About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Bee-Friendly Garden

Indian Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
 Many people may not think about the necessity of creating a bee-friendly garden, but bees are essential to the pollination of vegetable and flower gardens. And with their declining populations, it's worth the effort to make the garden more bee-friendly in an effort to attract a few more of these beneficial species into our own gardens.

There are 6 families of bees...each with numerous species...in Florida that work as pollinators for native plants, food production and in our gardens.

I wanted to find out more about making my own garden a little more bee-friendly, so I did a little research. If you're interested in having a more diversified, wildlife-friendly garden here are some tips that will make your garden an inviting bit of paradise to our Florida pollinators:

#1 - Don't use pesticides. Avoid pesticide use whenever possible as they kill off beneficial insects, as well. In circumstances when you need to use one, choose the least toxic product available.

#2 - Grow local native plants. Add a variety of native plants to all areas of your garden. Studies have shown that native plants are four times more likely to attractive native bees.

#3 - Plant blue, purple, white and yellow flowers. These colors are most appealing to bees and will attract a larger number of pollinators to the garden. Choose a variety of plants for blooms in all four seasons.

#4 - Choose flowers with different shapes - Generally, single flowers attract more bees than double petals which don't produce as much pollen and nectar. But long-tongued bees and bumblebees love to dine on tubular shaped flowers...to ensure that you provide food for a variety of bees, plant flowers with a variety of shapes.

#5 - Place bee-loving plants in clumps. Planting clumps of one species together will attract more bees than placing a single plant in different places around the garden.

#6 - Provide year-round blooms. Make sure you have flowers in your garden year round, especially in winter.

#7 - Be a little less tidy in the garden - Bees need natural materials to construct nests. Leave dried grasses through the winter and small brush piles hidden in the garden for this purpose. Also, leave some unmulched ground so that ground-nesting bees can construct their nests.

I noticed this past summer that two particular plants in my garden...liriope (both Big Blue and Evergreen Giant), and Moss Rose were attracting large number of bees on a regular basis. Also, the native mallow (most people would call it a weed) that I let grow in parts of my backyard while it's blooming (photo on right) is another favorite.

What plants in your garden are the bees most attracted to?


Ami said...

Thanks for the info! My burbine flowers attract bees nicely. I also have blanket flowers planted in a group in my garden. And I love purple, blue and white flowers. Hehe, sounds like I am on the right track...

Floridagirl said...

I once had moss rose in a pot next to the front door. Wow! You are right that the bees love it! Bad choice of plant for the front entry...if you want visitors anyway.

We have lots of bees here at PITV. Here are my best bee plants:

Gaillardias (year-round)*
Spiderwort (year-round)*
Coreopsis (spring, summer)*
Bottlebrush (year-round)
Camellias (winter, spring)
Viburnums (winter, spring)
Crape Myrtles (summer)
Firebush (frost-free months)*
Dewdrops(frost-free months)*

*Species Native to Florida

Meems said...

Great article, Susan. My Salvia (Mystic Spires) and Gaillardia sustained the bees through winter. Right now they are all over the alyssum, lobelia, violas, osteospermum, calibrachoa and gazanias. Around here bees seem to like the sunshine... much like butterflies. They will appear out of nowhere on a bright sunny day. Have you noticed that in your garden?

SiestaSister said...

I always seem to have plenty of bees. Maybe it is partly because at the beginning of spring I bought 1 little pack of cosmos seeds and 1 zinnia....kept resowing the seeds, so they were all over.

I also bought a sedum Autumn Joy....did that ever attract the bees!

NanaK said...

Oh good, Susan, now I have a reason to go buy some more plants! I need more bee attractors. I have spotted horsemint which is a native monarda that brings 'em in like crazy. Another big attractor is the climbing aster that blooms in the fall.

I love seeing bees in the garden. Just a few years ago I rarely saw a bee. Now, since I've been gardening more, they flit and buzz all over. Love it.

gardenfrisk said...

Great advice! I'm a fellow Central Florida gardener and am teaching the children at my kids' school about organic gardening and the importance of our no-chemicals motto. Bees benefit as much as the children's health!

Check it out!

Susan said...

Ami...Indeed it does! I'm going to have to plant some bulbine in my garden...sounds like a winner.

FloridaGirl...Thanks for your list of bee-favorites. I guess having a pot of moss rose by the front door might deter some visitors.

Meems...I don't blame the bees. I seem to be more active in the garden when the sun's shining, too. Thanks for sharing the bee-favorites in your garden.

