If you’re here, you’ve probably heard about colony collapse and the effects on the California agricultural industry (and honestly if you haven’t, then it’s definitely time you did). Activist groups, agriculture professors, and farmers everywhere are warning of the dangers of the honey bee shortage and why you should care. Do you like almonds or almond milk? What about apples, pears, avocados, peaches, or plums? Bees are critical in maintaining healthy crops throughout the main agricultural areas of the United States, and their numbers have been greatly declining.

So, what can you do at home to help improve the bee population?

One great way to increase the number of bees in your area is to plant a bee garden. And, because we’re all about the native (drought tolerant) plants in Northern California, the best thing you can do is plant a California bee garden made up of native plant species.

Let’s get down to it – what plants should you include in your Norther California Native Bee Garden?

  1. Gumplant

Why bees like it: part of the sunflower family, gum plant provides plenty of pollen and a strong fragrance (and the flowers are mighty cute, too).

When to plant: spring

  1. Blue Elderberry

Why bees like it: bees, birds, and other insects are attracted to the blue flowers and fruits of the blue elderberry, making it a great addition to your native bee garden.

When to plant: spring

  1. Checkerbloom

Why bees like it: because the flowers open during the day and twist closed at night, they make for great hideaways for sleepy bees. Next time you walk by, try gently opening one to see if there’s a cozy bee inside.

When to plant: late fall

  1. Gooseberry

Why bees like it: bees love the flowers of the gooseberry shrub, helping to increase fruit yield by up to 5-7 times.

When to plant: late autumn/early spring

  1. California Wild Rose

Why bees like it: these delicate pink flowers are fragrant, and the wild rose attracts bees wherever it grows. The fruit is edible, and the rose hips are often used for tea.

When to plant: spring

  1. California ButtercupCalifornia Honey Bees in Sacramento Garden.

Why bees like it: native bees love the fragrant flowers, but be aware that the CA buttercup dies off in summer, only to return again from seed the following spring. The flowers are also edible to humans.

When to plant: late winter/early spring

  1. Narrow-leafed Milkweed

Why bees like it: milkweed not only attracts plenty of honey bees, but monarch butterflies will only lay their eggs on the leaves of this native Northern California plant.

When to plant: spring

  1. California Fuchsia

Why bees like it: the California Fuchsia is a late season bloomer, meaning that bees can flock to these flowers when other plants in your garden are dormant.

When to plant: late winter/early spring

  1. Black Sage

Why bees like it: this draught tolerant plant stays green all year round, and when flowers bloom in spring you’ll find not just bees gravitating toward it, but hummingbirds and butterflies, too.

When to plant: early fall

  1. California Aster

Why bees like it: this is another late bloomer, so the dainty purple flowers will add variety and color to your garden as well as nectar for hungry bees.

When to plant: late winter

  1. California Bee Plant

Why bees like it: the maroon flowers are small, but they are potent. Native bees as well as checkerspot butterfly caterpillars and other insects can be found around this perennial.

When to plant: spring

  1. Yampah

Why bees like it: this perennial herb dies off in fall but regrows in early winter, making way for white, bushy flowers that bloom in summer.

When to plant: winter

  1. California Matchweed

Why bees like it: also called Snakeweed, the Matchweed plant produces small yellow flowers that bloom in early summer, making a tasty treat for your local bees and butterflies.

When to plant: spring

  1. Yarrow

Why bees like it: this is another draught tolerant plant, making it a great choice for your Northern California native bee garden. The white flowers form in clusters, and the California yarrow is a perennial plant.

When to plant: spring

  1. Coyote Mint

Why bees like it: bumblebees especially like the coyote mint, and this low-growing plant offers good ground coverage for your native plant garden.

When to plant: spring

  1. Blue Eyed Grass

Why bees like it: blue eyed grass is actually part of the iris family, offering vibrant blue and purple flowers that bees and birds love.

When to plant: late winter

  1. California Poppy

Why bees like it: you’ll often see bees gathering pollen from the California poppy. Much like the checkerbloom, bees will curl up to sleep inside the poppy flower, which closes up each night.

When to plant: early spring

  1. Sticky Monkeyflower

Why bees like it: another beautiful orange flower, this native California subshrub is home to caterpillars, bees, butterflies and more.

When to plant: late winter

  1. Tansy Leafed Phacelia

Why bees like it: bees love the purple flowers because they’re rich in nectar and they smell sweet (people love them because the pollen is purple – how cool is that?). Be sure to try some phacelia honey, too!

When to plant: spring or summerHoney bee gathering pollen from native flowers in CA, with gardening tips from Low Flow Sprinkler Pros.

  1. California Buckwheat

Why bees like it: buckwheat gives bees delicious nectar, and the flowers bloom from May to October ensuring that your garden always has color in it.

When to plant: late fall/early winter

What Native Plants are in Your Bee Garden?

The plants we’ve listed above are by no means the only native species that will attract honey bees. Share with us what native plants you’re using for your Northern California bee garden in the comments below. For more information on native plant species for your bee garden, visit the California Native Plant Society and the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab