Top 21 Shrubs for Pollinators

There are many ways to attract pollinators to the garden. One of the best ways is by planting flowering shrubs! In this article, gardening expert and beekeeper Melissa Strauss shares 21 shrubs that will keep the bees returning to your garden for more.

A bee forages for nectar and pollen in a cluster of pink and white flowers.


Bees are very opportunistic. They have a lot of work to do in collecting pollen and nectar, and they are very serious about this task. They are also efficiency experts, so they will seek out areas where they can collect the maximum amount of resources in the closest proximity. Enter shrubs for pollinators. 

Flowering herbaceous plants are lovely and a great way to observe the occasional bumblebee or butterfly. However, when drawing the maximum number of bees to the garden, flowering shrubs are a surefire way to bring them in and keep them coming back. 

When selecting flowering plants for your pollinator garden, bee vision is something to consider. Bees see a broader range of colors than humans as they see ultraviolet light. This makes flowers in the blue and violet color family the most appealing varieties for bees. 

Bees do not see red. Instead, it appears to them as black, which they view as a potential threat and avoid. Hummingbirds, however, favor the color red, ensuring it still has value for your garden. 

I’d like to address the question of native vs. non-native plants regarding pollinator gardening. While it is essential for some native species, particularly butterflies, that certain native plants be present, this is not the case for honeybees. 

All honeybee species in North America are non-native bees imported from Eurasia and naturalized here. While they certainly will not turn up their noses at native nectar and pollen plants, they do not need exclusively native plants to thrive. 

Native bees (many of which are endangered), however, need the presence of native plants to survive. In short, a mixture of native and non-native pollen and nectar sources will provide most bees with the necessary resources. Here are 21 flowering shrubs that will bring a multitude of bees to your garden.

American Beautyberry

Close-up of a blooming Callicarpa Americana in a garden. Callicarpa americana, commonly known as American beautyberry, is a deciduous shrub. The leaves are simple, opposite, and green, with serrated edges. Inconspicuous pink to lavender flowers appear in the spring, attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
This is an excellent shrub for wildlife and aesthetics, with pink summer blooms that attract pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Callicarpa americana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 8’-12’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-11

American Beautyberry is an all-around wonderful shrub for wildlife and is beautiful, too! This fast-growing shrub explodes into a flower during the early summer months. Clusters of pale pink blooms are full of energy-boosting nectar for pollinators. 

This plant draws both bees and butterflies in summer, and pollination leads to something truly wonderful. As summer draws to a close, the green berries that appear after the flowers fall will ripen to a deep, rich magenta. These stunning clusters of berries stay on the bush long after the leaves have turned from green to gold and fallen to the ground. 

Overwintering birds will flock to your yard for these tasty berries that are also edible for humans. As a bonus, this plant is native to a large section of the southeastern United States. It is also the host plant for the spring azure butterfly. This plant supports the ecosystem in a variety of ways.


Close-up of blooming Rubus fruticosus, commonly known as blackberry, is a deciduous shrub that produces edible fruits. The leaves of the blackberry plant are palmately compound, composed of three to five leaflets. These leaflets are serrated along the edges and have a dark green color. Blackberry flowers are pale pink in color and have a simple, five-petal structure. A bee sits on one of the flowers.
These easy-care shrubs are a great addition to the garden, especially the thornless varieties for easier fruit picking.
botanical-name botanical name Rubus fruticosus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3’-10’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

My favorite thing about blackberry bushes is the delicious berries they produce. A close second, though, is how much the bees seem to enjoy the blossoms. As a beekeeper and a blackberry bush owner, I always find it very satisfying to see the honey bees enjoying blackberry blossoms because it means more fruit for my family and wonderful honey for me and the bees!

The easygoing nature of blackberry bushes makes them a great addition to the garden. They need very little care, and with little other than some spring fertilizer, these shrubs practically care for themselves. Thornless varieties make harvesting fruits much easier. 

Butterfly Bush

Close-up of a flowering Buddleia davidii bush. Buddleia davidii, commonly known as butterfly bush, is a deciduous shrub known for its distinctive appearance. The leaves of the butterfly bush are lance-shaped and gray-green in color. Butterfly bush is renowned for its long, conical clusters of small, tubular flowers. These flowers are purple in color with bright orange centers.
This beautiful bush attracts various pollinators with a long blooming season from early summer to fall.
botanical-name botanical name Buddleia davidii
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 5’-10’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Butterfly bush isn’t just for butterflies, although they love it. This shrub produces a substantial amount of nectar, which draws bees of all kinds for the energy boost that this plant reliably provides. 

