The Duchess of Cambridge surprised school children in London with a pot of honey from beehives in the grounds of her Norfolk home – suggesting that Kate, like many of us, is looking for garden ideas that contribute to saving the bees and preserve the ecosystem. However, even if you can’t bring an entire beehive into your garden, it is still possible to care for these beloved creatures by choosing flowers that are noted for their pollination qualities – and are sought-after by bees.  We caught up with the Chief Horticultural Advisor at the RHS (opens in new tab), Guy Barter, who revealed the five plants that are most attractive to bees – and the best time to bring them into your garden.

1. Penstemon

Penstemon flowers are already admired for their long-flowering season, but as Guy explains, they are equally attractive to bees, too. ‘The best late summer flower goes on for weeks (if deadheaded) and a lovely color range from white through pinks and reds to purple, almost blue,’ says Guy.  ‘I was stung so often growing a trial of these at Wisley that I can vouch for their attractiveness for bees,’ he adds. 

2. Dahlias  

These intricate herbaceous perennial plants ooze with gorgeous sun-kissed colors of Central America, so it really is no surprise that bees find them just as alluring as we do.  ‘Dahlias are also a marvellous bee plant – a single flower is essential such as ‘Happy Single Selection’ [is] apparently irresistible to Wisley bees through summer and into autumn until it’s laid low by frosts,’ Guy shares.  And for anyone who doesn’t know how to grow dahlias, you will be pleased to know that it’s not complicated, but does require some effort – well worth it in our eyes. 

3. Crocus  

The gentle, purplish tones of the crocus flower offer respite to ’early bees that have survived the winter and will be thinking about resuming breeding,’ so it’s essential to consider them in your winter garden planning.  ‘I favor the species such as ‘Snow Bunting’ which are inexpensive and often persist,’ Guy recommends.  

4. Hedera helix 

If you are looking for green garden wall ideas that bees will love, the sometimes controversial hedera helix flower (common ivy) is a great candidate. Although the catalyst for debate amongst green-thumbed enthusiasts; however, Guy encourages us to look past its overflowing aesthetic and bring them into our exteriors to help the bees.  ‘Hedera helix, common ivy flowers very late in the growing season and is relished by many bees, including the Ivy Mining Bee. Ivy is a ‘marmite plant’ often out-growing its welcome, but it grows and flowers greening dark out of the way places where other plants struggle. It won’t flower if pruned, so [remember to] allow much space,’ he explains. 

5. Zinnia 

Know how to grow zinnias and you probably are already conscious that bees love this large-headed flower. ‘Zinnia, easily grown from inexpensive seed, is a fabulous way to add color and makes a  great cut flower too. Bees love it in my garden, and it flowers abundantly in late summer. ‘Purple Prince’ is a particularly bee-friendly form,’ Guy suggests.  If you’re keen to invest in more plants that attract bees, Guy also recommends tomato flowers, cosmos, and foxgloves as other suitable additions. Now we’re all set to follow this royally-approved trend.