Siesta Sister...Glad to hear that they are attracted to the autumn sedum joy. I have one but it's inside a screen enclosure...guess I'm going to have to put it outside for the bees. Thanks.

Hi Kay...Sure, you can blame having to buy more plants on me. I sure don't mind. I've got a monarda but I'm not sure if it's the native variety. I just purchased an aster, so I'll be on the look-out for bees this summer.

Gardenfrisk...Hi and welcome fellow central Florida gardener. Kudos to you for teaching kids about organic gardening. I also enjoy working in my daughter's school garden. The kids are so eager to learn. I look forward to visiting your site, and I'll include you on my sidebar. Thanks for leaving a message.

Nanette O'Hara said...

To our surprise, the east Palatka holly trees we planted last year turned out be major bee magnets. The bees went crazy for their tiny, almost inconspicuous white blooms! The trees were literally covered in bees. Can't wait to see a repeat performance this Spring.

Like you, we also found they loved our evergreen giant liriopes and they also swarmed our coleus when they bloomed.

Wonderful post, Susan. Really appreciated the tip about what colors bees prefer.

Susan said...

Hi Nanette...That's quite interesting about the E. Palatka hollies. I can see how they would love those little white flowers. Hopefully, you will have a repeat performance. I had forgotten about coleus...I remember seeing them around mine, as well. Thanks for the reminder...I'll make sure to plant more.

Anonymous said...

Bidens alba, Spanish Needle, is really popular with the bees in my neighborhood. Because the seeds jump on any passerby I really had to find an out of the way location, but it is well worth it. The birds have spent the winter eating the seeds.

p3chandan said...

No wonder theres no bees in my garden, grasshoppers yes! I dont have flowers that they love! I have too much foliage not enough blooms to attract them! Thanks for sharing the informations.

Terra Mirabilis said...

Hey, Susan. I posted yesterday on keeping bees. Have a look; maybe it will inspire you!


Susan said...

Anonymous...LOL. I know all about the seeds on Spanish needles..they are a most memorable plant. I get these in my wildlife area, and you're right they do attract the bees, but I hadn't noticed the birds eating the seeds. Another good reason to let them grow. :-)

p3chandan...Thanks for leaving a comment. Good luck planting some bee-favorites, and let us know the results.

Hi Penny...I'm headed your way right now to check it out. Thanks.

Susan said...

I received an email from Marie, President of Trilogy Wildflowers Garden Club in Lake County. She said the bees are loving her Carolina jasmine/jessamine. Thanks, Marie for your input.

Mary said...

Good post! We had bees last year, and our colony collapsed... I wrote about it in my blog. We'll be trying again this year. I love bees. Our holly tree was covered with honeybees last spring, which brought about such profusion of berries this fall, it was a beautiful sight. We harvested 12 gallons of honey last October. :)


Mary said...

Good post! We had bees last year, and our colony collapsed... I wrote about it in my blog. We'll be trying again this year. I love bees. Our holly tree was covered with honeybees last spring, which brought about such profusion of berries this fall, it was a beautiful sight. We harvested 12 gallons of honey last October. :)


Anonymous said...

What does the root of the native mallow plant look like? Is it edible? I pulled one up early last year, and the root was white, and kind of looked like a carrot, but not really. I tried to look it up online but could not find anything that looked like it.

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Anonymous said...

my red kalanchoe blossfeldiana seems to attract quite a lot of bees. also small brown moths, which i think are called skippers(?). i think i'll try some of the plants you all mentioned above this year. thanks!

RiverSong said...

I received a small African Blue Basil cutting from a Master Gardener in my area. This tiny cutting ended up filling a 5-foot diameter area in my bee garden within a few months; and I'm so thrilled because it brings in more bumblebees and honey bees to my garden than I've ever seen before. They absolutely love it.

Unknown said...

This year I have so many bees around my Thai basil. They seem to be honey bees and bumble bees. They love it

daisy g said...

This short post is packed with great information! I'm reading all of your "attracting wildlife" posts, as I am revamping my spring garden. Thank you for all of your research!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post guys! Your blog is attention-grabbing! Keep continuing the good work! The Tree Center

sandmshell said...

New to gardening, finally have the space to do a bit. Thank you for all the helpful information. I would like to have a bee and wildlife friendly garden but I am bit concerned as I do have 2 dogs. Any suggestions on keeping pets safe and having a bee/wildlife friendly area.
Thank you :)

Susan said...

Sandmshell - Glad you have a space to garden and plan to create a wildlife friendly garden. I would not worry too much about the safety of your dogs. It is not very likely that the bees will sting your dogs. They will be too busy sipping your nectar=filled plants. Good luck!