16 Types of Plants That Attract Bees

Written by Sandy Porter
Updated: May 22, 2023
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Bee gardens are truly wonderful places, filled with flowers and plants that attract these darling little, much-needed pollinators. There’s much we could say about the needs and values of bees, but in this particular article, we’re going to build on the idea of that bee garden through species that particularly attract these pollinating buzzers.

Each plant listed below is proven to draw in the striped flying insects that could help save our planet.

bumble bee on coneflower

A wide range of flowers and plants attract bees with their fragrance and bright colors.

©Cassandra Haizlip/Shutterstock.com

How to Choose the Right Flowers for Bees in Your Area

In some ways, bees can be kind of picky about the plants that draw them into your garden. There are reasons for this, though, as they’re relying on their instincts to help them create the best, most plentiful product from the least amount of work for themselves. They’re efficient little powerhouses and honor that through the selection of flowers, they visit.

  • Bees choose flowers by the length of their tongues. Some bees have long tongues that work for deeper seated flowers, while some have shorter and need different flowers to access the pollen and nectar.
  • Bees care about color. While we might choose flowers based on color because of preference, bees actually choose flowers based on their physical limitations. They actually can’t see the color red, so if you’ve ever noticed the hummingbirds and butterflies go to these but the bees skip them, that’s why. Bees go after purple, white, yellow, and blue flowers instead.
  • They are likely to skip the hybrids. You and I love those uniquely colored and formed hybrids, but many of them are actually sterile, meaning bees can’t collect nectar from them.
  • Bees love native plants. We tend to love those exotic flowers and plants that we import from intriguing parts of the world, but bees usually prefer native plants instead because they’re actually more productive for them. Cultivars of native plants aren’t also as attractive to bees for the same reason.

So, as you plant your bee garden, keep these things in mind:

  • Plant blue, yellow, purple, and white flowers.
  • Go native – instead of exotic.
  • Have a variety of flowers to provide nectar for a variety of bees and other pollinators.
  • Skip the hybrids unless you know they’re not sterile varieties.

Best Plant Species for Attracting Bees

1. Crocus

crocus flower blooming in snow

Crocus pop up in early spring, even in the winter, and draw bees in with their lovely purple coloration.

©iStock.com/Olga U

The stunning purple flower is a popular landscaping plant that bees love to visit. The vivid purple and pink shades draw them in, along with the fragrance. These do best in Zones 3 to 8 and make a huge impact when planted in large patches. They need full sun or partial shade. They bloom in early spring.

To keep the squirrels away, choose Crocus tommasinianus if they grow reasonably well in your area.

2. Catmint


Purple and fragrant, catmint is a popular plant that attracts bees.


Another favorite among bees is the catmint plant. The fragrant plants have vibrant foliage and spikes of dazzling purple flowers that bloom in early summer. These perennials easily pair with a wide range of other plants. They smell amazing to humans and bees alike, as well, and tolerate heat, drought, and poor soil conditions. They do best in full sun to partial shade and often live as long as 20 years.

3. Foxglove


Foxglove loves shady spots and draws in long-tongued bees.

©iStock.com/Elmar Langle

Thriving in grow Zones 4 to 9, foxglove is a stunning, large bell-shaped flower that adds some height to the flower garden and draws in bees like mad. They love shady spots with organic soil. They need to be kept moist at all times to thrive. They’re a biennial flower that reseeds and stays in the garden on its own for years. To keep them growing and growing, plant them in the garden two years in a row – this will help establish them. The flowers come in white, purple, peach, or apricot colors, and draw in those long-tongued bees. They do need slightly acidic soil to thrive and bloom in late spring to early summer, depending on your location.

4. Lavender

English lavender Hidcote (Lavandula angustifolia)

Find the right lavender for your area for the best results in attracting bees to your garden.


While we think of lavender as that relaxing purple spike of flowers that helps us calm down or sleep better, bees love these spiky purple blooms for the fragrant nectar they offer. The cottage flower is stunning to look at, draws in bees like mad, and adds a fragrant cloud over the garden space that can help relax you as you tend it. Plus, you can dry it, use it as tea, fill eye pillows, or drop some in your bath water. They do best planted in large collections. They need full sun and well-drained, sandy soil to thrive. When they have the right conditions, they’ll grow happily for up to 15 years.

5. Asters

purple asters in full bloom

Asters thrive in bright sunlight to partial shade, producing lovely purple, pink, blue, and white flowers.


A flower that attracts short-tongued bees is the aster. The flowers look a bit like daisies, are perennials, and are highly favored by pollinators of many types. The seed heads also draw in finches, cardinals, nuthatches, and other seed eaters, as well. There are a huge number of aster species, so be sure to choose the ones common to your area that come in blue, purple, or white. They need full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil that is kept moist. They work great as container garden plants, as well, and bloom from late summer into early autumn for 2 years or more.

6. Coneflower

monarch butterfly

Purple coneflowers are hugely popular with pollinators like the monarch


and the bee.


Also known as echinacea, purple coneflowers draw in bees with their orange centers that rise up like cones, offering seeds to finches and cardinals and sweet nectar to pollinators. The flowers bloom mid-summer and the plants often grow as tall as 3 feet and nearly 2 feet wide. They’re fast growers and usually thrive for 2 to 3 years when well cared for. They need full sun to partial shade and well-draining clay, sand, or loam soil that’s acidic or neutral.

7. Bee Balm

Wild Bergamot

Make sure the bee balm you plant is purple instead of red if you want to attract bees.


Of course, what list of plants that attract bees would be complete without the one actually named for this power? Bee balm, or bergamot, attract pollinators of all types, drawing them in with its fragrant blooms and foliage. They particularly draw in bees when planted in large patches. And for other uses, you can steep the leaves to make a healthy, herbal tea. They thrive in full sun to partial shade, with acid to neutral soil that’s well-drained but moist, and live up to 15 years when well cared for.

