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 my 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.
Top 5 Flowers
Toad Lily, Tricyrtus– 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.
Dahlias-I plant at least 30 of these beauties each year, adding tubers to my collection every season. Growing from a fleshy tuber that I plant in mid-May, they grow all season long and finally in August start to flower. Flowering more profusely 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-One of the easiest annuals to grow from seed, every beekeeper should grow these beautiful bee/butterfly-attracting flowers. Growing in my meadow and in my veggie garden, wherever I have a patch of ground, I plug these in the garden. 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.
Japanese Anemones-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’