covered in fragrant almost-evergreen velvety-gray leaves. Great for southern California, Encelia blooms late winter to early spring to provide pollen and nectar for a wide variety of bee species.
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Goblin'
– Dazzling red and bright gold daisy-like flowers bloom in the worst of the summer heat. This dwarf form of blanket flower is covered with large 2 to 4 inch flowers for months on end. This vigorous clumping perennial grows to a compact
12 inches tall and wide. Summer to frost source of pollen and nectar.
Coreopsis grandiflora 'Early Sunrise'
– Rise and shine with waves of cheerful golden-yellow flowers from spring through fall. 'Early Sunrise' is one of the earliest Coreopsis to bloom with a profusion of 2 inch flowers with a double layer of fringed petals on 12 to 18 inch stems. To increase flower production, remove spent flower heads. Coreopsis provides pollen and nectar all summer long.
– Highly ornamental, soothingly fragrant, and delightfully easy care are just a few ways to describe lavender. Dozens of cultivars offer an almost endless variety of foliage types, bloom variants, and bloom times for nearly year-round flowers and provide nectar to a variety of bees. Loved the world over, the most commonly grown are English lavender (L. angustifolia), L. heterophylla (Sweet Lavender), and L. dentata (French Lavender). Shear spent flowers to promote continuous bloom.
– Bright butter-yellow tubular flowers rise in unique whorls on erect stems above soft woolly gray-green foliage. Jerusalem sage adds refreshing color and texture with minimal care, year after year. Reaches 2 to 4 feet tall, 3 to 5 feet wide. Long bloom season from spring through summer.
Attracts Bumble bees.
– Sweetly fragrant purple cone-shaped blooms grace the spectacular Chaste tree. Long slender panicles range from lilac to violet to purple against dark green aromatic leaves from early summer through the heat of the season and into fall. This adaptable shrub or multi-stemmed small tree quickly reaches 15 to 25 feet tall and wide or cut back to a more compact form. Summer source of both pollen and nectar.