by David Salman

Honeybee pollinating squash blossom.
Honeybee pollinating squash blossom.

Help to Assure Pollination


Bee on Echinacea 'Rocky Top' hybridBee on Echinacea 'Rocky Top' hybrid.

Pollination is an essential part of the web of life, and nowhere is it a more essential than when growing our food. Honeybees and bumblebees (and to a lesser extent, native bees) are key to a successful vegetable harvest. And it’s especially important in urban and suburban areas—where honeybee hives may be few and far between—that we make an effort to feed them by planting flowers.

The Importance of Spring to Fall Flowers

By planting a succession of flowers to bloom from early spring to fall in our yards and near the vegetable garden, we help to build the honeybee population and keep them around for the whole growing season. This is of particular importance from mid-summer into fall when the majority of the pollinator-dependent veggies are in flower. We can get this done with a nice mix of annuals, perennials and culinary herbs.


Vegetables that Need Bees for Pollination

Watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, pumpkins, eggplant, hot peppers and gourds all must have bees to pollinate them. Tomatoes, while self-pollinating, will have better fruit and seed set (important to gardeners who collect their own heirloom tomato seeds) when their flowers are vibrated by visiting bees.

  1. Bee Bonanza Ornamental Oregano Collection

    Our Bee Bonanza Bonanza Ornamental Oregano Collection will fill your garden with easy-care, fragrant, pollinator-favorite flowers. Our bee-friendly collection features three of our f...

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    Bee Bonanza Ornamental Oregano Collection Bee Bonanza Ornamental Oregano Collection
    $79.41
    Per Collection of 9
    Our Bee Bonanza Bonanza Ornamental Oregano Collection will fill your garden with easy-care, fragrant, pollinator-favorite flowers. Our bee-friendly collection features three of our favorite varieties, ranging from draping to upright, with flower clusters large and small in rose, pink, and magenta. Blooms in gardens or containers all summer and well into fall. Collection of 9 plants.
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  2. Angelina Stonecrop, Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'

    Fast-growing, and colorful, 'Angelina' Creeping Sedum (Sedum rupestre) adds a dazzling highlight with colors from chartreuse to golden yellow. Easy to grow, it will spread quickly as...

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    Angelina Sedum Angelina Stonecrop Sedum rupestre Angelina
    As low as $7.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Fast-growing, and colorful, 'Angelina' Creeping Sedum (Sedum rupestre) adds a dazzling highlight with colors from chartreuse to golden yellow. Easy to grow, it will spread quickly as a drought-tolerant groundcover. Bright yellow star-like flowers bloom in summer and foliage turns golden-orange in autumn. A great pick for rock gardens, dry borders, and large expanses of ground that need planting.
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  3. Edelweiss French Hybrid Lavender, Lavandula x intermedia 'Edelweiss'

    Edelweiss French Hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia) blooms with a profuse summer display of snowy white flowers and sweetly aromatic foliage. This mid-sized French hybrid is a un...

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    Edelweiss Lavender Edelweiss Lavender Lavandula x intermedia Edelweiss
    As low as $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Edelweiss French Hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia) blooms with a profuse summer display of snowy white flowers and sweetly aromatic foliage. This mid-sized French hybrid is a unique specimen for any gardener who loves Lavender. Plant in a soothing monochromatic color scheme, or plant with blue flowered cultivars to create a delightful color combination.
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  4. Manzano Mountains Strain Hedgehog Cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus Manzano Mts., growing in rock garden with red flowers

    Our Manzano Mountains Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) has stout stems with fewer spines than are typical for the species, for an unusual appearance that cold hardy cac...

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    Manzano Mountains Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus) Manzano Mountains Strain Hedgehog Cactus Echinocereus triglochidiatus Manzano Mts.
    $12.99
    Per Plant - 2" Pot
    Our Manzano Mountains Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) has stout stems with fewer spines than are typical for the species, for an unusual appearance that cold hardy cacti growers will appreciate. Deep red mid-spring flowers are a hummingbird favorite. Tough and very cold hardy, this native cactus is a great rock garden specimen or addition to the xeric landscape. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
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  5. Li'l Bang Starstruck Tickseed, Coreopsis Li'l Bang Starstruck

    Li'l Bang™ 'Starstruck' Coreopsis hits a home run for easy-to-grow, colorful, pollinator-friendly flowers. Blooming with rosy-red-to-pink cheerful blossoms with bright yellow eyes,...

