With their large blooms and sweet scents brightening up a garden, who doesn’t love a hydrangea?
Its stunning appearance makes it look like a high-maintenance plant. However, hydrangeas are fairly easy to grow and care for under proper conditions.
People often wonder are hydrangeas good for bees or not.
As a matter of fact, hydrangeas are indeed good for bees. As pollinator flowers, hydrangeas provide significant amounts of pollen and nectar which in turn attract bees to their vicinity. Some flowers varieties may not be fertile but none of them are toxic, posing no harm to bees.
There are different varieties of hydrangeas that bees are attracted to in a distinct way. Generally, sterile flowers like mophead hydrangeas can’t feed bees much. While lacecaps hydrangea and oak-leaved hydrangeas draw a large number of bees and other pollinators.
Here, let’s look at the hydrangeas bees love, the ones they avoid, and some other flowers that attract bees to the garden.
What are The Benefits of Hydrangeas for Bees
Similar to all flowering plants, hydrangeas benefit bees by providing their colony with all the food they need. Thus, bees need hydrangeas to survive.
Flowering plants and bees have a mutualistic beneficial relationship where both species need each other.
Flowers provide bees with nectar and pollen, which bees collect to feed on their entire colonies. Nectar is a sweet liquid substance and pollen is a powder that flowers produce.
On the other hand, bees help flowers to reproduce and they achieve this through a process called pollination. When bees are flying from one flower to another, they spread pollen from plant to plant. And when pollen from one flower reaches another flower of the same species, the plant can form seeds and be capable of reproduction.
Therefore, hydrangea flowers attract bees with their highly fragrant smells and bright colors and the bees end up pollinating and reproducing as a result.
Do Hydrangeas Attract Bees
You may have this question in mind, why do bees like some hydrangeas, but not others?
Well, the reason is to do with pollination.
See, bees are attracted to nectar and pollen in a flower. Even though most hydrangeas have large beautiful flowers and a potent smell, not all varieties have flowers containing pollen and nectar. The large clusters of flowers that hydrangeas are so famous for are mostly sterile. Only the inner part of the cluster of hydrangea has fertile flowers containing nectar and pollen.
In wildlands, hydrangeas have fewer showy flowers which are sterile and more flowers that are fertile. On the other hand, gardeners cultivate bigger blooms where the majority of flowers are sterile and a few are fertile.
No matter how picturesque your garden blooms are, if they are sterile, no bees going to be much interested in them. As a result, your garden will have a minuscule chance of pollination.
Mophead hydrangeas have mostly sterile flowers and do not provide nectar to bees. So, if you want to avoid bees in your garden, then stick with the mophead variety. Alternatively, lacecap hydrangeas, climbing hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas, or smooth hydrangea, etc provide a great amount of pollen and nectar. No wonder they attract a significant number of bees and pollinators.
Another thing to consider is most hydrangeas do not produce a large amount of pollen. Which makes it a safe choice for people suffering from pollen allergies.
With its large blooms, you would assume that Hydrangeas are a magnet for bees, but that’s not always the case. Some types of Hydrangeas attract bees while others do not. Mophead Hydrangeas have flowers that are sterile and do not have nectar to attract bees. However, Lacecap Hydrangeas do have fertile flowers that attract bees. Climbing Hydrangeas, Oakleaf Hydrangeas, and Smooth Hydrangeas also attract pollinators like bees.
Because hydrangeas do not produce a large amount of pollen, it is a good plant for people who suffer from allergies. You can even cut the flowers and bring them indoors without any worry.
Which Hydrangeas Bees like Most
Granted that not all hydrangea flowers can attract bees as some of the hydrangea species are sterile. However, there are lots of other fertile species that can feed the bees.
If you want to pick a hydrangea that is popular with bees, you need to look for some specific types such as:
There are a lot of hydrangeas paniculata cultivars, however, not all of them are liked by bees. Some varieties are fertile while some others are sterile.
To find the bee-friendly version of this plant, you need to look for cultivars that have lots of fertile flowers on the blossom heads.
