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Salvias are some of the brightest-looking blooms you can hope to grow in your garden. Otherwise known as ornamental sage, these plants are famous for attracting a wide variety of different pollinators. But, do bees like salvias?
Bees adore salvias. They’re easy to spot, they smell fragrant, and they’ll grow out in the open where insects are likely to buzz around on a nectar hunt. Salvias and lilacs are some of the best pollinator magnets you can grow across the US.
Do salvias really attract bees?
Salvia is one of several herbs famous for attracting bees, normally thanks to their heady smells and bright, blossoming purple flowers. The salvia is often known as sage outside of the garden, and the name covers more than 1,000 different types of plants. It’s actually a type of mint, which is already famous for attracting bees.
Most salvias will attract bees thanks to their abundant nectar. These are extremely potent and fertile plants, meaning that insects searching for nectar will always find a cache within salvia petals.
Salvias are also very easy to spot thanks to their spires of flowers, many of which reach several feet in height. Not all salvias grow in colors bees appreciate – such as reds (which certainly applies to the scarlet salvia), but many will add splashes of violet, purple, and blue to your garden. These happen to be some of the typical bee’s favorite colors.
Salvia plants will normally grow out in the open sun as well as partial shade, meaning bees won’t have to search too hard to find a ready source of food. Salvias are potent and attractive enough to welcome other pollinators, too, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. You’ll soon have a sweet-smelling pollinator playground by growing a few alongside similarly-colored lilac bushes and with fresh mint and herbs nearby.
Which types of salvias are best for bees?
Salvias that prove especially popular with bees include the drought-hardy amistad, which tends to fare well across late spring to mid-fall. It’s a deep purple-flowering plant that’s a relatively new propagator – and a reliable source of nectar.
Gardeners also recommend salvias such as the nemorosa, which is popular with different species of bees (such as some varieties of bumble). This, like the amistad, is extremely hardy and will do well in beds and borders for long periods. Like most salvias, this plant will thrive in full sun.
You should also consider growing the perennial salvia greggii, otherwise known as the autumn sage. This is a multicolor salvia that proves popular with bees and hummingbirds and only requires a little water across the growing season. Be sure to opt for white salvias in this species to attract more bees.
The black sage, or salvia mellifera, is also a big hit with bees. This is a Californian plant that tends to thrive in drier areas and can grow to just under two feet. In particular, honey bees native to the more arid gardens of CA love this plant for its resistance to drought – and its ever-ready nectar pockets.
Generally, it’s a good idea to stick to salvias that produce blue and purple flowers with open blooms. Some species of this plant produce flowers that are a little tubular in shape – that’s ideal for hummingbirds who can poke their beaks in for quick drinks here and there, but not so much for bees, who will need to burrow all the way in to start feeding.
Pick blues, purples, and violets – and avoid salvias such as the Texas sage, which largely grows in reds and oranges, as bees won’t be able to see it clearly. There are some varieties of Texas sage that produce blue flowers, but these tend to be extremely rare.
Top tips for growing salvias to attract bees
To attract bees to your garden with salvias, the best place to start is by making sure you plant your specimens in soil or compost that’s nicely moist, but which drains well. This plant can be hardy in many different USDA zones, typically zones five through ten, meaning it won’t need much care from you when things get cold. Do be careful, however, as not all species will be as temperature-resistant as the mainstream varieties.
This plant will normally start blooming flowers in the spring and won’t stop until around September to October time, making it one of the longest-lasting bee attractors you can grow for your garden. You’ll do best sowing these plant seeds after the end of frost, and you can do so in containers or beds as you wish. If you’re planting directly into the soil, you won’t need to worry about fertilizing.
You’ll only need to water your salvias if you’re short on rainfall. Less than an inch per week will normally indicate you need to give them a quick water along with your other plants.
To keep welcoming bees year after year, don’t worry about deadheading salvias. It’s normally best to let the flowers drop off of their own accord, as this means that they will likely reseed. At the very worst, your local birds will have a little bit more to feast on in the meantime.
Are salvias really bees’ favorite flowers?
Salvias are some of the best flowers for attracting bees to any garden, but you should also consider growing sunflowers, star jasmine, peonies, and daisies for a healthy variety of nectar. While you can depend on salvia species to keep bees coming back time and again, a garden with a little more variety will garner more interest – and from other pollinators, too.
Easy to grow and a joy to behold in any garden, choose from over a thousand different salvias and start welcoming buzzing visitors back into your yard.