The Peony or Paeony is a genus of flowering plants native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America. The large, often fragrant flowers come in colours red, white and yellow and bloom in late spring to early summer. This beautiful flowering plant likes full sun, grows in hardiness zones 3-8, grows to a height of .5-1.5 metres (1.5-5 ft) and can be propagated by root division. Tree peonies can be propagated by grafting, division, seed and cuttings. I have never seen more bees on a single flower (yellow pollen-bearing stamens) as on peonies. There appears to be a feeding frenzy of both native and honey bees on each flower. There are over 1800 varieties of peony but for bee attraction I would stick with the single flower. Complex petal formation as found in double peonies and hybrid roses are not attractive to foraging insects (difficult navigation).
There is a wide variety of annual and perenial plants in the phlox genus ranging from tall bushes to short ground cover plants. The phlox in our garden, phlox paniculata is a volunteer that has spread along the berm providing a nice colourful border plant. Native to North America it will grow in part shade to full sun, grows 90-180 cm (3-6 ft) high, blooms from spring to summer and it's fragrant flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.
There are literally hundreds of varieties of plums (Prunus Domestica) available to grow including dwarf varieties. In our garden we have two Greengage trees and a Santa Rosa tree (I think). Plums like rich, moist well drained loam or clay loam with full sun and can be grown to hardiness zone 4. Their fragrant spring blossoms are a favourite of bees and because of the sheer number of blossoms this is a primary spring pollen source.
Poppies (Papaveraceae) are native to North America, Europe and Asia and come in a wide range of colours. They grow 30-60 cm (12-24 inches) high, prefer partial to full sun, well drained slightly dry soil and will self seed. There are annual and perennial varieties that should be divided every 5 years to keep vigorous. They are hardy to zone 2 if protected in winter with straw or consistent snow cover.
The raspberry (Rubus) or hindberry comes in a variety of colours and blossom times. The plant likes full sun, acidic soil and can be grown in hardiness zones 3-9. Raspberries self propogate using basal shoots (suckers). In our garden we have 3 or 4 varieties including an orange variety and a double or ever bearing which will produce in early summer and again in the fall. This plant is a major food source for our bees from May to June.
There are over 28,000 cultivars of Rhododendron including the subgenera of azalea. The shrub usually grows in height from 2-20 ft (.7-6 metres) and can be pruned to grow as a tree. This plant is known for it's beautiful, large showy flowers in spring to early summer that attract most of the pollinators. The Rhododendron likes acidic soil, will tolerate shade and is the national flower of Nepal.
There are a wide variety of wild, native roses that grow throughout the world with a wide range of colours. Most are perennial shrubs and produce single, fragrant flowers with accessible stamens. The key to providing good "Bee Plants" is easily accessible pollen and nectar. I have a beautiful, fragrant yellow hybrid rose which is never visited by the pollinators because the petal structure complexity makes access to the inner stamen difficult. In our garden the most prolific native rose is the Nootka (Rosa Nutkana) which grows in coastal areas from Alaska to California. This perennial shrub will usually grow in thickets to 3 metres (10 ft) providing habitat and food for birds and small wildlife including bees. This plant needs sun but will tolerate shade and blooms in late spring to early summer.
The Rudbekia, commonly referred to as coneflower or black-eyed susan is native to North America with varieties growing from .5 to 3 metres (2-10 ft) tall. The common commercially grown Rudbekia grows 3-4 ft (90-120 cm) in height, likes full sun, slightly acidic soil, is drought tolerant and can be grown in hardiness zones 4-10. The bloom time is late summer to early fall and the flowers attract bees, butterflies and birds.
Russian Vine (Fallopia baldschuanica) also know as mile-a-minute vine flowers for us in Rose-Marie's garden in September and is very popular with the bees but not so with some gardeners. It is a relative of Japanese Knotweed and both are easy to grow and hard to kill. They can grow 4 mts (13 ft) a year and are grown to hide eyesores like buildings or walls. Although it is controllable by heavy pruning each year it will send out underground runners (roots) so plant with caution. The benefit to bees is the mass of late season flowers.
Sedum is a large genus of low growing flowering plants commonly referred to as Stonecrops. Found throughout North America the succulents have water-storing leaves that make them drought tolerant. There is a wide variety of sedum with many different colours of flowers that will grow in hardiness zones 4-10. Generally a low growing ground cover it prefers full sun and good drainage but will tolerate partial shade.
The Shoo-fly plant (Nicandra physalodes) is foraged on by bees but is not a major contributing food source. I included this plant simply because of it's uniqueness. Native to South America it is sometimes referred to as the Apple of Peru. Though not edible it is a member of the potato or Solanaceae family. It flowers through the summer however it's flowers are short lived. The Shoo-fly plant prefers part to full sun, is an annual that self seeds and in some areas is invasive (has become naturalized). Check your specific location to be sure you are not planting a potentially invasive plant.
The Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) is an annual plant native to the Americas. Known for it's large flowering head it's head actually consists of many (hundreds) small flowers or florets which mature into seeds. They can be grown in hardiness zones 3-10, like a full sun, moist, well drained, fertile soil and usually bloom in late summer to early fall. This plant is drought tolerant, grows to heights between 1.5-3.5 metres (5-12 ft) and is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.