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’.