Its long blooming season makes the butterfly bush desirable for a pollinator garden. Blooms can begin to appear in early summer and last through the fall. These large, colorful clusters of flowers are useful as well as beautiful. 

Although not picky about soil type, butterfly bushes need full sun to produce flowers. They are easy to grow, but poor drainage will be the death of these shrubs. Proper drainage is a must. This plant is invasive in many areas, so choose a sterile cultivar to avoid self-seeding.  


Close-up of a flowering Cephalanthus occidentalis plant, commonly known as buttonbush. Buttonbush has simple, opposite leaves that are glossy green and elliptical or lance-shaped. They have a slightly serrated margin. The plant's unique feature is its spherical flower clusters, which resemble buttons or small pincushions. These flower heads are made up of numerous tiny, tubular, white flowers.
This bush is a host plant for moths and butterflies, attracting various bees with its fragrance.
botanical-name botanical name Cephalanthus occidentalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6’-12’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-11

Buttonbush has an extensive native range in North America, so for gardeners concerned with maintaining a native ecosystem, this is a great plant. It is a host plant to many species of butterflies and moths, proving irresistible to both native and honey bees. 

This summer bloomer produces puffy white flower clusters made up of many smaller flowers. The white blooms are fragrant and nectar-rich and make for excellent honey. 

Grow buttonbush in soil that is consistently moist. This plant likes moisture and is perfectly happy in low-lying and wet areas. You might find a buttonbush growing wild along a riverbank or next to a pond. 


Close-up of a blooming Daphne plant in the garden. Daphne's leaves are usually simple, opposite, and have an elliptical-shaped form. The leaves are glossy green. Daphne produces small, fragrant flowers that are tubular or bell-shaped. These flowers are a delicate pink.
Daphne is a vital winter bloomer that provides early spring pollen and nectar for emerging bees.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 15’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

Winter bloomers are especially important to pollinator populations. Many pollinators hibernate or migrate to warmer regions in the winter, but those that don’t need to find food sources in the colder months. Daphne is an excellent shrub for providing overwintering bees with a source of pollen and nectar.

This will be one of the earliest spring-blooming shrubs in the garden, so when bees begin to emerge from their hibernation periods, they will flock to daphne shrubs looking for valuable nutrients to begin rebuilding their populations for the year ahead. 

Daphne plants like full sun and well-drained soil. Make sure to water them during the winter months, and give them a thick layer of mulch to protect the roots from a hard freeze. They can tolerate cold weather, but an extended hard freeze may cause some damage.

Guelder Rose

Close-up of a flowering Viburnum opulus, commonly known as European cranberrybush. The leaves of Viburnum opulus are opposite, palmately lobed, and three-lobed with serrated margins.They are medium green in color. The flowers are small and creamy white with five petals. They are borne in dense, flat-topped clusters (corymbs).
This fast-growing shrub resembles a rose, offering privacy and food for birds and pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Viburnum opulus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height up to 25’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Guelder rose is not a true rose but a species of viburnum and a member of the honeysuckle family. It is a large and fast-growing shrub that makes a nice privacy screen and provides a lot of food for pollinators and wild birds.

In late spring, bountiful clusters of white or pink flowers will have the bees humming a happy tune. Bees love to stay busy, and the sheer volume of flowers on a guelder rose shrub will do that for them. Red berries follow the flowers and provide food for birds in the fall. 


Close-up of a blooming Crataegus, commonly known as hawthorn, in a sunny garden. The leaves of Crataegus are small, alternate, and deeply lobed with serrated margins. Hawthorn produces small, fragrant, and white or pinkish flowers that appear in clusters.
Whether shrubs or trees, hawthorns attract various bee species with their profuse spring blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Crataegus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height Varies widely, up to 50’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Hawthorns can be shrubs or trees, depending on the variety and how you prune them. They are enticing to all species of bees and are often planted in fruit orchards to increase yield by drawing in pollinators in droves. 

Late spring is blooming time for hawthorns, and they produce lovely white blossoms in great numbers. Many different types of pollinators visit these flowers, but none are as fond of the plant as bees. Both native and non-native solitary or colony bees love hawthorn blossoms. 


