Top 15 bee-friendly balcony plants
Even with a limited amount of space you can create a bee paradise. These are the 15 bee friendly balcony plants that are perfectly suited for this purpose.
Bees are an essential part of our ecosystem. For one thing, they produce the delicious honey and, most importantly, they pollinate plants. In other words, bees support the growth of trees, shrubs and flowers. Unfortunately, the bee population continues to decline. The reason for that are mainly large monocultures, omnipresent pesticides and a decreasing number of suitable forage plants. All of these factors negatively impact the well-being of the insects, which in turn endangers the whole ecosystem. If you want to help the bees a little, you can do so quickly and easily (and even without a large garden). Simply selecting the right balcony plants can help the beneficial insects a lot. This article will inform you which plants are considered to be bee-friendly and which should be avoided.
Bee-friendly balcony plants
If you grow flowering plants on your windowsill or balcony, you have already taken the first step towards beekeeping. Unfortunately, not all plants are really helpful to the bees. Especially large full flowers, such as the dahlia (Dahlia) or geranium (Pelargonium), cause problems for the animals because their dense petals block the way to pollen and nectar. Even some simpler shaped flowers, such as the forsythia (Forsythia × intermedia) or petunias (Petunia) are not the best choice for the bees because they rather lack in pollen and nectar, on which the bees feed. Instead of these gorgeous yet rather useless flowers, try incorporating one of the following bee-friendly plants into your balcony garden.
Although the Latin name of this genus might sound unfamiliar to many, the Leucanthemum species are well known to most people. This genus contains 42 different species, many of which are known under the names daisy or marguerite and are native to Europe. Leucanthemum grow commonly in the wild but they can be also cultivated as balcony plants. They tend to be very robust and easy to care for. Their long and towering stems with delicate white flowers with a yellow centre make them not just very beautiful but also perfect for the bees. The simple blossoms of the Leucanthemum make it easy for the bees to reach the pollen and feed themselves.
14. Garden heliotrope
The garden heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) has been impressing both young and old with its main distinctive feature: the gorgeous cherry-sweet scent. The seductive fragrance of the heliotrope is reminiscent of cherries and vanilla, which is also why it is sometimes commonly referred to as cherry pie. The dark purple colour of the inflorescences also matches this nickname. It is not just people that have been enticed by the sweet scent of the heliotrope. Bees adore the aroma of this plant and will not be disappointed if they find the heliotrope in your balcony pot as it is an excellent source of food.
Does this plant even need an introduction? The lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a classic amongst garden and balcony plants. There are many reasons why gardeners love the lavender. The plant is particularly known for its intense fragrance and the stunning violet blossoms. Due to the robust nature of this Mediterranean plant it is a perfect plant to grow on the balcony. But there is more: as a medicinal plant it helps against restlessness, its flowers are edible and it even repels mosquitoes. While many unwanted pests will be forced to wander off by the intense scent of the lavender, bees and other beneficial insects are drawn in by the enchanting fragrance of the its purple blossoms.
12. Wingpod purslane
The wingpod purslane (Portulaca umbraticola) has so many advantages that it is impossible to decide which characteristic of the plant is actually the best. First, one of the features of the purslane which is extremely hard to miss is the brightly hued petals. Second, the wingpod purslane is a true continuous bloomer flowering without a pause from June up till September. Bees and other beneficial insects are very enthusiastic about this fact because the purslane provides them with an ample source of food over an extended period of time. Last, the purslane is incredibly easy to care for. It is a succulent plant that hardly needs to be watered, which is perfect for busy or beginner gardeners.
The catnip (Nepeta) is a well-known favourite of cats. The furry felines are not the only animals to be magically attracted by this plant. While cats seem to act drunk when in the catnip’s presence, the bees forage on the plant. The nectar value of the catnip is exceptional, which makes it a valuable rich supply of food for the bees. Moreover, the catnip blooms over a long period of time from May to early September, so the insects have their needs covered all the way from spring to autumn. The catnip is perfectly suited to be grown in pots on balconies and it will delight with its beautiful blue, violet or white flowers and a heavenly lemon like scent.
Seasoned gardeners surely know: the garden lobelia (Lobelia erinus) is one of the most popular plants for the garden or balcony. The lobelia owes its popularity mainly to its intensely luminous flowers. The bright blue flowers with the white spot in the centre are a vision that lasts from April to September. The decorative, robust and low maintenance summer flowering herb captivates not only with its appearance, but also with its bee-friendly nature. It is a true insect magnet that offers beneficial insects, such as bees and butterflies, a bountiful source of food.
9. Italian leather flower
Anyone who wondered about growing a climbing plant on the balcony should definitely consider cultivating the Italian leather flower (Clematis viticella, also purple clematis), also known as purple clematis. The many varieties of clematis are ideal for growing in pots, as they do not grow too tall. In order to allow the flower to reach its full size it is recommended to use a climbing aid. Additionally, it is advised to make sure that the root area of this plant is kept in the shade. If these measures are taken, the leather flower will reward you for your efforts with a plethora of flowers. Moreover, the Italian leather flowers blooms well into September and thus provides a safe haven for the insects even in late summer.
