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California Native Plants That Bees Can’t Resist

Native Plants That Bees Can’t Resist

Bob Sussman-Matlijia

“In theory, theory
and practice are the same. In practice they are not.” Yogi Berra

(Here are a few additional notes since our original article.  Fall/winter are are times of there year when not much is in flower. The bees need flowers-food all year. Here’s one of our natives (Isomeris arbor-bladderpod) that flowers from fall into early spring and fills the food void. These grow from the coast to the desert. They like full on hot sun and terrible soil. Once established they are on their own-no care required. Not only do the bees love them but the hummingbirds too and here’s an epic move to look at too )

There are tons of books, articles on the web, and scientific info.  that will tell you what plants attract bees and why.  Some info. will tell you to plant flowers that have purple, yellow, or white flowers to draw more bees to the garden. Well some purple flowers attract more than others and bees aren’t supposed to see red yet some red flowering plants attract plenty of bees.  Truth is most flowering plants do indeed attract bees since most plants are pollenated by bees. In the bee attraction business sometimes theory and practice

diverge. Some flowers draw more bees than others and you can see it, those are
the ones you want for your garden.  You want the flowers that cause the bees to go “beemanic”.  Here’s a list of the big “5” bee attractants at the nursery, this may not jibe with scientific theory but in practice it works.

Number 5

Abutilon palmeri-a desert native and a member of the mallow family, it gets covered with orange- gold poppy colored flowers.  They flower from spring through fall require
full sun and are about 3’ x 4’.  They seem to benefit for an annual trimming.


Number 4

Galvezia – Island Snapdragon-
there are a few species and selections of Galvezia but they all come from
either the Channel Islands off the coast of California or Cedros Island off the
coast of Mexico.  The Galvezia’s vary in
size but are roughly 3’x3’, generally grow in semi-shade to full sun, flower
from spring through fall. Their red tube flowers also attract hummingbirds. The
Galviezia in the picture is Galvezia ‘Gran Canon’ and it flowers than most of
the other verities, while they attract several types of bees this is the only
one that would sit still long enough for me to focus the camera.

Number 3

Sphaeralcea-Desert Mallows grow throughout the southwest and
Mexico. They can range in color from red to light pink. While there is some
variation in size, roughly 4’ x 4’ will be a pretty close approximation of what
it will do in your garden.  We grow
mostly the orange flowering verity at the nursery we also have the pink
flowering verity growing too and they seem to prefer the pink to the orange.

This is the orange verity as you can see and below is
the pink flowering verity.

Number 2                                                                                   

Romenya coulteri-Matilija Poppy-
The Matilija poppy has the largest flowers of any poppy in the poppy family. It
can be a large perennial shrub and its native range is from Monterey County to Baja
Mexico growing sporatically  about 30+/-
inland from the Pacific Ocean. They are spring flowering but with a bit of
watering the flowering can be extended through summer.

Number 1

Monardella odoratissima-Mountain Mint-Mountain Beebalm-is a
small growing perennial with purple to lavender flowers and a very strong minty
fragrance. It’s got to be a big nectar and pollen producer because they attract
all kinds of bees and butterflies. In nature they grow from California to
Washington and inland as far as Utah. They flower from spring through fall if
you occasionally deadhead – chop back the old flowers and leggy growth.


I know there are lots of lists of plants that attract bees
but the bees at our nursery fly by many of those to land, collect nectar, and
pollen from these.  Why? I couldn’t tell you
the scientific reason this is only the observation, the bees know and they
aren’t saying!

To see the bees performing live you can check out our
YouTube page:

Or even better come down to the nursery, pop the truck, and
take some of these home for your garden and watch the beeeeeeeeessss!


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Featured Plant



Botanical Name

Umbellularia californica

Common Name

bay laurel


Flower Color


Mature Size

30' tall × 20' wide

Climactic Requirements


Full Sun / Filtered Sun / Part Shade


Occasional / Moderate / Regular
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