Veronica speciosa, commonly known as the showy speedwell, is a flowering plant. The leaves are lance-shaped, opposite, and have serrated edges. They are dark green in color and arranged along the stems. The plant produces dense spikes of vibrant, pink tubular-shaped flowers. These flowers have four petals and a white throat, creating a striking and eye-catching display.
This shrub thrives with organic soil and full sun, offering bees sustenance during summer and fall.
botanical-name botanical name Veronica speciosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-11

This lovely native to New Zealand is a wonderfully versatile evergreen plant. Give this shrub plenty of organic material in the soil, and plant in full sun for bushier growth. Once it is established, Hebe has very manageable needs. 

Hebes come in a variety of foliage and flower colors. They bloom in summer and fall, providing a valuable food source for bees during the dearth that typically comes at the end of summer. The purple and blue flowered varieties are particularly well-liked by all species of bees. 


Close-up of a bee collecting pollen from a Hibiscus flower, in a sunny garden. Hibiscus leaves are dark green, glossy, and have a serrated margin. They are broad and have a simple, alternate arrangement on the stems. Hibiscus flowers are large, colorful, and trumpet-shaped. They are bright pink with a crimson-red center.
Hibiscus produces pollen-rich flowers that thrive in full sun, bloom in summer, and attract bees and hummingbirds.
botanical-name botanical name Hibiscus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 20’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-12

Many people think of tropical plants when hibiscus is mentioned, but some varieties of hibiscus are cold hardy, and they all have one thing in common. They all have large, nectar and pollen-rich flowers that pollinators love to visit. 

In tropical climates, hibiscus is evergreen and can flower nearly year-round. In cooler climates, hibiscuses are summer-blooming deciduous shrubs that lose their leaves in winter and sometimes die back to the ground. Some hardy varieties have very cold-tolerant roots.

Plant these flowering bushes in full sun and fertilize them regularly for the maximum number of flowers during their blooming season. Those flowers are certain to catch the eye of passing bees. Hummingbirds are very fond of hibiscus flowers as well. 


Close-up of a bee hovering near a blooming lavender in the garden. Lavender plants have narrow, elongated leaves that are grayish-green to green in color. Lavender produces clusters of small, tubular flowers on tall spikes. These flowers are purple.
Loved by bees for its fragrant flowers, lavender thrives in full sun.
botanical-name botanical name Lavandula
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2’-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Lavender is one of those plants that attracts all types of bees with its soothingly fragrant flowers. Humans aren’t the only ones who favor the scent of this Mediterranean herb; bees are very fond of lavender as well, and they will go out of their way to find it. Despite how tiny the individual flowers are on a lavender plant, they are full of pollen and nectar. 

Plant your lavender in full sun and poor soil. Lavender doesn’t like to be fertilized and is very drought tolerant. This is a plant that can easily be killed with kindness. Neglecting your lavender is better than overwatering or giving it too much care. 

Lavender is a small, shrubby plant that can grow quite large, up to three feet tall. Keep your lavender pruned for maximum blooms. One nice thing about this plant is that while it attracts bees, it repels wasps and yellow jackets! 


Close-up of a flowering Mahonia plant in a sunny garden. Mahonia features holly-like, pinnately compound leaves that are dark green and glossy. Each leaf consists of several leaflets arranged along a central stem, and the leaflets have spiky or toothed margins. Mahonia produces clusters of small, fragrant, bright yellow flowers.
Mahonia thrives in various sunlight conditions and should be pruned after flowering in the spring.
botanical-name botanical name Mahonia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 7’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

Winter-blooming shrubs have a special place and relationship in the lives of bees. Most bees semi-hibernate in winter but will set back out in search of food any time they can tolerate the temperatures. 

For this reason, plants that bloom in the winter months are vital, as they will be the only plants in bloom when those first bees emerge from their homes. They certainly emerge hungry, as many of them do not overwinter with a colony and extensive food stores like honey bees do. 

Mahonia is one of these winter-blooming shrubs, and the bees love it. Some varieties are fragrant, and others not so much. These shrubs are not picky about sunlight. They are fine in just about any exposure. Prune them in the spring after flowering.

Mock Orange

Close-up of a blooming Philadelphus, commonly known as mock orange, in a sunny garden. Philadelphus features simple, opposite leaves that are medium to dark green in color. The leaves are oval to lance-shaped with prominent veins and serrated edges. The plant produces ream-colored flowers. These flowers are large, with four or five petals and golden stamens in the centers.
This shrub has a short but attractive bloom time, with fragrant, nectar-rich flowers that bees love.
botanical-name botanical name Philadelphus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3’-10’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

This shrub does not have a very long bloom time, only a couple of weeks. However, it is very appealing to bees during that time because of its easily accessible and fragrant flowers. The plant gets its name from the similarity of these flowers to orange blossoms, which smell heavenly.

