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Gardening for bumblebees

By Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Wildflowers have become scarce in the countryside because we've lost  many traditional habitats like hedgerows, hay meadows and chalk grassland. Wherever you live in the UK you should be able to attract at least 6 bumblebee species to your garden, and perhaps as many at 10.

Gardening for bumblebees

Bumblebees need flowers throughout the Spring and Summer (March-Sept), and these need to be the right kinds of flowers. Exotic or highly cultivated garden flowers are largely unsuitable, as they either produce little pollen and nectar, or keep it hidden away from the bees. In particular, most annual bedding plants (e.g. Pelargonium, Begonia, Busy Lizzies) have little nectar to offer bees or other wildlife. Instead, why not try growing traditional cottage garden flowers and native wildflowers. Many of these thrive and look superb in the garden. They are also easy to grow, generally being hardy and much more resistant to slugs and disease. Bumblebee species differ in the length of their tongues, and as a result prefer different flowers, so it's important to grow a range of different things.

Viper's bugloss is perhaps the very best plant to attract bumblebees to your garden. Much loved by almost all species, and it looks great too. It flowers from June-August.

Below you'll find a wider selection of both garden and wild flowers that will bloom throughout the year. They are all types that bumblebees love, and will cater for both long and short-tongued species. If you have room for even one or two of these they will attract many bees. Most of these plants will also attract a range of other interesting insects to the garden, including butterflies and honeybees.

Flowers for bumblebees by season

Spring: March - April

Ajuga reptans
Ribes sanguineum 'Pulborough Scarlet'
Genista lydia
Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Erica carnea 'Pink Spangles'
Lamium orvala
Prunus domestica 'Marjorie's Seedling'
Prunus 'Shogetsu'
Rosmarinus officinalis
Pulmonaria 'Diana Clare'
Lamium orvala f. albiflorum
Salix cinerea
Malus domestica 'Yarlington Mill'
Pyrus communis 'Invincible'


Summer: May - June

Ajuga reptans
Symphytum officinale
Papaver rhoeas
Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve'
Aconitum napellus
Thymus serpyllum
Allium schoenoprasum
Lathyrus latifolius
Salvia officinalis
Aquilegia vulgaris 'William Guiness'
Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir White'
Escallonia 'Peach Blossom'
Silene dioica
Digitalis purpurea
Lonicera x tellmanniana
Rubus idaeus 'Tulameen'
Cotoneaster x watereri
Anthyllis vulneraria
Lotus corniculatus
Lupinus 'Chameleon'
Vicia cracca
Geranium pratense
Campanula rotundifolia
Rosa 'Sparkling Yellow'
Laburnum anagyroides
Ceanothus (any evergreen variety)
Allium (any bulbous, ornamental variety)
Wisteria (any variety)
Solidago virgaurea
Salvia lavandulifolia
Trifolium repens


Autumn: July - September

Alcea rosea
Borago officinalis
Hyssopus officinalis
Cynara cardunculus
Centaurea cyanus
Origanum laevigatum 'Herrenhausen'
Echium vulgare
Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum'
Polemonium 'Lambrook Mauve'
Scabiosa columbaria
Nepeta cataria
Hypericum calycinum
Halimium calycinum
Rubus cockburnianus
Phacelia tanacetifolia
Lythrum virgatum 'Dropmore Purple'
Delphinium 'Summer Skies'
Dipsacus fullonum
Trifolium pratense
Arctium lappa
Antirrhinum Antirodora Series, mixed
Centaurea carniolica
Calluna vulgaris 'Alexandra' (Garden Girls Series)
Lavandula (any variety)
Penstemon (any variety)
Buddleja davidii (any variety)
Helianthus annuus 'Helios Flame'
Eryngium maritimum
Mentha (any perennial variety)

Find out more at the The Bumblebee Conservation Trust.