The 10 best plants for Bees and Butterflies

Bees and Butterflies are looking for food. They will make your garden a regular stopping place if you provide the food they like. Some plants are magnets for bees and butterflies and guarantee bees and butterflies will visit your garden.
If you do not have a garden, you can grow many of these plants in containers on a windowsill, balcony or small patio.
These 10 best plants listed here are easy to grow, giving you more time to sit back and enjoy nature. Gardens provide green corridors, strips of habitat containing food and environments suitable for bees and butterflies. Create a wildlife-friendly habitat with plants and shrubs described below, and the bees and butterflies will come to you. I took the videos to prove it. At the bottom of this page, there are 6 videos illustrating how attractive these plants are to bees and butterflies.
It is interesting to see that there is a preponderance of blue and mauve flowering plants because bees like blue as this short video shows. 

My list below includes plants which are all easy to grow and readily available.

I know there are more than 10 plants listed here, I keep adding to it!

Check out at the foot of this page more links to wildlife friendly plants, including those to provide spring nectar and also planting for birds.

If you want to identify what sort of bee is in your garden, this is a great free guide from Friends of the Earth with good clear descriptions and illustrations. 

For more reading The University of Wales has a diversity focussed list of bee friendly plants

Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex, a leading authority also has a comprehensive list.

allium Cristophii with bee
allium Cristophii with bee


Bees love all members of the Allium family.
Many Alliums are really decorative, as well as attracting pollinators, as illustrated by the Allium cristophii. I cannot imagine a spring border without Alliums.
Chives are members of the Allium family. Grow a clump of chives and have a clump of bees. Chives are a perennial herb, which means they will come back year after year. Low growing Chives are ideal for the front of a border, and edging. Chives are a low maintenance plant, which are best planted in a sunny spot, but will tolerate some shade. Chives will grow in any soil conditions. Cut Chives back once the flowers have faded, and they produce a second flush of flowers. Chives are suitable to grow in a container.
Not all Chives are created equal. One variety which attracts a large amount of pollinators and butterflies is Allium nutans, also known as Siberian Chives. The video below shows it all : a mass of insects all over the chives. I took this video of Allium nutans in the kitchen garden of Rudding Park Hotel, near Harrogate in Yorkshire.

Culinary onion in flower
Culinary onion in flower

Even onions are popular

Sometimes, onions produce flowers, in a process known as bolting. You can try and stop onions from bolting, but I let nature do its thing as the flowers are attractive. The bees and butterflies love them.
There is another short video showing the attraction of onions; have a nature moment watching busy bees.
I could write so much about the Allium family, enough to say they are a great garden wildlife plant.

Gatekeeper on Sedum
Gatekeeper on Sedum


Sedums are butterfly magnets. When in flower, a mature Sedum will attract several butterflies at any one time. It is no exaggeration to say on a warm, sunny day Sedums may have half a dozen butterflies, countless bees and pollinators at any one time.
The Sedum flowers are attractive to butterflies even before they are in full flower. In the image, the Sedum flowers are still in bud, but it has already attracted the attention of a Gatekeeper butterfly. If you have room in your garden for only one plant to attract bees, butterflies and pollinators, a Sedum is a must. The short video below shows butterflies irresistibly drawn to Sedum, especially the white variety Sedum Hylotelephium spectabile 'Stardust' (available from Crocus via this link)

Blue Geranium  ibericum
Geranium ibericum

3. Geranium common name Cranesbill

This is one of the Geranium family, common name Cranesbill, G. ibericum is just loved by the bees, not least because bees love blue, (whichis based on good science.) Watch this short relaxing video, close your eyes and slip back to a warm sunny day, birdsong and bees. Geraniums are (mostly) herbaceous perennials which die back over winter and return with fresh new growth each spring. Geraniums are easy to grow and require no maintenance, and will form a good-sized clump in a short space of time.

There are a number of Geraniums in the group, all easy to grow, the blue and purple varieties are best for the bees. 

verbena bonariensis
verbena bonariensis

4. Verbena bonariensis

Not only do the bees and butteflies love Verbena, but it flowers for weeks and weeks providing a sustained source of nectar.

During the not particularly good summer of 2023, I've had Verbena in flower from July until October and in a shady garden. Throughout the entire time its had a constant stream of garden visitors. Its a plant loved by wildlife and gardeners, as we love long flowering plants they are such good value in a garden.

 Buddleja davidii with butterflies
Buddleja davidii with butterflies

5. Buddleia common name Butterfly Bush

No list would be complete without including a Buddleia the" Butterfly Bush". It is not an exaggeration. It does attract many butterflies and pollinators. The flowers are aromatic and if planted in a warm sunny spot, the shrub will be covered with butterflies feeding on it.
Buddleia is easy to grow, although it is good to bear in mind some varieties can get large. To overcome this growers have been breeding patio-sized varieties. It's best to check the label carefully.
A popular variety widely sold, B. davedii, which can grow up to 5 meters, taking up a good amount of space in the border.
Buddleia (especially davedii,) can be an invasive self seeder, prune the flower heads as soon as they have bloomed to prevent the shrub from seeding.

russian sage Perovskia atriplicifolia soft blue flowers attractive to bees
Perovskia atriplicifolia

6. Perovskia common name Russian Sage

We all know that Lavender and Nepeta attract bees, but so too does Perovskia atriplicifolia, common name Russian Sage, although there is nothing Russian about it. It is an easy to grow herbaceous perennial which has silver, aromatic leaves and lovely spikes of blue flowers which the bees flock to. Russian Sage, in common with all Sages, likes dry growing conditions and a sunny spot, and will reward with a cloud of blue and bees. Although not clear from this image, there were masses of bees on the blue flowers of the Perovskia. It looks very good when planted alongside a blue-painted exterior/fence.

