Plant a Bee Garden

Create an oasis for bees and pollinators.

More and more gardeners are doing their part to help the bees by bolstering the shrinking inventory of flower-rich habitat in their area. You can plant a bee garden. In return, the bees will pollinate your flowers, providing a bountiful harvest of fruits, seeds and vegetables as well as the joy of watching them up close. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you grow your bee-friendly garden:

Rethink your lawn
Replace part or all of your front lawn grass with flowering plants, which provides food and habitat for bees and other wildlife.

Plant native flowers
Native flowers help feed your bees and are uniquely adapted to your region. Try to use flowers to which local bees are especially adapted. You can also visit the websites of regional botanic gardens and plant nurseries for more info on bee-friendly plants.

Select single flower tops
...such as daisies and marigolds, rather than double flower tops such as double impatiens. Double headed flowers look showy but produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for bees to access pollen.

Skip the highly hybridized plants
...which have been bred not to seed and thus produce very little pollen for bees.

Plan for blooms season-round
Plant at least three different types of flowers to ensure blooms through as many seasons as possible, thus providing bees with a constant source of food.  For example:

  • Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac for spring.
  • Bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons, foxglove, and hosta for summer.
  • Zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod for late summer/fall.

Build homes for solitary bees
Leave a patch of the garden in a sunny spot uncultivated for solitary bees that burrow. Some solitary bees also need access to soil surface for nesting.  For wood- and stem-nesting bees, this means piles of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks made out of untreated wood. Mason bees need a source of water and mud, and many kinds of bees are attracted to weedy, untended hedgerows. You can also support our Sponsor-a-Hive program, which places solitary bee homes (and honey bee hives) in school and community gardens across the U.S.

Only use natural pesticides and fertilizers
Avoid using herbicides or pesticides in the garden. They not only can be toxic to bees but also are best not introduced to children or adults that visit your garden. Ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises will naturally keep pest populations in check.

Create a “bee bath”
Bees need a place to get fresh, clean water. Fill a shallow container of water with pebbles or twigs for the bees to land on while drinking.  Make sure to maintain the container full of fresh water to ensure that they know they can return to the same spot every day.

Live in a home without a garden?
You need only a small plot of land—it can even be a window container or rooftop—to create an inviting oasis for bees.  Every little bit can help to nurture bees and other pollinators.

Would you like a hive in your school garden, community garden or green space? If so, consider applying for our Sponsor-a-Hive materials grant, which provides bees, a bee home and instructional material on how to care for your bees.

The Honeybee Conservancy wishes to thank Jonna Robins for authoring this page and Michaela from The Gardener’s Eden for her contributions.