By Jennifer Poindexter
This may seem like an uncommon gardening thought, but have you ever considered which flowers you may grow which don’t attract bees?
I know, most gardeners are looking to plant things which invite these magnificent little pollinators to their growing space.
However, there are some instances where bees aren’t welcome. What if you’re someone who is extremely allergic to bees or have an extreme fear of them?
If you fall in either of these categories, you’re in the right place. I’m going to walk you through which flowers to incorporate into your garden that are known for not attracting bees.
Here’s what you need to know when searching for flowers that don’t attract bees:
What You’ll Learn:
- Understanding why bees are attracted to certain flowers and how to choose bee-repelling varieties.
- The significance of color wavelengths and fragrance in attracting or repelling bees.
- Specific flowers that are less attractive to bees, ideal for people with allergies or fears.
- How to grow various bee-repellent flowers, considering their specific needs like sunlight, soil type, and hardiness zones.
Why Aren’t Bees Attracted to Certain Flowers?
Bees are mystifying creatures that we’re still learning about. However, scientists have learned a few things about them, and we can add these facts together to learn what may help keep bees out of your garden.
Here are a few things to consider when selecting plants for your garden to keep bees away:
- Bees see color in wavelengths. The longer the wavelength the brighter the color is to them, so the more they’re drawn to it (i.e., lighter colored blooms). The shorter the wavelength, the darker the color, so the harder it is for bees to see (i.e., darker colored blooms).
- Due to wavelengths, bees don’t like the color red. It has shorter wavelengths, so red appears black to bees which is difficult for them to see.
- Bees are attracted to fragrances. If a plant produces a pungent odor versus a floral fragrance, bees should stay away.
- Bees come to flowers for pollen or nectar. If the flowers don’t produce much, they have little reason to be there.
- If you plant flowers with smaller blooms, it makes it difficult for the bee to maneuver. The harder it is for the bees to access the plant, the less likely they are to visit it.
Now that you understand a few characteristics which help in keeping bees away, let’s discuss your flower options.
Flowers Which Don’t Attract Bees to the Garden
You now have a few things to keep in mind when planting flowers to avoid bees. If you need some inspiration as to which plants may fit into this category, here’s a list of flowers which help you avoid bees in your garden:
1. Red Lilies
As discussed earlier, most bees don’t draw to red flowers because they’re difficult for them to see. Red lilies fit into this category and in turn, shouldn’t draw bees to the growing location. Should you wish to add this plant to your landscape, be sure to supply it with full to partial sunlight and soil that’s lighter and well-draining.
There are many different varieties of red lilies such as the red highland lily or the red spider lily. Their hardiness depends upon the variety, but a general rule-of-thumb is these flowers remain hardy in planting zones five through eight.
I am a beekeeper. My husband and I have raised bees for almost ten years. In my experience, my bees enjoy the petunias I grow each year because of the shape of their blooms and the colors I plant. However, I don’t grow red petunias because I know bees prefer lighter colored flowers.
Therefore, if you like petunias but aren’t a fan of bees, consider planting red varieties. These flowers thrive in areas with plenty of sunlight as this encourages prolific blooming. Petunias also need well-draining soil. These flowers are usually grown as annuals since they only remain hardy in planting zones nine and higher.
3. Cardinal Vine
The cardinal vine produces wispy foliage and bright red blooms. It’s a beautiful plant which can become as long as fifteen feet.
When growing the cardinal vine, it prefers ample sunlight and well-draining soil. It also remains hardy in planting zones ten and higher, so in most cases, the plant is grown as an annual. Like other flowers mentioned on this list, this plant doesn’t normally draw bees due to its coloring.
Feverfew is a great flower for adding subtle life and color to a growing space. These flowers range in height between one and two feet and can become equally as wide. They produce green foliage and daisy-like blooms.
Feverfew isn’t attractive to bees due to its fragrance. If this is a flower you’d be interested in growing, pick a location with full to partial sunlight with soil that’s well-draining. Expect these flowers to remain hardy in planting zones five through nine.
Forsythia are gorgeous bushes which produce rich yellow flowers during early spring, and they only last for a couple of weeks. This is why bees aren’t drawn to forsythia because they aren’t a great source of pollen.