The “Confetti” variety of hydrangea paniculata is particularly loved by bumblebees. It has loose flower heads compared to the ornamental hydrangeas that grow flowers in a bunch. And it can get big for a shrub – about 20 feet in height. White flowers bloom in August and then change to a dusty pink as they start to age.
If you want the flowers to be white or cream or greenish-white in color, you can try the following varieties:
- White Moth
- Brussels Lace
If you are looking for the flowers to be in shades of pink or blush, you can plant:
- Big Ben
- Dart’s Little Dot
- Early Sensation
Hydrangea petiolaris is the most common climbing hydrangea which is native to the woodlands of Japan, the Korean peninsula, and the Russian Far East.
This gorgeous climbing vine has aerial roots that stick to a surface like cement. That is why it’s not wise to plant this right next to your house.
But it looks fantastic climbing up arbors, fences, or trunks of large trees. Plus, you can plant this to cover unsightly fences or walls.
You should make sure to provide the plant with lots of space and external support, as it tends to grow rapidly.
Climbing hydrangea has beautiful dark green leaves and lacy white flowers. It can grow up to 30-40 inches high and the flowers on heads are about 8-10 inches wide.
Blooming from June to July, the flowers provide both pollen and nectar for bees and pollinators.
There are varieties of climbing hydrangeas that are bee-friendly. Some of these are:
- Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris
- Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris ‘Silver Lining’
- Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris ‘Mirranda’
- Hydrangea anomala subsp. glabra ‘Crûg Coral’.
Native to Japan, the hydrangea macrophylla or lacecap hydrangea grows to 2 meters tall and 2.5 meters wide with large heads of flowers.
This species of hydrangea has flatter flower heads compared to mophead hydrangea, and they are a mix between fertile and sterile. The flatheads are laced with fertile flowers while the surrounding large showy flowers are sterile.
Only the fertile flowers offer nectar and pollen to the bees, however, the lacecap hydrangea macrophylla “Blue Wave” is particularly loved by bees.
The plant grows in either sun or partial shade, and the flowers bloom in summer and autumn. The color of this hydrangea ranges from blue to white to pink and it changes as the bloom ages.
Also, the color of the flower changes according to the pH of the soil. For instance, it is blue in highly acidic soils and pinks to purple in alkaline soils. Moreover, you can add lime to make the flower pinker or add aluminum sulphate to make the flowers bluer.
The hydrangea quercifolia is more commonly known as oakleaf hydrangea or oak-leaved hydrangea. This species of hydrangea is native to the south-eastern part of the f United States.
This shrub stands out against other shrubs, even when not in flower due to its large assertive leaves. This plant got its name as the leaves really do resemble an oak leaf.
The whole plant can reach 5-10 feet in height and the white oblong flowers measure 10-12 inches long. During fall, the leaves turn into a beautiful deep red color.
The oak-leaved hydrangea is an excellent source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators. The Gatsby pink hydrangea is especially attractive to bees. It has big lace-cap flowers with a sweet smell and the blooms turn red while they age.
Gatsby pink hydrangeas continue to bloom through the fall season and are equally at ease in growing in “cultivated” areas as well in natural woodland settings.
Rough Leaf Hydrangea
Rough leaf hydrangea or hydrangea aspera is native to the region between the Himalayas.
The flowers of this particular species of hydrangea family are nearly all fertile. Also, their high fragrance instantly attracts the bees, not to mention the sweet nectar found in the flowers.
The shrubs are grown best in evenly moist, well-drained soils. Also, partially shaded areas are better for them. Because they can’t tolerate full blast of sun well.
Rough leaf hydrangea has a large erect shape and can grow to 3 meters tall and wide. The leaves are broadly oval in shape and the flower color gets affected due to soil pH.
Hydrangea arborescens is commonly known as smooth hydrangea and native to the eastern United States. It is also referred to as wild hydrangea, sevenbark, or sometimes sheep flower.
The flowers are brilliantly white and feed bees as well as pollinators. They bloom from early to late summer and grow well in either shade or full sun.
The shrub is small to medium-sized and can grow up to 3 meters tall.