Mock orange flowers are very nectar-rich, attracting a great number of pollinators while it is in bloom. This is a bee magnet. Plant this shrub in full sun for the best blooming. Give it loose, well-drained soil for best root development.

New Zealand Tea Tree

Close-up of a blooming Leptospermum scoparium, commonly known as Manuka or Tea Tree, in a garden. Manuka has small, needle-like leaves that are dark green. The plant produces small, five-petaled flowers that come in various shades, including white and pink.
This tree is crucial for Manuka honey production and is known for its potent healing properties and high cost.
botanical-name botanical name Leptospermum scoparium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6’-10’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

This lovely evergreen plant is native to New Zealand and plays a unique role in honey production. Manuka honey is made almost exclusively from New Zealand tea tree nectar that is harvested by honey bees. The shrub blooms in spring with pink or white flowers. The foliage is aromatic when crushed. 

Manuka honey is renowned for being the most expensive honey in the world and for its purported healing properties and medicinal uses.

Russian Sage

Close-up of blooming Salvia yangii, commonly known as Russian Sage, in a sunny garden. Russian Sage has narrow, silvery-gray leaves that give the plant a distinctive and attractive appearance. The plant produces tall spikes of small, tubular, lavender-blue flowers. These flowers are densely packed along the stems, creating a striking display.
This bee-friendly, low-maintenance plant has abundant purple flowers requiring full sun.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3’-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Russian Sage provides an incredible amount of flowers and, therefore, food for bees. It is also very low-maintenance and tolerant of drought and soil types, but it needs full sun in order to produce the plethora of purple flowers which begin blooming in mid-summer and continue until frost. 

The long and prolific blooming habit, paired with the color of the flowers, which is blueish purple, makes this a wonderful plant for feeding the bees. It will consistently be a favorite of theirs in the garden, as there is much nectar to gather from each individual plant. 


Close-up of a flowering Symphoricarpos plant, commonly known as snowberry. Snowberry shrubs have simple, opposite leaves with an elliptical to ovate shape. The leaves are medium to dark green in color and have a matte texture. The plant produces small, bell-shaped flowers that are white in color. These flowers are arranged in clusters along the stems.
This bee-attracting plant with pink flowers adapts to various soils and can grow in sun or partial shade.
botanical-name botanical name Symphoricarpos
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3’-6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-7

Snowberry is a winner for attracting sweat bees, bumblebees, and honey bees. It produces plenty of small, pink, bell-shaped flowers from early to late summer. Berries follow the flowers in fall and also draw songbirds to the garden. 

Snowberry is very adaptable to different soil types. It is self-fertile, so only one plant is needed to produce fruit.  It can thrive in full sun and partial shade but will flower best in full sun. This plant is very drought tolerant once it is mature. 


Close-up of blooming Lindera benzoin, commonly known as spicebush, against a blurred background. Spicebush produces small, fragrant, yellow flowers that are clustered along the branches.
Known for its aromatic stems and foliage, spicebush blooms in spring with nectar-rich flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Lindera benzoin
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 8’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Spicebush is best known for its aromatic stems and foliage. When crushed, these parts of the plant have a spicy scent. While attractive year-round, the flowers bloom in spring, followed by green foliage in summer that turns yellow in the fall. Red drupes mature in the fall and provide food for overwintering birds. 

Because of its early spring blooming habit, spicebush provides an important, early food source for bees. The flowers are nectar and pollen-rich and bloom in great numbers, making this a great plant for helping bees conserve energy. Spicebush is also a host plant to several North American butterflies and moths. 

Sweet Almond Bush

Close-up of a flowering bush Aloysia virgata, commonly known as sweet almond bush. The leaves of Aloysia virgata are lance-shaped, narrow, and dark green in color. They are arranged alternately along the stems and have serrated edges. This shrub produces clusters of small, tubular, white flowers.
This bush is a top pollinator plant, blooming from summer to the first freeze while attracting bees.
botanical-name botanical name Aloysia virgata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

This is one of my favorite pollinator plants. It begins blooming in summer, and the flowers continue until the first freeze in cooler climates. In Zones 8-9, sweet almond bush dies back to the ground in winter and regrows in spring. In zones 10-11, this is an evergreen plant with an extra long bloom time. 