If you’d like to add forsythia to your landscape, provide a growing location with full sunlight and soil that’s nutritious and well-draining. These bushes become as tall as ten feet and remain hardy in planting zones four through nine.
Citronella is a great plant to have around during the warm months as it’s known for deterring mosquitos. However, this plant’s scent also deters bees.
Should this be your goal, be sure to grow citronella where it has full to partial sunlight and quality soil which drains adequately. Citronella is most commonly grown as an annual since it’s only hardy in zones ten and higher.
Mums are beautiful flowers which are enjoyed around many homes throughout most seasons. When chrysanthemums bloom depends upon their variety. Some can bloom as early as late spring while some hold off until fall.
If you’re interested in growing chrysanthemums, you’ll be relieved to know that they aren’t great at drawing pollinators. Due to their layered blooms, they aren’t a great source of pollen. When growing these flowers, pick a location with well-draining soil and partial sunlight. Mums remain hardy in planting zones five through nine.
When I think of geraniums, I become nostalgic because they’re a vivid part of my childhood. My grandmother grew gorgeous red geraniums year after year. With basic information on their growing conditions, you may be able to produce geraniums as well.
Geraniums aren’t great for attracting bees due to their red color. It’s difficult for the bees to see them. If you’re interested in adding this flower to your garden or landscape, select a location with plenty of full sunlight and soil that’s nutritious and drains adequately. Geraniums are normally grown as annuals, but there are some perennial varieties which are known for being hardy in planting zones three through nine.
Tulips are beautiful traditional flowers that make wonderful additions to the garden. These flowers are early bloomers which start in March and usually run their course by the end of May. Sometimes, their blooming period ends sooner depending upon how cold the temperatures are.
If you’re interested in adding these flowers to your landscape, you’ll be glad to know that they don’t normally draw pollinators due to being a poor source for nectar. Tulips must grow in areas with full to partial sunlight and soil that’s amended and drains adequately. They thrive in areas with cooler weather, so they remain hardy in planting zones three through seven. You must take extra steps to successfully grow tulips in warmer climates.
Amaryllis are some of my favorite flowers. I was given one quite a few years ago for Christmas and have enjoyed it (and have given multiple each Christmas thereafter). Not only are these flowers gorgeous and easy to care for, they don’t draw pollinators since the nectar is too difficult for bees to reach.
When growing an amaryllis, you may grow it in the ground or in a pot. With either growing method, it’ll need plenty of sunlight and soil that’s well-draining. These plants typically bloom from December until early summer. Then can be stored in a closet or greenhouse during their dormancy period. If grown outdoors, amaryllis remain hardy in planting zones eight through ten.
Maltese cross plants grow long stems and small clusters of blooms. These flowers can grow as tall as four feet and as wide as two feet. Though there are some pink varieties of this plant, they’re most commonly red. For this reason, bees aren’t attracted to them.
If you’d like to grow Maltese cross around your home, select a growing location with full sunlight and soil that’s well-aerated, nutritious, and drains well. These flowers prefer a growing climate on the dryer side. Expect Maltese cross to remain hardy in planting zones three through nine.
Roses are beautiful, but they don’t attract pollinators in most cases. When the blooms are tight, the way most people enjoy them, the pollinators will find this too great a task when trying to access the inside of the bloom. The only time they may be drawn to these plants is if the blooms open.
Also, roses come in red varieties which also don’t attract bees. When growing roses, they need a location with plenty of sunlight and soil that’s well-draining and high in nutrients. They also prefer to remain evenly damp. Roses should remain hardy in planting zones five through eight.
Begonias are flowering plants which produce rich green foliage and small blooms which range in color from yellow, pink, red, orange, and white. These flowers aren’t a great attraction to pollinators due to the small amount of nectar they contain.
Should you grow begonias, provide them with partial shade and soil that’s evenly damp and well-draining. Begonias are usually grown as annuals since they only remain hardy in planting zones nine and ten. These plants may also be overwintered indoors.
Marigolds are some of my favorite flowers to grow. In fact, I grow them in my garden each year and have for over twelve years now. They’re wonderful for adding color to your garden while also keeping pests at bay.
