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. Phenomenal Lavender Plant,  Lavandula intermedia Phenomenal field

    Phenomenal French Hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia ‚Phenomenal‚ PP24193) is a French hybrid lavender notable for its outstanding cold hardiness and tolerance to heat...

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    Phenomenal Lavender Phenomenal Lavender Lavandula intermedia Phenomenal PP#24,193
    As low as $15.99 Sale $13.59
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Phenomenal French Hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia 'Phenomenal' PP24193) is a French hybrid lavender notable for its outstanding cold hardiness and tolerance to heat and high humidity. The plants grow into a beautiful mounded shape, with purple flowers on tall stems in mid-summer.
  2. Achillea Moonshine Yarrow

    Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine) is an outstanding perennial plant with silver-gray foliage and lemon-yellow flat-topped flowers that cover the plant all summer. This is a well-...

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    Moonshine Yarrow Moonshine Yarrow Achillea Moonshine
    As low as $9.99 Sale $8.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine) is an outstanding perennial plant with silver-gray foliage and lemon-yellow flat-topped flowers that cover the plant all summer. This is a well-behaved variety, meaning it won't reseed and spread.
  3. Ava's Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop), Agastache Ava

    Agastache Ava is one of High Country Gardens very best plant introductions, renowned for its tall spikes of deep rose-pink flowers held by raspberry-red calyxes. This vigorous hybrid...

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    Ava Agastache Ava's Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache Ava
    As low as $14.49 Sale $12.32
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Agastache Ava is one of High Country Gardens very best plant introductions, renowned for its tall spikes of deep rose-pink flowers held by raspberry-red calyxes. This vigorous hybrid Hummingbird Mint blooms for many months beginning in mid-summer. 2005 Plant of the Year.
  4. Thumbelina Leigh Dwarf English Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia Thumbelina Leigh

    Thumbelina Leigh is a robust dwarf growing English variety with plump, deep lavender-blue flower spikes, and a strong, sweet fragrance. Maturing to a height of about 15 inches, it is...

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    Thumbelina Leigh Dwarf English Lavender Thumbelina Leigh Dwarf English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Thumbelina Leigh
    As low as $13.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Thumbelina Leigh is a robust dwarf growing English variety with plump, deep lavender-blue flower spikes, and a strong, sweet fragrance. Maturing to a height of about 15 inches, it is one of the most compact cultivars in cultivation.
  5. Blue and Purple Lavandula angustifolia Munstead Violet, Lavandula angustifolia Munstead Violet, Munstead Violet English Lavender

    This HCG introduction is a selection of English lavender has some of the darkest colored flowers you‚ll ever see making it a stand-out in your garden! Faster growing than other...

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    Munstead Violet English Lavender Munstead Violet English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Munstead Violet
    As low as $13.99 Sale $11.89
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    This HCG introduction is a selection of English lavender has some of the darkest colored flowers you'll ever see making it a stand-out in your garden! Faster growing than other dark colored Lavender selections like 'Hidcote'.
  6. Red Achillea millefolium Red Velvet, Achillea millefolium Red Velvet, Red Velvet Yarrow

    Red Velvet is one of the best with it deep rose-red, flat-topped flower heads that hold their color. Deep green, fine textured foliage, this yarrow is sure to attract butterflies whe...

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    Red Velvet Yarrow Red Velvet Yarrow Achillea millefolium 'Red Velvet'
    As low as $12.99 Sale $11.04
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Red Velvet is one of the best with it deep rose-red, flat-topped flower heads that hold their color. Deep green, fine textured foliage, this yarrow is sure to attract butterflies wherever it's planted. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  7.  Rosita Hummingbird Mint, Agastache cana Rosita,

    Rosita was selected for its smaller size and dense spikes of raspberry-red flowers (50% more flowers than the typical Agastache cana). It blooms for several months beginning in early...

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    Rosita Agastache Rosita Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache cana Rosita
    As low as $14.49 Sale $12.32
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Rosita was selected for its smaller size and dense spikes of raspberry-red flowers (50% more flowers than the typical Agastache cana). It blooms for several months beginning in early to mid-summer. A High Country Gardens introduction.
  8. Agastache Kudos™ Mandarin, Hummingbird Mint, Photo courtesy of TERRA NOVA® Nurseries, Inc.

    Agastache Kudos Mandarin (Hummingbird Mint or Hyssop) has showy, bright-orange flowers on short flower spikes which are highly attractive to hummingbirds. Its compact size and bushy ...

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    Kudos™ Mandarin Agastache Kudos™ Mandarin Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache Kudos™ Mandarin PP#25,381
    As low as $13.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Agastache Kudos Mandarin (Hummingbird Mint or Hyssop) has showy, bright-orange flowers on short flower spikes which are highly attractive to hummingbirds. Its compact size and bushy habit gives it a neat and tidy appearance, while it blooms from early summer through September.

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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