Editor’s note: The author’s garden is likely in plant hardiness zone 6b or 7a. This is reflected in the plants selected this post.
Nectar dearth is a phrase that you hear frequently in beekeeping. Simply put, it means that instead of your honeybees finding readily available nectar and pollen-producing flowers, they are chowing down on their stored honey. And bees need honey stores to survive the cold winters here in the mid-Atlantic. Supplemental feeding is the option that many beekeepers turn to, but as a horticulturalist, I plant many late-blooming flowers on my property so that they can find flowers to browse from just as easily as the summer bounty.
Long after my Asters, Goldenrod, and Joe Pye Weed are toast, there are some workhorse plants that flower October and even into November for late season browsing from all kinds of bees and other pollinators. Those 3 plants are valuable, but are finished by October and I need something to pick up the slack afterward.
If you have at least some plants of the top five, you might get away with later feeding — say after a hard frost hits and blackens everything for the season. Or none at all, which is the best scenario for me.
Looking like mini orchids layered on top of cascading stems, these flowers appear in October and continue for weeks. An easy to grow perennial for moist shade, these come back like clockwork every year for me in my zone 6b garden. See my post at Toad Lilies-Orchids of Fall.
I plant at least 30 Dahlias beauties each year, adding tubers to my collection every season. Dahlias start from a fleshy tuber that I plant in mid-May, grow all season long, and finally start to flower in August. As the season progresses into cooler nights, they explode with flowers that bees of all kinds are attracted to. Go to Dahlias-Divas of the Garden to see how to grow these. My favorite is Emory Paul.
Zinnias are one of the easiest annuals to grow from seed and I think every beekeeper should grow these beautiful bee-attracting flowers. I like to plug them in the garden wherever I have an open patch of ground. See how I use them in a garden plan at Grow These For the Bees Garden Plan. They will last until the frost hits them.
Another easy to grow perennial for partial shade to sun, these long stemmed flowers held upright that sway in the slightest breeze are another workhorse that come back every year. Go to Fall Blooming Anemones-Long Blooming & Deer Resistant for more information on growing these beauties. I like Anemone ‘September Charm’ and ‘Honorine Jobert’.
Garden or Border Chrysanthemums
Not the regular mum that you buy in the fall in pots and set out on your front porch, these planted in the border come back year to year without fail. Try my favorite Chyrsanthemum rubellum ‘Clara Curtis’.
These plant selections reflect a bias towards temperate climates such as the midWest and the East coast. Southern CA does not well support ANY of these, especially Tricyrtus. Brazilian Pepper, Melaleuca, Grevilleas, are the Fall workhorses for CA
Adore your website !! Such useful information. Thanks
Wow, I am always happy to hear from my fans! Thanks!
Your remark in the last issue using the term ” bee havers”. Was mean spirited elitist and counterproductive. You for all your pretensions are in a parasitic relationship with bees. The object should be to promote beekeeping and parsing motives is not helpful . Your comment was unnecessary unpleasant and you should apologize. RK
I am sorry, but I have nothing to do with that article!
We have our traditional “bee” garden, but on the outer boundaries of our property we have Selvia (spring to early summer) and Russian Sage(mid summer to fall). Add to that our fruit trees (early to late spring) and recently our orange mallow. But, if they wish to travel further, I know of several prime locations for their work.
Wow. Kendall’s comment displays a rather thin, sensitive, skin for a beekeeper.
Great post and thank you for the reminder to think about late blooming flowers! Instagram fourhivehoney
You are welcome!
Great article. One suggestion moving forward somewhat associate with a slightly different comment. It would be exceptionally helpful to talk about USDA Zones when making recommendations for specific plants. Folks in zones 10+ have most definitely different options than folks in zones 8a or lower. Yeah, my bias is showing since technically we are in zone 8A but in reality live in the wet wonders that is the Pacific Northwest with relative short growing seasons and all too often early falls.
I highly recommend the anise hyssop to this list of must haves. These perennials begin blooming around the end of June and will continue to offer the pollinators ample nectar well into the October frost. They add beauty and height to the garden (3 1/1 to 4 feet tall), and I have found that the bees prefer these over every other pollinating flower that I have. I will easily have a dozen bees and butterflies on each hyssop from morning to dusk. FYI – I live in the south – zone 7b, but my understanding is that hyssops also do really well in the more arid regions of the country.