Planting a Garden to Attract Butterflies and Bees
by Dawn Lesley Stewart
Not only is a garden filled with color and bloom beautiful, but it is beneficial to our environment. Without flowers to visit, butterflies and bees and would die. Without these helpful fliers, pollination might not occur … and without pollination, many varieties of plant life would not produce edible fruits, vegetables, or seeds.
Here are some plant suggestions for attracting butterflies and bees. I have listed them in alphabetical order.
A hardy perennial, asters bloom in the autumn. The plants come in an array of colors and heights. Traditional asters have a multi-petal daisy-like appearance. In my garden, I am growing purple asters that are bushy and attract both butterflies and bees.
I have planted red bee balm in several of my garden beds. The perennial plants grow about three feet tall, and the flowers are a fun ball of spiky red petals. A side benefit is that not only do the butterflies and bees enjoy the bee balm, I have also seen hummingbirds dip into the flowers.
The center of the flower is brown and dome-shaped, with the yellow-orange petals slightly bending back from the flower center. My brown-eyed susan plants do well even during dry weather. The plants can become bushy, though, so give them some room. Black-eyed susan plants reseed themselves.
For years butterfly bushes have graced my garden beds. The perennial flowering bushes attract a variety of butterflies and hummingbird moths (quick moving and fun to watch). Currently I have bushes with either purple, white, or pink-red flowers. The flowers grow in clusters vertically along a stalk, and the bushes can grow around four to six feet tall.
Another perennial, butterfly weed produces clusters of orange-red flowers. The plants grow up to two feet tall, and they attract butterflies. These can be tricky to transplant since they grow a tap root, so place them where you want them to flourish.
I know that many people would consider clover a weed … something to eradicate from a lawn. However, clover produces lovely “puffball flowers” that bees love to visit. I also have a few rabbit visitors who miraculously love to munch the clover and stay out of my vegetable garden.
My flower beds include several varieties of coreopsis. The plants I am growing have yellow flowers, some are single petal daisy-like blooms and others have fuller flowers. Each year the plants return and are quick to sprout offspring. The bees are always busy around these plants.
Carnations and Sweet William are in the dianthus family of plants. I have some Sweet William growing in a dedicated area, and will occasionally plant carnations. While dianthus is not a personal favorite, butterflies will visit.
Note that foxglove is poisonous. This biannual plant produces flowers on stalks. The flowers come in a variety of colors (I have a white foxglove in one bed that is gorgeous). Foxglove will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. A bonus is that these plants are deer resistant.
The word goldenrod is no doubt making your nose twitch and sinuses ache. This plant is often associated with allergies. I am plagued with seasonal allergies, yet I let the goldenrod grow in a few areas of the yard. The arcing branches of gold flowers are gorgeous, and the bees and Monarch butterflies love them.
My father introduced me to Joe-Pye weed because it is attractive to butterflies. These plants can grow tall from four to eight feet, and they have a broad cluster of flowers at the top of their stalks. The flowers are a purplish color and attractive. I find these plants the most stunning when many of them are grown together as a group. Bumblebees love the flowers.
Living in New England, I have mixed results winterizing lavender plants. However, their spiked blooms attract butterflies and bees … plus as an herb they have other uses. Lavender is wonderful in potpourri and as an herbal ingredient in everything from lotions to handmade candles.
My neighbor gave me my first lilac plants. These bushes start out thin and gangly, but they grow for years and can bush out, overtaking a garden area. Butterflies and bees love the fragrant flowers.
Monarch butterflies rely on Milkweed plants. Their lifecycle would not be complete without it since Milkweed plants is where they lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larva eats the Milkweed plant in preparation for the eventual transformation to a glorious Monarch butterfly.
My herb garden could not be complete without mint, and the bees love it. Mint plants are invasive, though, so only plant it where you don’t mind it taking over. If you enjoy container gardening, this might be a good plant to keep “contained”. As a bonus, mint can be used in food preparation.
Every year my oregano plant returns and loves to spread out and propagate. The bees love it. The plants are low and bushy (about two feet tall) and produce an abundance of lavender-colored flowers.
I am growing several varieties of phlox. The plants are tall at about three feet, each with a different color flower. Currently, I have white flowers and a blue-lavender color blooming phlox. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds love these plants.
Over the years, I have had coneflowers in several areas of the yard. The butterflies love them. These are tall flowers, and the flower center is a raised dome shape. The petals curve away from the flower’s center, dropping downward. This makes an inviting landing pad for butterflies.
Thyme is a fragrant herb, and bees love the thyme in my garden. I only wish I had success in pulling the plants through our New England winters. Even growing it close to the house, I lose them. However, during the warmer months, the bees flock to the low growing greenery and flowers.
It is good to plant a variety of plants that bloom throughout the year. When growing plants to attract butterflies and bees, make sure that you avoid pesticides which will harm them.
Happy Gardening !
Dawn Lesley Stewart has enjoyed organic gardening for over forty years, learning at a young age from her father. First love is vegetable gardening followed by her interest in butterfly and bee habitats. She considers her yard a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. Her writing has appeared online and in print and has won writing awards. Dawn is the author of Harriet’s Horrible Hair Day (picture book), Mist-Seer (paranormal novel), and her newest book 300-Plus Quilting Tips, Tricks & Techniques features over 35 years of quilting knowledge.
Copyright 2010 Dawn Lesley Stewart