8. Mealycup sage
Due to its upright standing flowers with a deep violet colour, the mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea, also mealy sage) is an impressive balcony plant. The blossoms have an intriguing pattern, which is easy to admire as the mealycup sage towers 60 to 90 cm above ground. This plant is additionally very easy to care for and blooms throughout the whole summer. Bees, bumble bees and other insects adore the mealycup sage, too. The plant not only sustains the bees with a sufficient food supply but its long flowering period which lasts up until the first frost also makes it a crucial bee pasture in the otherwise very sparse late summer.
The common lantana (Lantana camara) has an astonishing ability to change colours. Yes, as unlikely as it sounds, the lantana’s blossoms do alter colours as they bloom and fade. Unsurprisingly, because of this fascinating ability, the lantana has become a trendy balcony plant. Although the bees do not really care about the blossoms changing colours, they are still drawn to the lantana. Wild bees, bumble bees and other numerous beneficial insects love the beautiful flower, which provides plenty of food for them from May to October.
6. Fairy fan-flower
Hanging plants are currently experiencing a renaissance – although the hanging baskets have been considered old-fashioned for many years, more and more gardeners are falling in love with this way of displaying plants. If you are interested in a hanging plant that is not just pretty but also helpful to the bees, you should consider the fairy fan-flower (Scaevola aemula). The fairy fan-flower forms shoots that can grow up to one-metre long and are speckled with a cascade of blue and violet inflorescences from May to October. This waterfall made of flowers is a dazzling embellishment for every balcony and is sure to appeal to numerous insects including bees, which will find an inexhaustible source of food in this plant. The owners of the plant are also certain to admire the fairy fan-flower because despite its opulent abundance of flowers, it is surprisingly easy to care for.
5. New York aster
With a flowering period from early September to early November, the New York aster (Aster novi-belgii) is definitely one of the autumn flowers. The aster can be usually distinguished by its violet blossoms, which at times appear in variations of blue, pink and white. This autumn bloomer adds specks of colour to the season. In addition, the New York aster is beneficial to the bees. Since most of the plants do not bloom this late in the year, the New York aster substitutes them during autumn as a valuable source of pollen and nectar. The supply of pollen and nectar is fairly abundant with this plant, which helps the insects to prepare for the approaching winter.
The euphorbia (Euphorbia hypericifolia ‘Diamond Frost’), also commonly called spurge, has distinctive jewel-like flowers that look like freshly fallen snowflakes. These unusual flowers enchant the bees and as soon as the first flowers show themselves to the world, beneficial insects of all kinds swarm around the plant. Another noteworthy feature of the euphorbia is its extended flowering period: from May until the first frost in late autumn. Thus it grants an indispensable and long-term pasture for the bees. Furthermore, the euphorbia is low-maintenance and robust – in short, an ideal balcony plant.
3. Golden alyssum
As early as April, the golden alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis), also referred to as basket of gold (which we personally find absolutely adorable), dispels any hint of spring fatigue. The radiant yellow flowers, that form a sweeping carpet, will brighten up everyone’s mood in an instance. Bees and other beneficial insects are also delighted by the splendour of the flowers. After a rough winter, such a sprightful spring bloomer is very welcome indeed. In addition, the golden alyssum is one of the few plants that bloom abundantly at this time of year already. The gardeners will be additionally pleased to hear that the alyssum possesses an extraordinarily robust and low maintenance nature. It can tolerate frosts down to – 20 °C. Therefore, the golden alyssum can be effortlessly grown on the balconies, too.
2. Winter heath
While many balconies are in full bloom in summer, most of them look quite bare in winter. But that does not have to be the case with the winter heath (Erica carnea) which starts blooming in December. Its bell-shaped flowers, which shine in elegant white, delicate coral or vibrant pink, brighten up the dreary winter. Most of all, the beneficial insects such as bees are happy about the enchanting spots of colour on the balcony. The winter heath flowers until April which is coincidentally when bees and other insects wake up after hibernation. This hardy balcony plant allows the beneficial insects to replenish their reserves during the first days of spring.
1. Kitchen herbs
What would cooking be if not for the delicious herbs especially the ones one grew themselves? Kitchen herbs are one of the most popular balcony plants because they can be cultivated without much effort and are also extremely practical and delicious. The tasty herbs are also well beloved by the bees. In order for the bees to fully enjoy herbs, they must bloom. Therefore, be careful not to harvest the entire plant before bloom. Mediterranean plants such as thyme (Thymus), oregano (Origanum vulgare) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) are adored by the bees, bumblebees and other beneficial insects, as are mint (Mentha), dill (Anethum graveolens) and savory (Satureja).
You haven’t found the right plant for you yet? Then visit our articles about the top 10 bee-friendly plants or the top 15 bee-friendly flowers.