8. Pansy

Purple Pansy Flower

Pansies come in many colors that bees love.

©Leecy Jones/Shutterstock.com

Pansies come in a wide range of colors, many of which particularly attract bees and other pollinators. They’re low-growing plants that love full sun to partial shade and bloom in both spring and summertime. They need well-drained, slightly acidic soil and live up to 2 years. They’re the perfect choice as a border flower for your bee garden, or container garden, or as a patch of flowers to draw in these buzzing insects.

9. Chive Flowers

chive flower

Chives produce inviting flowers in early spring, drawing bees as soon as they come out of hibernation (those that do).

©iStock.com/Svetlana Monyakova

The herb we so love in our meals produces a flower that bees love to sip nectar from. The flowers look a bit like those cotton pom-poms we use in crafting and come in white, pink, purple, and red. They do well in cottage gardens, container gardens, herb gardens, and, of course, bee gardens. They produce nectar early to mid-spring and therefore are one of the first attractors of bees to your garden. They need full sun to light shade and rich, slightly acidic soil that drains well.

10. Creeping Thyme

Thymus praecox creeping thyme

Creeping thyme comes in soft shades of pink, purple, and white.


Known as either creeping thyme or mother of thyme, the plant is a perennial that belongs to the mint family. The plant is a culinary herb but it’s also a great bee attractor. The plant is low-growing and vine-like, with purple, pink, or white flowers and blue-ish green leaves. The plant needs full sun exposure, loves well-drained sandy soil, blooms in summer, and typically lives 3 to 5 years.

11. Gladiolus

'Safari' gladiolus

Gladiolus comes in many vibrant colors that bees adore.

©Walter Erhardt/Shutterstock.com

A favorite for adding some height to the bee garden is gladiolus, a bright, fragrant flower that grows on spikes. The plants are grown from perennial corms (not bulbs) and come in a huge array of colors. Choose the types that grow purple, white, blue, or yellow flowers. Ideally, plant a host of flowers to attract the bees. They love organic-rich soil and full sunlight.

12. Achillea or Yarrow

Achillea 'Moonshine' yarrow

Yarrow has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

©iStock.com/John Caley

A perennial that grows clustered, flat flower heads and ferny foliage, the yellow, white, or magenta yarrow or achillea is a bee attractor for sure. The hardy plant tolerates drought and humidity, loves full sun and well-drained sandy soil, and provides some herbal remedy qualities that many folks have used for centuries. (Always consult a medical care professional before using herbal treatments!)

13. Coreopsis

Close-up photograph of Coreopsis plant flowers in a garden

Bees love these two-toned flowers from the sunflower family.


Thriving in full sun to light shade, coreopsis is a beautiful flower that attracts both pollinators and songbirds who nosh on their seeds. The plant is part of the sunflower family but has a two-toned look. The flower is easy to grow and thrives in hot climates, drought-riddled areas, and humidity alike. They come in yellow to red tones, so make sure you get the yellow ones. They also grow up to 2 feet tall and do best planted with as many flowers.

14. Anise Hyssop

Anise hyssop flowers

The anise hyssop is a plant in the mint family and one of the major attractions for pollinators.


Thriving in Zones 4 to 8 and blooming with spikes of blue flowers, anise hyssop produces a sweet anise-scented mob of leaves in late summer. The plants grow up to 3 feet in height, are self-seeding, and tolerate drought after they’ve properly established. Bees love these beauties, as do other pollinators.

15. Heliotrope

Violet flowers of Heliotropium arborescens (heliotrope)

Heliotrope is fragrant and vibrant, making them the perfect choice for an attractive bee garden.


Heliotrope is an attractive flowering plant that thrives in Zones 10 and 11 as perennials and works as annuals elsewhere. The flowers offer sweet aromas that draw bees in while the purple, violet, and white flowers seal the deal. The plants do well as container plants or in patches in the garden, as long as they have well-draining soil and full sun.

16. Sweet Alyssum

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) flowers, California

Sweet Alyssum grows in large bunches of small white flowers.

©iStock.com/Sundry Photography

Offering up a sweet aroma that is reminiscent of honey, sweet alyssum is the perfect flower to attract bees to your garden. They’re low-growing and make a ground covering perfect for flower beds, hanging pots, and garden borders. They love full sun or partial shade, neutral to acidic soil, and bloom in early spring and autumn. The flowers come in white, purple, and pink.

Summary of 16 Types of Plants That Attract Bees

#FlowerSun or Shade
1CrocusFull sun or partial shade
2CatmintFull sun or partial shade
4LavenderFull sun
5AstersFull sun to partial shade
6ConeflowerFull sun to partial shade
7Bee BalmFull sun to partial shade
8PansyFull sun to partial shade
9Chive FlowersFull sun to light shade
10Creeping ThymeFull sun
11GladiolusFull sun
12Achillea or YarrowFull sun
13CoreopsisFull sun to light shade
14Anise HyssopFull sun to partial shade
15HeliotropeFull sun
16Sweet AlyssumFull sun to partial shade

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Cassandra Haizlip/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Sandy Porter is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering house garden plants, mammals, reptiles, and birds. Sandy has been writing professionally since 2017, has a Bachelor’s degree and is currently seeking her Masters. She has had lifelong experience with home gardens, cats, dogs, horses, lizards, frogs, and turtles and has written about these plants and animals professionally since 2017. She spent many years volunteering with horses and looks forward to extending that volunteer work into equine therapy in the near future. Sandy lives in Chicago, where she enjoys spotting wildlife such as foxes, rabbits, owls, hawks, and skunks on her patio and micro-garden.

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