It’s a great time of your to start planning your garden. Make sure to include a “Pollinator Victory Garden” in part of your landscape – a way to help win the war on pollinator decline. It’s not just about honey bees – we have 4,000 species of native bees in North America, many of which are in real trouble. You can help them by planting the native plants they have evolved with. And, many native plants are also useful to honey bees.
Choosing Regional Native Plants
Identifying the right plants for your area can be a challenge. Many lists include exotic, non-native plants and sometimes even recommend invasive plants! Yes, bees might love Japanese Knotweed, but please don’t even think about planting it! Ditto for many other troublesome invasives. Planting regional native plants that are suited to your site is the best practice for a healthy ecosystem. So how can you identify the right plants for bees? In the past few years there has been a mini explosion of available resources. Here are some of the best places to find reliable lists of bee-friendly native plants.
Reliable Lists of Native Plants for Bees
The Xerces Society
The leading non-profit organization concerned with the conservation of invertebrates. They offer downloadable, regional lists of recommended pollinator plants.
The largest non-profit in the world dedicated exclusively to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems. They offer downloadable ecoregional planting guides for pollinators
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Located in Austin, Texas, the Center was founded by Lady Bird Johnson, a former first lady, and actress Helen Hayes, in 1982. Their mission was to protect and preserve North America’s native plants and natural landscapes. The Center has a searchable native plant database that includes recommended plant lists for bees created in partnership with the Xerces Society. You can filter these lists with a number of criteria, including your state:
Pollinators of Native Plants – Heather Holm
Heather Holm is a landscape designer and author of the terrific book, Pollinators of Native Plants. On her website she offers downloadable plant lists by soil conditions. These can be cross-referenced on the Lady Bird Johnson database to determine regional suitability.
Pollinator Plant Lists
NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service)
The NRCS has a lot of great information on pollinators, including a list of Pollinator Plants for the Northeast
Delaware Department of Agriculture & NRCS
A joint effort of these two organizations resulted in a useful download: Delaware Native Plants for Native Bees.
Utah State University Cooperative Extension
In partnership with the Utah Plant Pest Diagnostic Lab, the Utah State University Cooperative Extension has published Gardening for Native Bees in Utah and Beyond
Specialist bees and their host plants
Jarrod Fowler of the Xerces Society and Sam Droege of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center produced this report on specialist bees and their host plants in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
Native Plant Societies
Don’t forget about your local native plant society that may have a regional list of plants for bees and other pollinators.
EcoBeneficial Tip Sheets
And, pick up some EcoBeneficial tip sheets on native plants for bees, focused on plants for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
The Pollinator Packet – all 4 of the following, plus 7 Steps to Creating a Bee-Friendly Landscape
From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!
More Great Resources
Confused about the terminology associated with native gardening? If you are, it’s not surprising, since there are numerous definitions just for the simple word “native.” Native, non-native, exotic, alien, naturalized – these terms, and others, are often misused. Hopefully the following explanations will clear up some confusion! Terminology for “Native”…Read More
Have you ever been to a garden center or nursery looking for a native plant, only to be told they don’t carry it. Then you search another nursery, another garden center, and another, and another – in an endless, futile search for a plant that is supposed to be…Read More
Honey bees (Apis millifera) have become an important part of our agricultural system in the United States – the economic value of honey bee pollination is estimated to be between $10 billion and $15 billion annually. A non-native species, honey bees were first brought to North America in 1622 by…Read More