After a long cold winter, pollinators are on the wing looking for food. Early spring nectar is particularly important for early-emerging queen bumblebees and other solitary bees, as well some butterflies, and pollinator flies and beetles. When daytime temperatures edge up into the 50 degree+ mark you might notice them buzzing about.
Their options are limited in these very early months before the flowering fruit trees kick into bloom, but if you’ll plant a few of the nectar sources below, you can help them start the season all fat and happy.
(Above) Bees love the profusion of late-winter and early-spring flowers on Pieris shrubs, like this Enchanted Forest® River Nymph™ variety, which is covered in white blooms. Flowers bud in late winter and open in very early spring. Up to 6' tall and wide. Zones 6-8.
These are just a small selection of plants that are valuable sources of early-season nectar. Please consult with your local garden center for even more great options. Plants here are divided by groups of regions but do know that as plant zones often overlap, it’s a good idea to look at all options here.
Note that “early spring” is a relative term and depends on when spring comes to your region. Questions? Please do ask in the comments or tag us on social media @MonroviaPlants!
Bees love crabapple blossoms, and this outstanding early bloomer looks gorgeous in the garden with an upright form, dark pink flowers, and reddish new foliage. Up to 20′ tall and wide. Partial to full sun. Zones 4-8.
The dark purple-pink buds offer winter color, and open to bright-pink flowers that are an important food source for mason bees, which typically emerge in early spring. Up to 5′ tall and wide. Zones 6-8.
Bees, butterflies, pollinating insects–everyone love the tiny flowers that bloom all year in mild climates. Bright-orange flowers are butterfly magnets. Up to 3' tall, 8' wide when grown as a perennial. Zones 9-11 (grow as an annual in all zones).
Aloes are typically pollinated by birds, but that doesn’t mean bees and insects will take a pass. This is compact, heat, and drought tolerant. Zones 9-11.
Tips for Attracting Pollinators
By offering plants that flower from early spring until the first hard frost, your garden can help to provide nutrients for the entire life cycle of bumblebees and other pollinators. Remember, no garden is too small to help create habitat for pollinators. Combine your space with those other gardens around you and it all adds up!
Plant lots of them. Make sure there are at least 3 x 3 feet of each plant species. These can be planted together or in other areas of the garden.
Limit your use of chemicals (both synthetic and organic) and use plenty of compost and mulch to build healthy soil. Healthy soils create healthy plants.
Plan your garden so that there is something blooming for as many months as you can manage. Many pollinators, especially bees, forage during the entire growing season.
Provide shelter by letting your yard get a little wild. Allow a hedge to grow untrimmed, leave a section of lawn unmowed, pile up grass cutting in a sunny spot, and create a nesting habitat by leaving some soil bare for ground-nesting bees.