Bees need to store up pollen and nectar to survive winter hibernation. Here are some tips on how to provide bees with the right fall forage to meet their needs.
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Right now is the time that the adorable furry bumble bees are working overtime to forage for pollen and nectar in preparation for wintertime hibernation. They aren’t the only ones, all wildlife is frantic with last-ditch efforts to fatten up and store for the winter.
That’s why I provide a variety of late-blooming flowers for pollinators, and I leave the spent flowers so the birds have a source of seed, too.
Sound good? There’s only one key:
To have fall blooming flowers you’ll need to plant them in the spring!
Fall Blooming Flowers
Basil: Basil can be left to flower in the fall, attracting many kinds of pollinators. It will also allow you to collect your own seeds! (I like to grow Italian sweet leaf basil.)
Borage: Also called starflower or ‘bee bread’, borage is a self-seeding annual with star-shaped purple flowers. A companion to many vegetable and fruit crops, borage blooms all season long and delights the bees. It grows best in full sun.
Broccoli: The spring broccoli is mostly finished producing by the time fall rolls around, and leaving the plants lets the bees access the flowers. Broccoli plants that are allowed to overwinter will bolt (flower) in the spring and provide the bees with the all-important early season forage. I like to do this if I can give up the growing space.
Calendula: Calendula flowers will bloom all year until the frost while attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects. I like to sprinkle the seed throughout the garden in early spring.
An abundance of flowers allows me to harvest a few for myself to make calendula oil and healing salve. By late fall I can collect my own seed. (I like a calendula with high resin content for medicinal uses.)
Japanese Anemone: Japanese Anemone (pictured at top of this article) is one of my favorite additions to the garden. The foliage covers the ground nicely throughout spring and summer, and it provides spectacular blooms in the fall when everything else seems to be dying back. The bees sure are happy these blooms are here. Anemone particularly likes part shade/sun conditions.
Lemon Balm: Melissa officinalis is a delightful plant in the mint family. Melissa is the Greek word for bee, and its fall flowers will attract many pollinators in the fall. Although mints tend to take over an area with runners, lemon balm simply expands by clumping. It can easily be divided and spread around the garden. I love to grow it near vegetables, for the lemon scent repels pests, and it can be cut to use as fertilizer. It also makes the most wonderful tea.
Other fall blooming flowers that provide pollen and nectar for bees and other pollinators:
Have a tall fenceline? Border it with these tall beauties:
- perennial sunflowers (Here’s why I grow Maximilian sunflowers.)
- golden rod
Are you growing any late-season bloomers for pollinators?