20 plants that will bring bees to your Tasmanian garden.
As spring turns to summer in Tasmanian gardens, things are really taking off. Trees are setting their fruit, berries are starting to ripen and vegetable patches are bursting with new growth. While we focus on planting out and tending our gardens, there is an army of workers doing the heavy lifting for us and most of the time we don’t even see them.
Bees are responsible for pollinating up to 80% of all of the fruit, vegetables and crops that we eat. Each hive collects around 30kg of pollen per year, with bees from any one hive travelling up to 5km to get it. While they are out there gathering all of that pollen, they are transferring pollen from one plant to the next, providing a vital link in the chain of plant reproduction.
How do bees pollinate flowers?
If you remember your high school science, you will know the basics of how plants are pollinated. The pollen grain is deposited onto the female part of the flower (the pistil) on a sticky pad at the top (the stigma). From here the pollen grain sends out tubes that make their way down to the ovule within the base of the flower. When the ovule is fertilised by sperm nuclei sent down the tubes from the pollen grain, it will develop into a seed and the surrounding ovary will develop into a fruit. So, getting that pollen grain to the stigma is all important!
Why do bees pollinate flowers?
Bees don’t mean to pollinate the flowers in our gardens, they are just trying to gather pollen to take back their hives. Because they are so “hairy”, bees cant help but get covered in pollen when they enter a flower. While they are moving around in the flower, some of the pollen they have stuck to them brushes off on….you guessed it, the stigma. That pollen may have come from the same flower in the case of “self pollination”, or a totally different flower of the same species.
Where have all the bees gone?
It is a well-documented fact that bee numbers are declining across the globe. Why? Well that’s a little more difficult. It’s a combination of changing climate, broad scale pesticide use, vegetation changes, land clearing and even increased dispersal of pests and diseases that affect the bees themselves. Anything that you can do as a home gardener to help bees build strong and healthy colonies is a step in the right direction.
What can I plant in my garden to attract bees?
There are a huge number of plants that you can plant in your garden to attract bees and thus help boost bee numbers and enhance pollination of your fruit and vegetables. Most of them are easy to grow and can be grown from seeds or planted as seedlings. As a general rule, plants with yellow, purple or blue flowers are good bee attractants. Bees like sheltered warm conditions. Plants in sunny spots that are protected from strong winds are ideal foraging locations for bees.
1, Forget me nots:
An annual that can be grown easily from seed and will continue to re-seed year after year.
Easy to grow from seed scattered anywhere in the garden. The flowers are large and vary from red through orange and yellow.
3, Salvias: (grown as an annual in our cool climate)
Bees love the red, blue, purple and mauve flowering varieties.
Borage (also known as star-flower) is an annual herb that lots of veggie gardeners grow to attract bees and beneficial insects to their patch.
5, Bee Balm:
Also called “Mondara” or “Bergamont” with bright lavender coloured blooms.
Another plant that is easy to grow from seed and presents a huge target for foraging bees.
Icelandic, Californian and Flanders poppies are rich sources of pollen and nectar and look great when planted or sown in large numbers.
Grown from seedlings, the mauve, purple and blue varieties all attract bees to the garden.
A typical representative of the “Aster” family with bright daisy-like flowers.
Zinnias have single, bright flowers on long stems, in a variety of colours.
10 perennial plants that attract bees:
The blue flowering varieties are perfect for bees.
There are so many varieties of lavender available and all of them are great for attracting bees.
3, Anise Hyssop:
A perennial from the mint family that has spikes of mauve flowers.
Fast growing and quick to spread with blue to mauve flowers.
A perennial herb with bell like mauve flowers.
Echiums have large long flower spikes and range from white through pink to deep purple.
Everyone knows the big “bottle brush” style flowers of Banksias. The birds and bees love getting in amongst them to harvest their nectar and pollen.
8, Raspberries and Blueberries:
Berries produce large amounts of flowers in close proximity to one another. Bees can visit a patch and cover a large number of flowers in a relatively short time.
9, Citrus – Lemon:
Lemon trees are a great source of pollen and nectar for bees and grow well in conditions that are optimal for bee foraging ie. Warm sunny and sheltered spots in the garden.
10, Red Flowering Gum:
Eucalyptus ficifolia provides lots of bright red flowers for bees to forage over. The flowers are at their best in late summer.
Some good advice:
Make your garden a year-round food source.
Bees need food all year round and variation in their diet. Think about the timing of flowering of each of your plants. Making sure the flowering is staggered throughout the year will encourage bees to your garden all year round. At the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens veggie patch, our Horticulture students leave some of the brassica and other crops to go to seed. This helps maintain a food source for bees in the leaner months. You can do the same with most vegetable crops in your own garden. Keeping the bees in your area is the aim. When it comes time to pollinate your crops, they will already have your garden on their foraging map.
Let us know what you would add to the list of great bee attracting flowers. Find us on facebook and leave us a message. If you would like to know more about our Tasmanian horticulture courses, drop us a line or give us a call. You will find our contact details at the top of the page.