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Fall Flowers to Support Your Local Bee Population

Nasturtiums provide nectar for bees

A bee flies amongst the nasturtium blooms.

If you don’t have a hive yet or if you have a Beepods hive but want to do more to support your bees, carefully choosing what plants you grow, including fall flowers, can support your local bee population.

It is natural to be excited in late winter to choose the beautiful, fragrant flowers you will plant for the spring and summer season, but fall is just as important of a time to cultivate a pollinator-friendly yard. 

In our recent post about winterizing your hive, we talked about the changes bees undergo this time of year and how important it is for them to have plenty of honey heading into the winter. You can help bees prepare for the winter, whether you have a hive or not, by providing them with the flowering plants they love – even in fall!

The flowers bees like best

Nasturtiums are a source of pollen in fall

Bees look for flowers they can easily access pollen and nectar.

 

Bees generally like anything that has nectar and pollen, but not all plants are created equal in this regard. 

Many flowers you can purchase at your local garden store are hybridized; plants are bred to produce what are called double flowers because they are more visually appealing for the decorative gardener. Think double impatiens. 

TIP: If you look at your local garden store’s offerings, you can differentiate these hybridized flowers from pollinator-friendly ones by their large blooms and plethora of petals. 

Though nice to look at, the downside of choosing to plant these flowers is they produce less nectar and the nectar and pollen they do have are not as easily accessible to bees underneath dense layers of petals. 

Look for flowers that are single blooms. You should easily be able to see a stalk with a single flower on top of it and you may notice the internal anatomy of the flower more easily.  Think sunflowers. 

Fall flowers to support your local bee population

The best way to prepare a garden that keeps giving to the bees is to plan in advance. You can find great joy in designing a garden that will bloom through spring, summer, and fall and the best time to do this is in late winter at the start of the season. 

The goal is to have continuous blooms in your yard for as long as you possibly can manage. 

However, there is plenty of time for year-round learning and late additions to your landscape. There are many different types of pollinators, but planting blue, pink, and yellow flowers will yield happy honey bees. 

TIP: You can always check labels to see if seeds are pollinator-friendly or ask the staff at your garden store for advice if you’re unsure

When planting pollinator-friendly trees, shrubs, and flowers, variety is key. Just like human beings, bees need to consume nutrients from a wide range of sources to function optimally.

Herbs

Many herbs flourish in summer and continue blooming into fall. Of course, there’s the added bonus of having fresh herbs to accompany your home cooking. A few to consider planting are:

  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Mint
  • Lavender
  • Gentian
  • Borage

If you’d like to attempt to grow herbs year-round in a sunny window, plant in detachable window boxes or porch side pots you can easily transport indoors when frost is inevitable. 

Flowers

As mentioned before, bees prefer single bloom specimens. There are many flowers that bloom late summer into fall that will keep your bees happy and healthy. Grow these:

Black-Eyed Susans bloom in fall

Black-Eyed Susans are one example of flowers bees like to visit.

  • Sunflowers
  • Black-Eyed Susans
  • Dianthus
  • Delphinium 
  • Catmint
  • Cardinal flower
  • Lobelia 

The variety of each flower does matter because certain varieties of certain flowers bloom at certain times. For example, ‘Paint the Town Magenta’ dianthus blooms end of summer/early fall, however many varieties of dianthus bloom in spring/summer. Make sure you read your seed packets or ask a staff member at your garden store for clarification. 

Ground cover

A great way to facilitate the health of your local bee population is to consider pollinator-friendly ground cover.

Consider these ground cover when planning your landscape:

  • Nasturtiums
  • Sedum 

Both of these plants bloom late summer into fall. While sedum doesn’t have as much of a range, nasturtiums will grow rapidly and with gusto. I planted a nasturtium from seed this spring and it is currently a 10-foot by 5-foot patch covering part of my patio. 

Every afternoon, I go outside and observe the patch and without fail, there are multiple bee varieties happily buzzing from flower to flower. Plus, nasturtiums are edible and the flowers are a great addition to a fresh salad. 

Weeds

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said a weed is simply a plant whose virtues we haven’t yet discovered and I think the man was on to something. Weeds can be sources of pollen and nectar for bees. Instead of looking at weeds as a total nuisance, maybe we can look at them as a resource for pollinators. 

Be aware of these varieties come fall and hold off from eliminating them or at least trim back instead of removing completely:

Asters attract pollinators in fall

Asters bloom in fall in Wisconsin and attract pollinators.

  • Joe-Pye-weed
  • Goldenrod
  • Trumpet creeper

Think of the bees

Maybe you’re not quite ready to commit to a hive yourself and that’s okay. The livelihood of our bee population is multifactorial and fortunately for those of us with green thumbs, the intentionality with which we approach our gardening and landscaping can be truly impactful.

Creating a flowering fall landscape can involve integrating fall-blooming flowers into your planning ahead of the spring planting season, adding pollinator-friendly potted plants to your patio this time of year, and reframing your relationship with weeds, especially if they help out the bees.  

Don’t forget that many plants wait to bloom until fall and this doesn’t have to be forgotten or slowed time for our horticultural explorations. Take advantage of this time as extra months to enjoy your yard and also support your local bee population.

References:

https://www.pollinator.org/PDFs/Guides/EBFContinentalrx13FINAL.pdf

https://www.perennialresource.com/photo_essay.php?ID=335

https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/2017/03/27/21-flowers-that-attract-bees/

https://carolinahoneybees.com/flowers-for-honey-bees/

https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/plant-a-bee-garden/

https://carolinahoneybees.com/vinegar-weed-killer/

 

See also:

Fall Blooming Plants to Feed Pollinators

Caitlin Knudsen
Caitlin Knudsen is a content writer for Beepods with a passion for lifelong learning and psychology. She is an avid gardener, grower of houseplants, and does recipe development and food photography in her spare time.

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