10 Best plants for Bees and Butterflies

Having wildlife in the garden is good for the bees and butterflies, and good for us. Few sights are prettier than a butterfly flitting around and few sounds more relaxing than the steady buzz of bees. Some plants are really magnets for bees and butterflies, and if planted will guarantee bees and butterflies will visit your garden. 

Bees and Butterflies are looking for food, and they will make your garden a regular stopping place if you provide the food by way of plants and shrubs they like.

You don't even need to have a garden, some of these plants can be grown in containers and put on a windowsill or small patio. In the narrative below plants suitable to grow in containers for a patio display are identified. 

These 10 best plants are also easy to grow, plant, sit back and watch nature. It is sad, although inevitable essence of modern living that we become more urbanised. Houses need to be built, people need homes and there is less and less habitat for wildlife. Gardens do provide a green corridor, strips of habitat containing food and an environment suitable bees and butterflies. Gardeners really can do their bit to make a habitat and get great enjoyment at the same time. Plant just some plants and shrubs below and the bees and butterflies will come to you.  These are my top 10 plants but there are many more bee and butterfly friendly plants to choose from on the next pages.

If you are looking for more information about wildlife friendly plants and shrubs check out.

Wildlife friendly garden plants for bees and butterflies

 Plants for Butterflies

 Plants for Bees 

Spring is important to bees, especially the solitary bees emerging which need nectar and growing Spring flowering plants attractive to Bees will provide that early much needed food.

It is interesting to see, looking at the top 10 plants below, there is a preponderance of blue and mauve flowering plants because bees like blue. 

The Sunday Gardener's choice of 10 best plants for Bees and Butterlies

Bee with Chives


I love chives, grow a clump of chives and have a clump of bees. Chives are a perennial herb so once planted they will come back reliably year after year and make a lovely ornamental flower for the front of a border. Chives need no maintenance plant and grow. Chives prefer a sunny spot but will tolerate a degree of shade. Chives are not fussy about their soil conditions and in a good year if cut back once the flowers have faded, they may well produce a second flush of flowers. Suitable to be grown in a container.

Bees are also very keen on Aliums, which are equally easy to grow.

Have a slo-mo moment with the bees. Chives are a strong favourite and here is a foraging bee just enjoying the Chives. Amazing to see a flight in slow motion, especially as many say by the laws of aviation bees should not be able to fly. There is too much body for too little wing span, but what do we know as clearly they do fly. 


This is a gatekeeper on a Sedum, before it has even come into flower. Sedums are a butterfly magnet and even before it is in full flower, it is attracting butterflies. When in flower, a good mature Sedum will attract several butterflies at anyone time. I planted Sedums in a wall near the patio so I can sit and enjoy watching the butterflies. It is no exaggeration to say on a warm, sunny day there can be up to half a dozen butterflies at any one time.

All Sedums are easy to grow, the most common are the ruby red ones but equally attractive, as shown in the image top left are the small low growing Sedums.

Sedums can be grown in containers and are ideal on a patio or windowsill.

Gatekeeper on Sedum
Blue Geranium  ibericum

Geranium common name Cranesbill

This is one of the Geranium family, common name Cranesbill, G. ibericum is just loved by the bees because bees love blue.  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, and the blue and purples ones are best for the bees. 

Buddleia common name Butterfly Bush

We know Buddleia as the" Butterfly Bush", and it is not an exaggeration as it really attracts many butterflies. The flowers are aromatic and particularity if planted in a warm sunny spot, the shrub will be covered in butterflies in the summer, feeding on it.

Buddleia is easy to grow but a large shrub, (although growers have been breeding patio sized varieties) it's best to check the label carefully as some varieties, such as the popular B. davedii, can grow up to 5 meters. This means it needs a fair amount of space in the border unless you select a patio sized variety which would be suitable for growing in a container.

russian sage

Perovskia common name Russian Sage

We all know that Lavender and Nepeta attract bees, but this is 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 could be grown in a large container and looks very good when planted alongside a blue-painted exterior/fence.

Monarda common name Bee Balm

Monarda is another great bee magnets. I have seen swathes Monarda growing in RHS gardens with so many bees on it you could not count them.  There is a clear hint in the name, Monarda's common name of bee Balm. 

Monarda will grow in some shade, although it flowers best when planted in full sun and good 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.



When planting for Bees and Butterflies, it is easy to concentrate on plants and overlook shrubs which are often easier to maintain and many, such as the Cotoneaster,  have all year round interest. This simple shrub has everything going for it. The small white flowers which appear in the spring are just loved by bees, the bush hums with activity.

In autumn it is covered by bright red berries which the blackbirds love.  This is an evergreen cotoneaster, which looks good all the year round. There are a lot of different types of Cotoneaster, from smallish shrubs to large trees easy to find one to suit your garden. Most grow to a reasonable size and would not be suitable for growing in containers.

Herb Oregano

Illustrated is the herb Oregano with a Peacock butterfly. Oregano is an aromatic herb plant, very attractive to butterflies and pollinators.

It is a perennial, not herbaceous as it keeps its woody stems which need to be cut back in the spring allowing the new growth to come through. Oregano is tough, 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 used to good effect where several plants are together to topiary clipped into ball shapes.  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 would be suitable for growing on a balcony.

herb oregano
clipped Oregano

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 still have to flower, so the topiary shapes would have to be clipped early in the year around the Chelsea chop time and then at some point the plant would become less manicured when it flowered. Still it would be a tidier and neater form of Oregano.



When considering the best plants for bees, Lavender has to come into the mix. The lovely aromatic flowers and leaves are always attractive to the bees. Lavender is particular about its growing conditions, it is a Mediterranean type plant and it likes sunny spot with dry well-drained soil. 

If your garden is colder, or with heavy clay soil prone to water logging in the winter, Lavender will not tolerate these conditions and 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 balacony.


Many wildflowers are attractive to bees and butterflies and you do not need a large meadow to bring wildflowers into your garden.

Any small patch can be given over to some annual wildflowers which look very pretty, and wildlife friendly attracting not just bees and butterflies but various pollinators.

You can sow seed, or easier still use a pre seeded mat which makes germination easier, but more expensive. Many retailers sell mixes which are designed to be most attractive to bees and butterflies.  Tips on how to create a small wildflower patch. Wildflowers can be sown or planted into a container.

wildflower mix

Updated 16.10.2019