Though our Buzzing Gardens seed packets contain a selection of flowers recommended by biologists at Pollinator Partnership for gardens across the country, that doesn’t mean that our selection has to be the beginning and the end of yours! Some native plants occur throughout Canada, but many more are unique and local to each province. Pollinator gardens can be as big and as varied as you want them to be. To help you make a statement with your flowering plants, we’ve put together a list of other plants that you can grow to attract honey bees.
Recommended provinces for each variety are indicated.
Seaside Heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum)
(AB, SK, MB)
From the same family as borage, the seaside heliotrope blooms from late spring through to autumn. When flowering, the herb has long, curled florets of small, closely packed flowers. Though the outer edges of the flowers are white, the centre can range from purple to yellow, even on the same plant!
Golden Heather (Hudsonia ericoides)
(NS, NFLD, PEI)
Despite the name, this plant isn’t actually related to the famous Scottish heather, but does resemble the low-growing shrub. Golden heather is a dense, almost succulent-like flowering plant that sets very shallow roots, making it ideal for sandy and rocky soils. The flowers themselves are tightly packed and yellow, with five pointed petals.
Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
(ON, QC, NB, NS)
Flowering in June, the foxglove beardtongue is a tall-stemmed plant that grows about three feet high. The white flowers are tubular and long, providing nectar to honey bees and hummingbirds. The name “beardtongue” comes from the appearance of hair on the stamen within the flower.
Prairie Crocus (Pulsatilla patens)
(BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, YT, NWT, NU)
The provincial flower of Manitoba, the prairie crocus is a low-growing plant with single stems for each bud. The flowers are a bright blue or purple with six pointed petals. Flourishing in the late spring and early summer, the plant’s leaves are thin and divided into many segments. The best part of the prairie crocus, however, is that it’s a long-lived perennial, spreading into multiple flowers the longer it remains planted!
Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
(MB, ON, QC, NB, NS, PEI, NFLD, NU)
The lowbush blueberry is farmed commercially in Canada, but also grows wild in pine forests, as the needles provide acidic soil. Though the bush doesn’t flourish in its first few years, in later years it will provide abundant flowers as well as delicious and easily picked blueberries.
Lavender Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
(BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, NWT)
This sweet-smelling herb gets all of its scent from its leaves, but still attracts honey bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. With tall florets of tiny purple flowers, this variety of hyssop has a distinctly licorice-like taste, and its leaves can be picked and dried for use in tea and sweet desserts. It’s a long-lived perennial that blooms all summer long.
Wild Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
(All of Canada)
From the same family as garlic, chives are easily grown herbs that thrive across the country. The stems are long and thin, but grow in large clusters close to the ground. On each stem, a near-circular purple bloom will attract honey bees during the spring, and remarkably the plant will also repel many other unwanted insects. When harvested, the stems can be minced into salads and dips, with a spicy onion-like flavour.
Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
(All of Canada)
Like the lowbush blueberry, the raspberry is farmed all over the world, but also grows wild all over Canada. Typically, the plant won’t flower until its second or third year, after which it will offer soft white blossoms with rounded petals. After pollination, there will be an abundance of fruit in the late summer or early autumn, ripe for harvesting.