If you are an avid gardener, you are likely familiar with the vital role that bees play in your garden. Bees make your garden healthier and can prolong the life of your flowers. The critical services that bees contribute to your plants are so essential that one of every three bites of food you take is dependent on pollination. Around 150 of the crops that grow in the United States rely on pollinators. This list includes almonds, apples, citrus fruits, blueberries, pears, melons, pumpkins, squash, and plums. If you have a small farm in addition to your garden, you will need pollinators for the plants you give livestock. Pollination is also necessary for cotton and other plants that produce fiber.
How Does Pollination Work?
In simple terms, pollination happens when bees take pollen from one flower to another flower in the same species group. The pollen fertilizes the second flower, which starts the seed or fruit production process. Some plants are self-pollinating, but most flowers and plants need the help of insects like bees, as well as bats and birds to spread their seed.
If you get the chance to watch a honey bee go to an apple blossom to search for pollen and nectar, you may see the dust stuck to the bee's body. When the bee goes to another flower, some of the pollen on the bee's body goes to the new bulb. The more bees you have in your garden, the more pollination will occur. Healthy and large flowers grow with seeds that are viable for the new season, while a lack of pollination can cause fruit to be smaller than average, deformed or fall off the main stem or vine before maturation.
Pollinators in Danger
Bees are considered workhorse pollinators. There are around 4,000 species of wild and native bees in the United States, in addition to the common honeybee. Other bees include sweat bees, carpenter bees, mason bees, and Leafcutter bees. These bees are drastically declining since the insects are dying at a rapid rate. You can do your part to increase the bee population. Planting flowers that will appeal to bees is a way to provide food for these pollinators, and you can plant many of these flowers even if you do not have much garden space.
Flowers for Early Spring
These flowers are bred from the wild pansy and require full sun to grow and bloom from the early part of spring into the fall. Pansies grow best in USDA zones 4 through 8 and row in several bright colors. This is one of the things that make the flower attractive to bees. Pansies can be grown in containers, but are also an appeal ground cover plant.
Pussy willows need full to partial sun to thrive and bloom in the early part of spring. The flowers grow best in zones 4-7. These flowers are wetland shrubs that are native to North America and have blooms that are grayish and have fluffy blooms that look like fur. When the pussy willows bloom, this usually indicates the beginning of the spring season. The flowers are perfect for bees that forage early in the season. Dried pussy willow stems are also beautiful home floral decorations.
Siberian Squill grows best in USDA zones 2 through 8. The flowers bloom at the beginning of spring. These flowers are a striking shade of blue, and you can enjoy the beauty of the flowers for a few weeks out of the year. These flowers need to be planted in well-drained soil so that the bulbs will not rot. Siberian Squill looks excellent in a grassy lawn and can increase curb appeal since the flowers spread quickly. The colors of the flowers make the garden especially appealing, and the flowers go down just in time for you to start mowing your lawn in the later part of spring.
If you can grow flowers in full or partial sun, snowdrops are an ideal bloom to plant. The blossoms grow well in zones 3-9 and bloom in the later part of winter or early spring. The snowdrops are known for being able to peek out of snow, and the flowers grow well in areas that have mild or cold winters as well as in warm weather. Snowdrops are dormant during summer since the soil where the bulbs rest are barren.
Flowers for Spring and Summer
These pretty, fragrant flowers bloom in spring and are suitable for zones 3 through 8. Peonies grow in a variety of colors and attract bees and hummingbirds. The cold weather helps the buds of peonies to form, but the flowers thrive in warm weather. These flowers need loamy soil and away from the wind.
These flowers prefer full sun to grow and thrive best in zones 4 through 10. Milkweed blooms in the spring and fall depending on the type of milkweed. The flowers serve as food for bees but are also the only flower host for monarch butterflies. However, since milkweeds are intricately shaped, bees can lose a leg while trying to get out of the flower or be trapped inside the milkweed. Many milkweed varieties are resistant to drought should be in sunny conditions during their growth period.
Bee Balm grows in zones 4 through 9 and need partial or full sun to thrive. The flowers bloom in the summer. Bee balm attracts bees, as indicated by the name, and is native to the prairies of North America. Bee balm flowers look a lot like fireworks and grow in several bright hues. These flowers prefer a warm climate and are perennials that grow beautifully year after year.
You can enjoy the soothing scent of lavender when you grow the plants in zones 5-9 in partial or full sun. Lavender blooms in summer or spring. Bees love the nectar that comes from lavender plants and humans can benefit from the scent and flavor of lavender. Oil from lavender plants is also extracted to be used in tinctures, lotions, and potpourri to give the body and mind a sense of tranquility. Lavender needs well-drained soil and warm climate, and the plants are very resistant to drought once the plant is fully developed.