7. Monarda common name Bee Balm

Monarda is another great bee magnet. I have seen swathes of Monarda growing in RHS Harlow Carr garden with so many bees you could not count them. There is a clear hint in the name, as Monarda's common name is bee Balm. 

Monarda will grow in some shade, although it flowers best when planted in full sun and well-drained spot. Monarda is easy to grow, a herbaceous perennial returning each year if the growing conditions are right. It dislikes winter wet. Monarda forms large clumps as it matures, which means it is not ideal for container growing.

Monarda 'Squaw'
 Cotoneaster franchetii
Cotoneaster franchetii


When planting for Bees and Butterflies, it is easy to concentrate on plants and overlook shrubs. Cotoneaster is an easy-to-maintain, simple shrub with a lot going for it. It has small white flowers in the spring, which are loved by bees. The bush hums with activity. These are followed, in autumn by bright red berries, which the blackbirds love. 

There are over 200 species of Cotoneaster in the genus, evergreen and deciduous, ranging in size from ground cover to a medium-sized tree. Illustrated is Cotoneaster franchetii, evergreen or semi-evergreen it grows to around 2.-2.5m with an upright habit. 

There is a warning with Cotoneasters. Some varieties are listed in Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as invasive and it is a criminal offence to allow that species to escape into the wild. 

9. Herb Oregano

 Oregano is an aromatic herb plant, very attractive to butterflies and pollinators. It is perennial, and keeps its woody stems all winter. It needs to cut back in the spring, allowing the fresh growth to come through.

Oregano is tough, grow anywhere, tolerant of most conditions, and fully hardy. It tends to sprawl in the border, and can be checked by the Chelsea Chop. I have also seen it to good effect, where several plants are together, made into topiary clipped into ball shapes, (see below).  This variety is Origanum vulgare, and its only drawback is the extent to which is self seeds. Oregano can be grown in a container and is suitable for growing on a balcony.

herb oregano
Oregano vulgare
Clipped Oregano as topiary

If you think that Oregano looks too "cottagey" for your garden but would like to attract pollinators, check out this image taken at Beningbrough Hall. The Oregano has been clipped into topiary shapes. To make room for the pollinators, the Oregano would have to flower, which means clipping the topiary shapes early in the year around the Chelsea chop time and then at some point, the plant would become less manicured when it flowered.  

Common garden and culinary varieties flower in white or purple.


10. Lavender

When considering the best plants for bees, Lavender has to come into the mix. The lovely aromatic flowers and leaves are attractive to the bees. Lavender is particular about its growing conditions. It is a Mediterranean type plant, and it likes a sunny spot with dry, well-drained soil. Even when the flowers are looking tatty and fading, still the bees come. One October I intended to trim off the flower heads ready for next year, but a bee was stubbornly perched on the flower so I left it a while long. Lavenders feed bees for ages.

If your garden is colder, or with heavy clay soil prone to water logging in the winter, Lavender will not tolerate these conditions. The better option is to grow lavender in containers or substitute Nepeta which will attract its fair share of pollinators, (and, unfortunately, cats!)  Both would be suitable for growing on a balcony.

Persicaria amplexicaulis
Persicaria amplexicaulis

11. Persicaria amplexicaulis

Many of our favourite bee friendly plants need full sun, so here is a welcome exception. Persicaria amplexicaulis will grow in semishade and in moisture retentive, damp or even boggy soil.

It is loved by honeybees and pollinators as the video below shows. It is a fairly vigorous perennial, which may drop its leaves in winter in cold areas, although it is very hardy classified as H7. It makes a dense clump of ground cover and flowers for a long time through midsummer to early autumn. 

English ivy with bees in November
English Ivy with bees in November

12. English Ivy

Hedera Helix, the native English Ivy, looks nothing special but when mature, produces flowers and berries which support a wide range of wildlife, particularly late in the year before hibernation. The nectar and pollen are food for insects including bees, hoverflies, butterflies and wasps. The berries have high fat content and are loved by birds, and the plant itself provides shelter for insects and small mammals.

Very good value for money in terms of providing for wildlife. On a warm autumn day it is covered with wildlife an excellent plant to grow along wall as part of your wildlife garden.

 Of course, there are many more plants attractive to bees and butterflies. There are several more pages on the Sunday Gardener with more ideas and information. - see below and check out:-

Butterfly on Aster

Wildlife friendly plants

 10+ butterfly friendly plants with images and growing advice

plants for bees

Plants for bees

10+ Plants for Bees plus the science behind the planting

A wild garden

Create a wild garden

Create a wild area in the garden and let nature in. 

Bumble bee on chives

Help the bumble bees

Planting for bumble bees what we can do to help.

Bee on Pulmonaria

Spring flowers for bees

Early nectar is important - plant ideas to feed the bees.


Grow wildflowers

Create a wildflower area easy to grow from seed

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