For Wild Bees, these Native Plants are Superstars

From early spring through late fall, native bees move from plant to plant, searching for protein-rich pollen or high-energy nectar. But sadly, our wild, native bees are disappearing as more of their natural habitat is lost to row crops or development, die-off from diseases and pesticides continues and the impacts of climate change take an ever increasing toll. Native plants are essential for native bees because unlike many ornamental and nonnative plants, they reliably produce the nectar and pollen on which bees depend.

The following are eleven native plants that are superstars in helping wild, native bees survive and thrive! Plant one in your area today:

Baby Blue Eyes

Baby blue eyes. Photo: Michael Wall My Native Plants

Baby blue eyes. Photo by Michael Wall My Native Plants

Baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) stunning sky blue flowers bloom in California from late winter through early summer – and provide a great food source for mason bees.

False Sunflower

False sunflower. Photo: Jane Kirchner

False sunflower. Photo by Jane Kirchner/ NWF

False sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides) will grow in less-than-ideal soils and tough summer heat to keep native bees going from June through to early fall.

Anise Hyssop

Anise hyssop

Anise hyssop. Photo from Lowes

Add fragrant anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) to your garden, and it will hum with bumble bees, masked and digger bees seeking pollen and nectar from the soft, violet-blue flower spikes.

Swamp Rose

Swamp rose. Photo: Dani Tinker.

Swamp rose. Photo by Dani Tinker

The leaves of native rose bushes, including swamp rose (Rosa palustris), are used by leafcutter bees, while bumble bees visit the flowers for nectar.

Black Willow

Black willow catkins. Photo:

Black willow catkins. Photo from

Native trees for bees? The beautiful black willow (Salix nigra) produces many-flowered “catkins” in spring that provide pollen for ground-nesting native bees.

Large-Flowered Collomia

Large flowered colomia. Photo:

Large flowered colomia. Photo from

The blue pollen in large-flowered collomia (Collomia grandiforma) provides food and turns the pollen sacs on the legs of bees a bright blue as they forage on the flowers.

Allegheny Blackberry

Bees polinating blackberry bushes

Hollow canes/prunings from native berry bushes like the Allegheny blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) make excellent nest sites for cavity-nesting bees, while their spring flowers are visited by many types of native bees.

ʻŌhiʻa lehua

ʻŌhiʻa lehua. Photo by Nathan Yuen,

ʻŌhiʻa lehua. Photo by Nathan Yuen,

Much appreciation to the gardeners in Hawaii who are growing native plants like the ʻŌhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) to help save endangered Hawaiian yellow-faced bees.


Buttonbush. Photo by Dani Tinker

If you have a soggy spot or are planning a rain garden, put in a buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)! The round, white flowers are preferred by many long-tongued bees.

Bee Balm

Bee balm. Photo: Renee Rock

Bee balm. Photo by Renee Rock

Bee balm (Monarda) has clusters of long-tubed flowers in summer that are irresistible to bumble bees of all sizes.

Heath Aster

Heath aster. Photo: Chris McCarthy.

Heath aster. Photo by Chris McCarthy

Come fall, after summer flowers have faded, masses of small white heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) blooms serve up nectar for both short and long-tongued bees.

Help Now

Take action for bees and other wildlife in peril! Along with adding native plants that benefit wild bees to your garden or landscape, join us in calling on members of Congress to do their part for bees and all vulnerable wildlife by supporting the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2016.


Never Miss A Story!

© 1996-2017 National Wildlife Federation   |   PO Box 1583, Merrifield VA 22116-1583   |   1-800-822-9919 (M-F 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST)

National Wildlife Federation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

Protect Wildlife