Did you know that although bees are not colorblind they see color in a completely different way than humans? Bees use UV light to locate their food sources and will zero in on flowering plants that bloom in their favorite colors (meaning those most visible to them), which are yellow, purple, blue, white, violet and mauve. Flowers in these color ranges get the most attention from bees!
Look at this amazing photo of a flower under normal view, and then under UV light. What a way to direct bee traffic right to the pollen source!
(Photo Credit: Zachary Huang, MSU)
To attract bees to your yard, it would make sense to plan your garden to accommodate flowering plants and bushes that will bloom in these beautiful colors. And, to keep the fun going all year long, planting a garden with a variety of seasonal blooms, from spring to fall, will keep bees and other pollinators returning to your garden for for their meals time and time again.
Planting for an early spring show!
One of our favorite plants that blooms from spring to fall but which makes an especially pretty early spring showing, is Sedum. Sedum can be purchased in pots and easily transplanted into your garden. The best time to plant sedum is in the spring—after the threat of frost but before it gets too warm. This is a very hardy plant resistant to drought, deer resistant (a big issue for us, being out in the “woods”) and naturally the honeybees love it!
With so many varieties of Sedum to choose from, you’ll have to do your homework, but just know that these leafy plants with their colorful blooms are a favorite of all species of pollinators, including bees and butterflies. And, best of all, they are a perennial, so you will enjoy these blooms year after year.
Other early spring blooms to consider for your pollinator-friendly garden (but which differ slightly depending on your area) are: Gold Heart Bleeding Heart, Lilac, Clematis and Royal Star Magnolia…just to name a few. And, don’t forget to leave those dandelions and clover alone…they are a very important first source of food for bees in early spring. Thinking ahead, if you’re planning to participate in #NoMowMay this year, where you leave a portion of your yard (or the whole thing!) unmowed, you could designate an area in early spring that you will let go wild, including the dandelions. We know that some people prefer a perfectly-manicured lawn, and this is a happy compromise and one that will benefit the pollinators!
Late spring through summer… this is the prime-time show!
As the weather warms up, so does the pollinator activity! Honey bees are collecting from the flowers in their own neighborhoods, and filling their hives with uniquely-flavored honey. Again, varieties of sedum will continue to bloom throughout the summer months adding colorful beauty and a plethora of visiting pollinators to your garden. In more northern areas, you can still plant sedum successfully at this time, as long as the weather is still on the cooler side, which aids in the sedum’s ability to quickly fill in an area of your garden.
Have fun with your color selection! Planting with intention is great for the pollinators, but you also want something that is beautiful and balanced for your own pleasure. There are many online resources for planning guides in your area, and a little homework will go a long way in your planning process.
Other colorful favorites you should consider planting to keep a variety of pollinators visiting your yard throughout the warmer months are Thistle, which is an annual but a big favorite of pollinators due to the abundant nectar and pollen, and Coneflowers, which are perennials that are also heat and drought resistant, and very easy to grow! Coneflowers are easily one of our favorite flowers because they bloom for months, are beautiful to look at and attract so many species of bird and pollinator. They make gorgeous cut flowers as well, when you want to bring some of that luscious color inside. Blue Globe Allium is another plant that beckons the bees from far and wide with its stunning blue color because it really stands out under UV light!
And we can’t forget Bee balm, which is aptly named because it really does attract the bees! It blooms mid-summer to early fall and makes a beautiful transitional plant for pollinator gardens.
The late show!
Autumn is what we call the late show, which includes flowers that bloom late summer through early fall. Fall flowers give bees their last big hurrah of nectar and pollen for the year and make our gardens pop with color until the cold winter creeps in.
Autumn Joy Sedum takes the stage during this time of year. It kicks off with beautiful displays of pinks and rose colors, which slowly fade to lovely russet and mauve shades. By pruning Autumn Joy Sedum, you can cause the plant to bloom later, thereby lengthening the flower show in your garden. There really is no way to go wrong with these pretty plants as they grow well in almost all types of soil, except those that are very mucky, or clay-like.
Other fall flowers that will feed the bees and which get a thumbs-up from us are New England Asters, which start blooming in August but continue to bloom right through October, and the stately sunflower which does the same.
Gorgeous and contrasting colors work well in a pollinator garden so have fun and start planting. We would love to see what you come up with! Share garden pics with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We just might promote your photo on Instagram or Facebook!
Follow us at @littlebeeofct where we post daily on our favorite honeybee-related topics including pollinator gardens! To shop our all-natural, made-from-beeswax selection of products, visit littlebeeofct.com.
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