I have read a lot of lists of the best perennials to attract pollinators, but many of them are written by people who live in other states. I wanted to make my own list of best perennials for  the bees of Southwest Idaho, Treasure Valley, eastern Oregon  .  Our hot dry summers, low humidity, alkaline soils (7 to 8.5 pH) and  cool nights all are a factor in determining what plants do best here.  Want to know more about your soil?  Check here: http://extension.uidaho.edu/elmore/files/2013/12/MissingLinksinSWIdahoSoilManagement.pdf

Here is a partial list of the plants that do well in southwest Idaho AND that the bees (honeybees in particular) appreciate.  These are based on my experiences as a personal gardener over several years, working in a variety of yards and locations in the Treasure Valley. I know  there are many other perennials to add to this list- please feel free to comment!


Spring Blooming

Borage: Bumblebees in particular love this plant.  It has lovely blue flowers and the flowers are edible. Plant one this year, in 3 years, you could have 4 or five. What is not to like about that?

Borage plant with blue star-like flowers

Borage plant with blue star-like flowers



Comfrey: (Symphytum) A relative to the above plant, Borage,  this one is easy care, spreads and makes new plants easily.  Bees love it once it is in flower!

It is a multipurpose plant, the leaves are beneficial in compost, as fertilizer and as a mulch. Freshly cut comfrey leaves are high in nitrogen and  in potassium.   They make for a powerful compost tea.  These can be cut down after they flower and they will flower at least twice more through the summer.  

Bumblebee in the Comfrey

Bumblebee in the Comfrey


Centaurea Montana: I have always called this Bachelor button, here are some of it’s other common names: perennial cornflower, mountain cornflower, montane knapweed or mountain bluet. Also a vigorous grower in the Treasure Valley.  Just try and kill it!  I do love the flowers and so do the bees.  When it’s done blooming, cut it down. I mean, you can cut all the foliage – to the ground- and it will send up new small leaves and flowers.  Most summers, I can cut this plant down and get 3 bloom cycles from it.  It will spread but it is easy to keep under control if you don’t want it everywhere in the garden. 

Centaurea montana and a honey bee!

Centaurea montana and a honey bee!

 Pink Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)

Pretty in pink, spreads on it’s own.  Looks great in rock gardens, will grow in nooks and crannies on a wall.  This spring bloomer is popular with the smaller pollinators like native bees, hover flies.

When the flowers are done, shape the plant by cutting much of it down.  Most summers you can get 2 blooms from this plant before the heat makes it rest.  Then in the fall, it may have a few blooms again.

Pink soapwort

This plant seeded itself between the house foundation and the sidewalk

Basket of Gold (Aurinia saxatilis)
Yellow plant Basket of gold

Basket of gold, a bright bright spot in the landscape

This bright yellow perennial calls a lot of attention to itself with it’s very bright yellow color.  The plant above is three years old now and this year I will cut it back to keep the mounded shape. It can be cut back up to 1/2 after flowering.  I like it so much, I bought 2 more this spring.!

Thyme: There are many varieties of thyme and they bloom with different colors; pink, white, red.  Once they are in flower, the bees are all over this!


Pink Chintz thyme and lemon thyme

Pink Chintz thyme and lemon thyme

All these perennials are easy to grow, easy to find at the nurseries and will multiply abundantly.  Many of them also provide great ground cover, which stops weeds from popping up! If you need some starts, let me know, I have several.

And lastly, one more item-

Dandelions:  Ok, not really a perennial flower, but take heart, and tell anyone who complains about their presence, “it’s for the bee’s”. A gardener’s excuse for weeds. Honey bees flock to dandelions both in the early spring and in times of dearth when little else is in bloom.  See this link from Honey bee Suite: http://www.honeybeesuite.com/honey-bees-cannot-survive-on-dandelions-alone/

Enjoy the bees, enjoy the flowers.  Happy gardening!

What flowers do you suggest? I would love to hear your suggestions here.