Skip to main content

5 Best Bee-Friendly Annual Flowers for Your Garden

I love pottering in the greenhouse and garden and listening to classic rock with my Labradoodle, Florrie.

Florrie the labradoodle.

Florrie the labradoodle.

Bee-Friendly Annuals

When Florrie the Labradoodle and I head out for our daily walks, we've been noticing that more and more front gardens are disappearing and being replaced by brick and tarmac driveways for cars. In our back gardens, we strive for the perfect ‘green’ lawn and use pesticides to eliminate any dandelion, daisy or buttercup that dares to flower.

Where Florrie and I venture further over the fields, many of the hedgerows and verges of wildflowers have disappeared.

With the bee population at risk, it is important to plant pollen-rich, bee-friendly flowers.

The five plants listed here are easy to grow, which means you can just plant the seeds straight into the ground or container, sit back and wait for the bees to come! The poorer the soil, the more flowers you will get and the happier your bees will be! This article covers the following flowers:

  • Cosmos
  • Sunflowers
  • Cornflowers
  • Calendulas
  • Nasturtiums
Cosmos' bright colors and open petals attract bees.

Cosmos' bright colors and open petals attract bees.

Cosmos

Cosmos are half-hardy annuals that come in a variety of different colours. Their open, daisy-shaped, flat flowers create a beautiful display and give the bees easy access to nectar and pollen.

They grow quite tall, around 2-3 feet, so plant towards the back of the border. They thrive best in poor soil and full sun. Grow them in clumps so the bees can find many flowers!

Cosmos do not suffer from pests; slugs and snails don’t seem to like them. Deadhead regularly, and they will flower right through the summer until the first frosts.

Sunflowers also have an open landing pad for bees.

Sunflowers also have an open landing pad for bees.

Sunflower

Nothing attracts and feeds bees like good old sunflowers. Bees are drawn to the pollen and nectar found in the hundreds and thousands of tiny tubular flowers that make up the plant's large centre.

The sunflower’s official name is Helianthus, which is a combination of the Greek words ‘helios’ (sun) and ‘anthos’ (flower). Make sure you plant them in a spot that gets plenty of sunlight. Watch their heads turn and follow the sun throughout the day.

Plant in loose, well-draining soil and protect from slugs and snails while they are young.

A bee landing on a cornflower.

A bee landing on a cornflower.

Cornflower

Cornflowers used to grow throughout corn crops, spotting the countryside with swathes of electric blue. It was said that the sky had sent patches of itself down into the fields. Farmers considered them as weeds, and when they started using herbicides, the cornflowers soon disappeared.

Nowadays cornflowers are grown as colourful, hardy annuals in beds and borders, especially as part of an annual bedding display. They flower from late spring and summer into autumn.

Cornflowers will provide you with a continuous supply of cut flowers if you deadhead them regularly.

Calendulas are early-bloomers.

Calendulas are early-bloomers.

Calendula

Bees love calendula’s flat, bright orange or yellow flowers with their easy landing pads and profusion of pollen.

Calendula is super easy to grow in well-draining soil and full sun, and will readily self-seed. Staggering your sowings will provide new flowers all summer long. They will often be the first flowers that appear in the spring.

These early-blooming flowers are very important for bees! It is also a great salad flower and has medicinal properties. Calendula has been used for centuries to heal wounds, burns and rashes.

Nasturtiums have a large, circular shape that's easily accessible for bees.

Nasturtiums have a large, circular shape that's easily accessible for bees.

Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are wonderful plants for beginners and children. They attract bumblebees as a source of both pollen and nectar, and their large circular flower shape provides a perfect landing platform for insects.

Nasturtiums are also entirely edible (both flower and leaf) and have a peppery flavour to watercress that can be added to brighten up any summer dish. They enjoy poor soil, germinate quickly and can survive with little attention.

Cabbage white butterflies will often lay their eggs on nasturtiums. You can decide yourself whether that is a good or bad thing.