Though I’m a beekeeper, I plant lots of other things for our bees to feast upon. If you’re someone who doesn’t want bees in your landscape, marigolds could make a great choice since the layered blooms of the marigold flowers makes them undesirable to bees. When growing these flowers, ensure they have full sunlight and soil that’s aerated, nutritious, and drains adequately. Marigolds grow well in all planting zones but are considered true annuals.
15. Cardinal Flower
The last flower you may grow in your garden that shouldn’t attract bees is the cardinal flower. This plant has a base of green leaves and produces longer stems with red blooms on them. Cardinal flowers become as tall as four feet.
Due to their red coloring, bees aren’t drawn to them. Their shape also makes it difficult for the bees to gain access. If you’d like to incorporate this plant into your landscape, it’ll need soil that’s evenly damp and well-draining. This plant thrives in most lighting and most types of soil. Expect cardinal flowers to remain hardy in planting zones three through nine.
You now have fifteen different options for flowers that won’t attract bees. No matter your reasoning for wishing to avoid bees in your garden, there should be something on this list which can help you create a beautiful landscape.
Remember to pick flowers that work for the growing conditions you can provide and those which also work well for your planting zone. Provide adequate care to your plants and hopefully you’ll have an amazing garden space for your enjoyment.
- Bees are drawn to lighter-colored blooms and fragrant flowers; choosing darker, less fragrant varieties can reduce their presence.
- Red flowers like Red Lilies, Cardinal Vine, and Geraniums are less visible to bees and thus less attractive.
- Flowers with smaller blooms or complex structures, like Chrysanthemums and Marigolds, are less appealing to bees.
- Non-pollinator-friendly flowers, such as Forsythia and Tulips, offer minimal nectar or pollen, deterring bee visits.
- Ensuring that selected flowers match your garden’s conditions and planting zone is crucial for a successful, bee-reduced garden.
Frequently Asked Questions About Avoiding Bees While Gardening
Why are bees important in gardens?
- Answer: Bees are crucial in the garden as pollinators. They pollinate fruit trees, farm crops, and almost all native plants, aiding their reproduction. Our gardening writers have covered pollination in depth. Refer to this article to learn more about how to attract pollinators.
How can I prevent getting stung by bees in the garden?
- Answer: To avoid bee stings, avoid wearing strong perfumes and scented lotions. It also helps to move slowly near flowers, be cautious with your hands around bees, and never walk barefoot in the garden or lawn.
Where do bumblebees and yellow jackets build their nests?
- Answer: Bumblebees and yellow jackets typically build shallow underground nests. Bumblebees tend to prefer grassy areas near woods or rocks. Yellow jackets favor soft soil in sunny, grass-protected locations.
What plants attract bees and should be avoided by those with allergies?
- Answer: Plants like Joe Pye weed, Monarda, Echinacea, azaleas, abelia bushes, chaste trees, butterfly bushes, Mexican sunflowers, salvias, snapdragons, sedums, and phlox are known to attract bees.
Quick Reference Growing Chart for Flowers that Do Not Attract Bees
|Full to partial sunlight
|Plenty of sunlight
|Thrives with prolific blooming
|Can grow up to 15 feet long
|Full to partial sunlight
|Daisy-like blooms, 1-2 feet tall and wide
|Early spring bloomers, short flowering period
|Full to partial sunlight
|Mosquito-repellent, also deters bees
|Bloom timing varies, layered blooms
|Plenty of full sunlight
|Perennial varieties available, nostalgic appeal
|Full to partial sunlight
|Early bloomers, poor nectar source
|Plenty of sunlight
|Can be grown in pot or ground, Christmas favorite
|Well-aerated, nutritious, well-draining
|Prefers drier climates
|Plenty of sunlight
|Well-draining, high in nutrients
|Tight blooms less attractive to bees
|Yellow, Pink, Red, Orange, White
|Evenly damp, well-draining
|Small blooms, overwinter indoors
|Aerated, nutritious, well-draining
|All zones (annual)
|Layered blooms, pest-repellent
|Evenly damp, well-draining
|Attractive red blooms, up to 4 feet tall