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    Li'l Bang™ Starstruck Coreopsis Li'l Bang™ Starstruck Tickseed Coreopsis Li'l Bang™ Starstruck
    $10.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Li'l Bang™ 'Starstruck' Coreopsis hits a home run for easy-to-grow, colorful, pollinator-friendly flowers. Blooming with rosy-red-to-pink cheerful blossoms with bright yellow eyes, it will keep you in color from mid-summer to mid-fall. Great for containers too, and deer resistant.
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  6. Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beard Tongue, Penstemon strictus ‘WWG06’

    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar ...

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    Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Penstemon Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beardtongue Penstemon strictus 'WWG06'
    $10.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar source for bumblebees. Plant this easy-to-grow beardtongue for a sturdy, long-lived late-spring bloomer in your xeriscape. This beauty thrives in most well-drained soil with full sun exposure. A 2021 Plant Select® Winner. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
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  7. Rose Marvel Meadow Sage, Salvia nemorosa 'Rose Marvel', pink flowers

    'Rose Marvel' Salvia (Salvia nemorosa) adds stunning spikes of large magenta-pink flowers to the summer garden. It’s a garden workhorse, reblooming without needing to be cut back, ...

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    Rose Marvel Salvia Rose Marvel Meadow Sage Salvia nemorosa Rose Marvel
    $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    'Rose Marvel' Salvia (Salvia nemorosa) adds stunning spikes of large magenta-pink flowers to the summer garden. It’s a garden workhorse, reblooming without needing to be cut back, and a pollinator favorite, attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. The lovely herbaceous-scented foliage is deer and rabbit resistant. Drought tolerant once established. Nice cut flowers too!
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  8. SunSparkler® Dazzleberry Stonecrop, Sedum 'Razzleberry'

    Bold and beautiful, SunSparkler® 'Dazzleberry' Sedum sports smoky blue-grey foliage in 6-inch-tall mounds. Come late summer, raspberry flower clusters cover the plant for long-lasti...

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    SunSparkler® Dazzleberry Sedum SunSparkler® Dazzleberry Stonecrop PP#22457 Sedum Dazzleberry PP#22457
    $10.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Bold and beautiful, SunSparkler® 'Dazzleberry' Sedum sports smoky blue-grey foliage in 6-inch-tall mounds. Come late summer, raspberry flower clusters cover the plant for long-lasting color. Easy-to-grow and pollinator-friendly, it’s a great low maintenance perennial for groundcovers, rock gardens, borders, and containers in sunny, dry areas. 'Dazzleberry' will naturalize and spread creating a carpet of easy-care color.
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Recommended Perennial Flowers

As a landscaper, I make perennials the focus of my plantings. Perennials come back from their roots year after year and often re-seed themselves, thus minimizing the amount of replanting that needs to be done each year. Some of my favorite bee-attracting ornamental perennials include:



Culinary Herbs

Growing your own herbs alongside and in with your vegetables is a “no brainer.” Culinary herbs have fantastic bee attracting flowers and provide anti-oxidant rich seasonings to cook with your vegetable harvest. And many of these herbs will also help to attract beneficial predatory insects that help reduce the populations and damage caused by injurious insect pests like spider mites and aphids.


Annual Flowers

The easiest way to use annuals that are especially valuable at attracting bees, is to plant one of our seed mixes that have been specially formulated to do the job, such as honey bee mix with a mix of annual and perennial seeds. Just seed the mix into one of your raised beds or dig up an adjacent patch of soil next to your vegetables and sow in the spring.

The key is to plant flowers, lots of flowers that bloom over a long time in the growing season to complete the web of life in your yard and garden. That first juicy tomato of the season will tell you it is worth the effort.

Text and Photos by David Salman.

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