Which Hydrangeas Do Bees Avoid
Not all hydrangeas attract bees, in fact there are some varieties bees deliberately avoid!
Finding bee-friendly hydrangeas can be hard, but if you know which ones to avoid then it becomes a lot easier.
As a general rule, mophead varieties of hydrangeas are usually given a wide berth by gardeners trying to attract pollinators.
Hydrangea macrophylla hortensis or French hydrangeas are vibrant in color and showy in nature, however they do not feed the bees. As the flowers are sterile, they do not have anything to offer to the bees and other pollinators.
These varieties have compact round mopheads, ball-shaped blossom heads, and no visible flower anthers. Because of their shape, they are easy to spot from afar.
Some inexperienced bees may land on the flowers, but they quickly fly off as there is nothing to feed on. And these are the plants bees avoid most.
When Do Hydrangeas Flower
Hydrangea flowers have a versatile array of different species and most of these plants grow as shrubs or herbaceous vines.
The best season to plant hydrangeas is either late fall or early spring. It’s to give the plant a plentiful time to establish a healthy root system before blooming.
Majority of new growth hydrangeas put on buds during early summer to bloom in the following spring, summer, or even early fall seasons. When the climate gets too hot, hydrangeas may stop blooming during peak summer but they will simply rebloom in the fall.
Hydrangeas may look like they are difficult to grow, but in actual fact they are pretty easy to grow and maintain. And most hydrangeas come back every year as long as they survive the winter.
Are There Male and Female Hydrangeas
Although there are male and female hydrangeas, the difference is actually in their flowers.
In fact, every flower of the hydrangea is bisexual.
So, what does that mean? It means hydrangea flowers contain both the male reproductive structures antheridia, and the female reproductive structures such as the ovary, and pistil.
The flowers are often located in the middle of the flower panicles and are small in size. They contain both the male and female parts, namely the stamen and the stigma. And these are the fertile flowers responsible for producing the seeds.
Do Hydrangeas Repel Bugs and Mosquitos
Imagine on a beautiful day, you just want to sit and enjoy the beauty outside. But having to constantly swat away bugs and mosquitos, your mood will turn sour fast.
Some people believe hydrangeas are responsible for attracting large numbers of bugs to the garden. But is this really true?
To be honest, this is not exactly true. Hydrangeas do not attract bugs and mosquitos any more than your typical plants.
Moreover, mosquitos breed in stagnant water and dense vegetation. And even though hydrangeas require a lot of water, they do not grow well in water-clogged soil.
If you overwater hydrangeas to the point of water pooling around the plants, they will be prone to root rot in addition to creating a breeding ground for mosquitos and other bugs.
Unfortunately, hydrangeas do not repel bugs and mosquitoes either. A hydrangea plant has little to no effect on mosquitos and bugs gathering around the garden.
Even though hydrangeas do not necessarily attract or repel mosquitos and bugs, they do attract a few other types of insects. Some of these are good for the plants, while some others are less than desirable.
For instance, soldier beetles are particularly attracted to hydrangeas. Most beetles turn out to be harmful to the plants, but some ground beetles like soldier beetles are exceptions to that.
These little black and red colored beetles eat caterpillars, and aphids as well as the eggs of some other harmful pests. Having soldier beetles around your garden is safer for your plants indeed.
Is It Worth Planting Hydrangeas to Attract Bees
Because of their bright colors, showy blooms, and sweet scents, hydrangeas are a popular choice for many gardeners.
Many plant hydrangeas on their garden as an ornament, but also lots of people specifically choose hydrangeas in order to pollinate their backyard.
Not all varieties of hydrangeas are fertile, rather some have sterile flowers. However, the fertile flowers provide tons of pollen and nectar which brings a healthy wave of bees, wasps, and other pollinators to the garden.
Hydrangea varieties such as lacecaps, and oak-leaved are great examples of pollinator-friendly plants.
Still, you have to consider the fact that bees do not exclusively feed on hydrangeas only. Rather there is a wider variety of shrubs and flowers, to which bees and other pollinators are attracted.
The best bet would be to plant more flowers along with hydrangeas to balance out the ratio. Bees can’t survive on one type of flower only; they need variety as well.
