How to create a bee-friendly garden

Written by Life Green Group and Catherine Clulow

It is time to start planting for the bees! With #WorldHoneyBeeDay around the corner, celebrated annually on the third Saturday of August, Life Green Group & BotSoc decided to explore and share about what planting methods and indigenous flowers attract bees to your garden.

There is a massive shortage of bees in urban areas as concrete, pavements and infrastructure do little to attract them- yet they play a vital role in gardens. The type of garden which bees are attracted to is typically an overgrown, flowering and fragrant type cottage garden. Think overgrown cottage gardens or scented gardens.

Sadly hybridised and seasonal exotics like pansies aren’t going to cut it for these critters – hybridised plants don’t have the high nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) content and have lost most of their scent to make way for unnatural colours and varied flower structures.

Each flower has a unique scent and bee’s favourite colours are blue-mauve and yellow. They like the plants planted in bulk and close together. They also need plants that flower at different times of the year so they have a year-round food supply –  Little tip: aloes and kniphofias keep hives going in winter.

Here is a list of sweetly scented, brightly coloured local plants that are known to make bees wings buzz.

SHRUBS

Anisodontea scabrosa (Pink mallow

This ballerina-like plant flowers with grace all year round, providing endless pollen for the bees, and are eye candy in your garden!

FullSizeRender (17)
Anisodontea scabrosa © Life Green Group

Grewia occidentalis (Cross-berry)

If the seeds of this plant are used to sweeten milk in African cultures… imagine what the flower can do for honey!

Grewia occidentalis fruit flower foliage 13 Dec 14 ALN 100
Grewia occidentalis ©Alice Notten

Mundulea sericea (Cork bush)  

Botanical purple, this bush is a fine garden specimen that attracts bees, birds, butterflies and insects- it’s their fast food restaurant in the Highveld.

Mundulea sericea -  Colin Ralston
Mundulea sericea ©Colin Ralston

Ehretia rigida (Puzzle bush)

The puzzle bush is alive with activity and its twisted branches and sweetly scented blossoms attract swarms or six-legged creatures, including bees.

Other shrubs to look out for are the buddleja and bauhinia species.

TUBULAR FLOWERS

Aloes

Ensure you purchase indigenous non-hybrid versions that naturally have high nectar content for the sunbirds and bees. Aloes will keep your bee garden alive in winter.

BEE FLOWER5 - aloe
Bee visits Aloe ©Alice Notten

Kniphorfia (Red hot poker)  

Who doesn’t love a red-hot-poker, like the aloes, it too flowers in harsh times and is a real head turner in a garden and the bees have taken notice.

Kniphofia uvaria bee Kirstenbosch ALICE NOTTEN 099c
Kniphofia uvaria visited by a bee at Kirstenbosch ©Alice Notten

Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle)

The Cape honeysuckle keeps the bees busy with their lovely yellow, red or orange blossoms, these beauties also make for a fine garden shrub or bush with some shear work.

Cape Honey Bee - Ashley Newell
Cape Honey Bee on Cape Honeysuckle ©Ashley Newell

Clivia miniata (Clivias)

For those shady areas! With all these sun loving shrubs you need something that keeps the shady areas bee-friendly too and this is truly a magnificent local species the bees and gardeners  alike simply love.

Clivia miniata Paul Odendaal
Clivia miniata © Paul Oudendaal

DAISY-LIKE FLOWERS

Lampranthus aureus (Vygies)  

This flourishing ground cover produces sweet little flowers, and is not only a must have in a succulent garden, it is highly adaptable and is vital in a bee garden.

2014_08_Fabio Marco Obertufer_ Life in Springish_1st
Pollination in action ©Fabio Marco Obertufer

Felicia amelloides (Kingfisher Daisy)

Felicia plants are already a much loved garden species and now there is a reason to plant more of this blue and yellow daisy bush in your bee–friendly garden.

blue-felicia-daisy-1292090_960_720 LGG
Felicia amelloides © Life Green Group

Euryops (Bush Daisy)

Looking to add a sunny statement to your bee garden? Try any of the three Euryops daisies and they will be sure to cheer the bees up too!

Euryops pectinatus bee Kirstenbosch ALICE NOTTEN 130c
Euryops pectinatus at Kirstenbosch attracts the bees ©Alice Notten
Harvest Time - Alan Williams
Pollinators at work ©Alan Williams

Dimorphotheca (African Daisy)

Related to sunflowers the African daisies are what attract countless tourists to the Namaqualand every spring and it doesn’t just have the tourists and locals running, bees love them too!

Dimorphotheca Whitsend Kirstenbosch ALICE NOTTEN 067c
Dimorphotheca whitsend at Kirstenbosch ©Alice Notten

Geranium incanum (Carpet Geranium

The symbiotic relationship doesn’t get any sweeter than that between the carpet geranium and bees. With regards to geraniums try ensure it is the original species and not a hybridised version sold in some nurseries.

Geranium incanum bee Kirstenbosch ALICE NOTTEN 098
Geranium incanum at Kirstenbosch ©Alice Notten

Osteospermums (Cape Daisy)

Make sure you have a less hybridised version but the Cape daisy, making for a beautiful bee garden addition! It will put a smile on your face and Barry the Bee’s too!

Other indigenous plant families that you can use in a bee garden are: Pelargonium, Salivia, Scabiosa, Helichrysums, Gladiolus and Agathosma

FYNBOS

If in SA, you have to try fynbos honey- it’s delicious! The Cape Floral Kingdom is home to thousands of prolifically flowering plants from proteas, pincushions, spiderheads and blushing brides to an array of ericas and many others in between that provide much needed pollen to bees.

You cannot go wrong with an indigenous fynbos garden for the bees, especially if your garden has lots of proteas and ericas.

Bee on Leucospermum - Pat Thompson
Bee on Leucospermum ©Pat Thomson

And don’t forget shallow birdbaths for water.

May your gardens be indigenous, buzzing and beeautiful, creating havens for our precious bees.

Don’t forget to like the Botanical Society of SA on Facebook and follow us on Twitter too.

Information sources

To read up more about the mentioned species, we recommend you visit PlantZAfrica.

There are fantastic related resources and updates on research available from the SANBI Biodiversity Research, Assessment and Monitoring Division here.

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Published by

botsocblog

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are an NGO conserving and educating about biodiversity for over 100 years.

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