For several years, I have recorded which flowers I see bees feeding on in my yard and elsewhere in Southern California, as well as the dates I see them. For example, this month I noted that there are many bees visiting the flowers of my bolted greens (above).

Below is a list that I compiled based on these notes. Month by month, it shows which flowering plants that I’ve seen many bees consistently feeding on.

Flowers for bees in each month of the year in Southern California

January: blueberry, borage, encelia, gaillardia, lavender, manzanita, mustard, rosemary, salvia chamaedryoides, sugar bush

February: blueberry, borage, ceanothus, encelia, gaillardia, lavender, mustard, poppy, rosemary, sugar bush

March: blueberry, borage, ceanothus, encelia, filaree, gaillardia, lavender, poppy, mustard, stone fruit trees

April: avocados, blueberry, borage, ceanothus, citrus trees, encelia, gaillardia, gilia, lavender, monkey flowers, phacelia tanacetifolia, poppy, stone fruit trees, woolly blue curls

May: black sage, gilia, lavender, monkey flowers, phacelia tanacetifolia, sunflowers, woolly blue curls

June: buckwheat, coreopsis, oregano, sumac, sunflowers, woolly blue curls 

July: buckwheat, oregano, sunflowers 

August: buckwheat, sunflowers

September: buckwheat, sunflowers

October: buckwheat, cosmos, coyote bush, gaillardia

November: borage, coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, lavender, oregano, rosemary

December: borage, coreopsis, gaillardia, lavender, oregano, rosemary

Honey bee feeding on borage flower.

Full names of some plants

Here are the full names, scientific names, other names, and cultivar names of some of the plants in the list:

lavender is Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’ and ‘Goodwin Creek’

gaillardia is Gaillardia pulchella

encelia is Encelia californica, also called California coast sunflower or bush sunflower

salvia chamaedryoides is also called Germander sage

sugar bush is Rhus ovata

borage is Borago officinalis

ceanothus is ‘Julia Phelps’ and ‘South Coast Blue’ and ‘Ray Hartman’

filaree is different species of Erodium; it’s a weed, but the bees do love it

black sage is Salvia mellifera

woolly blue curls is Trichostema lanatum

monkey flowers is Mimulus aurantiacus or Diplacus aurantiacus

buckwheat is Eriogonum fasciculatum

cosmos is Cosmos bipinnatus

gilia is Gilia capitata

coyote bush is Baccharis pilularis

rosemary is Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostrate’

coreopsis is Coreopsis lanceolata

poppies is Eschscholzia californica

sunflowers is Helianthus annuus (‘Lemon Queen’ is a good one for bees but so are many others)

oregano is ? (I don’t know which kind of oregano is in my yard, but I’ve seen that lots of different types of oregano appeal to bees so it probably isn’t important)

cilantro is Coriandrum sativum

Native bee on cilantro flower (among avocado leaves).

A couple notes about the list

Often, due to the weather of a particular year or a yard’s location, these plants can be in bloom and attractive to bees in other months as well.

In addition to bees, these flowering plants are almost all used by other beneficial insects. What do I mean by beneficial insects? I’m talking about insects that prey on other bugs that can be pests to our plants. I’m talking about beneficial insects like syrphid flies (hover flies) and lady bugs.

Bumblebee on left, syrphid fly on right, both visiting ceanothus flowers in my yard.

(See my post about how syrphid flies protect our citrus trees: “Citrus, ants, and HLB: the latest research.”)

What’s the point of this list?

As you know, bees are vital to the production of most fruits and vegetables. Without their pollination activities, many of our food-garden plants would not produce. And in order to ensure that bees have a high presence in our gardens and groves we should provide food for them. What is food for bees? Flowers. The pollen and nectar of flowers.

In order to have the highest number of bees and diversity of types of bees, there must be plenty in bloom in our yards (or our neighborhood) all year long. So if you notice a period of time where there’s nothing for the bees to eat in the area, refer to the list and plant to fill that gap.

Last year, I noticed that I didn’t have as many flowers for bees as I thought I should through the late fall and early winter so I planted more lavender and rosemary and encelia and borage.

Now here in late January, exactly one year later, these new plants are finally providing dividends. Some are just starting to bloom whereas others have been in profuse bloom for months already. It is working!

This morning there were many honey bees, including this one, visiting the rosemary that I planted last January.

Your contribution

Can you add to the list? Which other plants have you noticed bees heavily feeding on in a particular month? I know there are many others that I haven’t listed.

More bees and flowers posts

Check out these related posts I’ve written:

“Growing a bee garden in Southern California.”

“California Bees and Blooms: a book review.”

“Oh, the mistakes I’ve made: Thinking flowers were for girls.”

“Coyote bush for bees in October”

“Bees on flowers in Southern California”

“Ceanothus: blue bush on the hills”

“Monkey flowers: native plant for bees”

“Woolly blue curls: native plant for bees”

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