Therefore, hydrangeas are worth planting to attract bees, but remember not to rely on them completely. You should go for a wide variety of flowers so that bees can have better options to feast on to their hearts content.
What Other Flowers Are Good for Bees
Not only just hydrangeas but there are also tons of other flowers which are excellent in bringing bees and other pollinators to the garden. These gorgeous varieties not only attract pollinators but also add beautiful color, texture, and fragrance to the garden.
Perennials offer the highest quality nectar and pollen but there are also some non-natives like crimson and white clovers and annuals.
- Annuals: These flowers have the upper hand in blossoming all season long. Bees like to flock to alyssum, zinnias, sunflowers, calendula, salvia, verbena, etc.
- Culinary Herbs: Herbs such as sage, lavender, thyme, chives, basil, oregano, rosemary, and mint draw in pollinators to the other plants in the garden.
Early Season Flowers for Bees
Bees in temperate zones struggle to find enough food in later winter and early spring. Here are some useful plants:
- Early blooming trees and shrubs such as vernal witch hazel, maples, willow, serviceberry, and redbud
- Early blooming fruits such as cherry, plum, raspberry, blackberry, and blueberries
- Spring-flowering bulbs
- Spring perennials including golden alexander, larkspur, dianthus, wild columbine, ajuga, lupine, baptisia, and pulmonaria
Mid-Season Flowers for Bees
Some of the mid-season flowers are all bee magnets:
- Milkweed, anise, black-eyed Susans, catmint, cleome, globe thistle, bee balm, daisies, phlox, yarrow
Late Season Flowers for Bees
In late fall, bees are still active as they need to feed. Here are some late-season flowers:
- Late bloomers like dahlias, asters, ironweed, Joe Pye weed, goldenrod, rudbeckias, helianthus, etc
- Bumblebees loving bottle gentian
Creating A Bee-Friendly Habitat
Having a beautiful garden filled with flowers is nice and all, but bees need more than just pretty flowers to survive. They need water, shelter, nesting sites, etc as well.
If you’re looking to buy hydrangeas, search for chemical-free ones. Because systemic insecticides can make the whole plant toxic – including the nectar and pollen.
That’s why you need to banish pesticides and other poisons in order to create a bee-friendly habitat.
Which hydrangeas feed bees?
Hydrangeas have different varieties and the flowers vary in their abilities to feed the bees. Some varieties have fertile flowers and can feed the bees, while some others having sterile flowers that can’t feed the bees. Climbing hydrangea, hydrangea paniculata, lacecaps hydrangea, oak-leaved hydrangea, smooth hydrangea etc are great examples of pollinator-rich flowers.
Do hydrangeas attract bees and butterflies?
Similar to bees, hydrangeas attract butterflies as well. In fact, butterflies love hydrangeas. Often, you’ll see one or two fluttering away across the flowerbed.
Are hydrangeas pollinator-friendly?
Hydrangeas attract pollinators with their large showy flowers but offer pollen and nectar from smaller fertile inner clusters. Different varieties of hydrangeas indeed play an important role in pollination. So, it can be said that hydrangeas are pollinator-friendly.
Do hydrangeas attract bees or wasps?
Hydrangea flowers are rich sources of nectar and pollen which attract all types of pollinators. And since, bees, wasps, flies, etc all fall under flying pollinators, hydrangeas do attract both bees and wasps.
What to plant with hydrangeas?
There are many shrubs that will look good planted in front of hydrangeas. Plants such as azaleas, hollies, yews, mahonia, gardenia, boxwood, etc all will compliment hydrangea flowers.
What flower does not attract bees?
Bees are drawn to the specific colors of blue, violet, and yellow. So, planting these hues in your garden is bound to be noticed by the bees. If you don’t want to attract bees, avoid planting bee-favorite flowers such as violets, sunflowers, lavender, foxglove, etc.
What plant keeps bees away?
There are some plants that can repel the bugs and bees and wasps away from your garden. Some of these are cucumber, marigolds, basil, geraniums, eucalyptus, wormwood, pennyroyal etc.