Several readers have asked what plants they should add to their gardens to help bees. When I first started beekeeping, I often thought about the same thing, canvasing garden centers and following bees to see what flowers bees were visiting to influence my buying choices.

Several readers have asked what plants they should add to their gardens to help bees. When I first started beekeeping, I often thought about the same thing, canvasing garden centers and following bees to see what flowers bees were visiting to influence my buying choices.
Since then, I have observed once bees earn their wings, they want to spend the last two weeks of their busy lives packing pollen and flying. They may stop at a nearby flower bed on their way back but if it’s warm and sunny, off they will go to scout for large swaths of one flower variety to clean out of pollen before they move on to the next.
That doesn’t mean you can’t plant flowers for bees; just understand bees make up their own minds about what pollen sources they like best. Sometimes it depends on what their choices are at the time, so you may have a lovely flower bed they ignore because they found a better pollen source in your, well, dandelion patch. In beekeeping, we even talk about “before dandelions” and “after dandelions” so if you have a good crop, you’re all set.
But let’s say you want to plant some varieties to help bees. The following are 10 plant varieties that are very easy to grow and are proven bee and other pollinator favorites:
1. White Clover. Instead of turf, plant white clover; they offer a high source of pollen for most of spring and don’t have to be mowed.
2. Black-Eyed Susans. There is a native brown-eyed variety, too. Both of these perennials provide pollen during Missouri’s punishing pollen dearth, when temperatures go over 90 degrees F and plants shut down. These may take a couple of years to establish but are well worth the effort.
3. Buckwheat. Great quick pollen-providing crop that can be planted in succession and used as a garden cover crop. Bees tend to visit early morning, after they have had their coffee. OK, so they don’t drink coffee, but they do tend to visit buckwheat first thing.
4. Catnip. An easy to grow perennial herb that is a favorite of bumble bees. Scientists have shown when you have more native bees, such as bumblebees, you also have better habitat for honeybees.
5. Cosmos. This 4- to 5-foot annual grows fast and offers a ready pollen source for most of summer with a range of white, yellow, pink and burgundy flowers.
6.Russian Sage. Perennial bush with blue flowers that has a long blooming period and attracts a variety of bees.
7. Sunflowers. Easy annual that provides pollen into fall; just remember to stake them to keep them from falling over.
8. Viper’s Bugloss. A perennial bush with blue flowers into the summer pollen dearth.
9. Wild Columbine. Easy-to-grow native shade perennial that is also a hummingbird favorite. Shady areas can be hard to grow in so try these.
10. Zinnias. This all-time favorite annual comes in a variety of colors, shapes and heights. It grows in any soil, withstands heat and is a favorite of many pollinators. They also make lovely cut flowers.
If you forget the list when you go shopping, find some bees and follow them to their flowers of choice.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a beekeeper and certified gardener. Copyright 2016, all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@gmail.com.