I never walk past this plant without seeing a half dozen bees. Bumble bees and honey bees are especially fond of these flowers. The best thing about this plant is the fragrance of the flowers. Though not related to almonds, the flowers have a fragrance that smells like fine almond soap. It is clean and sweet and irresistible to pollinators.

Sweet Box

Close-up of Sarcococca bush, commonly known as sweet box. Sarcococca shrubs have dark green, glossy, and leathery leaves. The leaves are lance-shaped and arranged alternately along the stems. Sweet box produces small, inconspicuous flowers that are white or creamy in color.
This plant thrives in shade, producing fragrant white spring flowers that feed early pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Sarcococca
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 3’-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

Sweet box is a wonderful plant for the shade garden. It thrives in partial to full shade. This attractive shrub has glossy, deep green foliage and produces very fragrant white flowers in spring. Not only is this plant shade tolerant, but it is one of few shade plants that is also quite drought tolerant.

Flowers appear in January and February, making this an important food source for pollinators, including queen bumblebees preparing to raise a new colony. The fragrant flowers are small but plentiful and nectar-rich.


Close-up of Viburnum 'Snowball,' also known as Viburnum opulus 'Roseum,' in bloom in a garden. The leaves are deciduous and dark green in color. They are opposite in arrangement, with a simple, serrated edge. The plants produce large, round clusters of white, snowball-like flowers. These flowers are sterile.
These versatile shrubs attract various pollinators with their spring blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Viburnum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3’-8’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-9

Viburnums are a large genus of flowering evergreen and deciduous shrubs. Most of the deciduous varieties have attractive and colorful fall foliage, although foliage varies widely among species. They bloom best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade, especially in the afternoon. Moist, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil is their ideal environment, but viburnums aren’t picky.

Viburnums attract many pollinators with their clusters of pretty white flowers in spring. Butterflies and moths, as well as hoverflies, are all known to pollinate these blooms. Regarding bees that prefer sweet nectar from viburnum flowers, these shrubs are most likely to attract long-tongued and halictid bees. 

Wild Rose

Close-up of a bee pollinating Wild roses in the garden, against the blue sky. The leaves of wild roses are pinnately compound, meaning they consist of multiple leaflets arranged along a central stem. The leaflets are serrated along the edges. Wild roses produce single flowers with five pink petals.
Wild and rambling roses, particularly fragrant ones with open blooms, are favored by bees for their pollen.
botanical-name botanical name Rosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Not all rose bushes attract bees, but some happen to be some of the most attractive on this list. Wild roses, to be specific, and rambling roses especially, are very attractive to bees. Roses that open fully to expose their reproductive parts are the easiest for bees to harvest pollen and nectar from. 

Fragrant roses are typically going to be more attractive to pollinators. However, bees will avoid red roses, as they don’t see the color and associate it with danger. Bees love roses with high pollen content. This important source of protein helps to sustain a colony through the winter. 


Close-up of Willow (Salix) shrub in the garden. Willow leaves are elongated and narrow, with a lanceolate or elliptical shape. The lower leaves are variegated dark green with white markings and the upper leaves are variegated with pink and white markings.
These fast-growing deciduous trees and shrubs attract mining bees with their flowering catkins in late spring.
botanical-name botanical name Salix
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 15’-25’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-10

Willows are a large genus of deciduous trees and shrubs that typically prefer cooler climates and moist soil. They are fast-growing and typically short-lived, although some species grow quite large (50’) and have longer lifespans. 

Flowering catkins appear in late spring and are a very good source of pollen. Although willows don’t rely upon bees for pollination, bees are fond of them. 

Mining bees are a very common visitor to willows during their blooming season. The best types of willow plants for bees are those with larger catkins, such as S. caprea and S. hookeriana.

Final Thoughts

There is no shortage of flowering shrubs and trees that appeal to bees as convenient and reliable food sources. By planting these flowering shrubs in your garden, you will provide bee populations with a place to collect resources without having to travel long distances to do so. 

Remember that the more flowers in close proximity to each other, the more bees will be attracted to and return to a particular spot. Planting flowering shrubs is the best way to achieve this purpose in the garden.

Close up of a beautiful shrub with burgundy foliage and dangling violet blossoms shines in the sun.


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