37 Best Drought-Resistant Plants For Bee Gardens

Drought-Resistant Plants For Bees

As average summer temperatures continue to rise, keeping plants alive becomes a bigger challenge. This guide will help you create a resilient garden that can withstand droughts.

If you also want to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, then this is the ideal list. We’ve compiled our favorite drought-resistant plants for bee gardens.

Get ready to transform your outdoor space into a flourishing oasis, even during the hottest summer.

Important: Plants that thrive in challenging conditions may be considered invasive in some states. Conduct research for your area before getting started planting.  

Best drought-resistant plants for bees

1. Agastache

With its tall tubular flowers in vibrant hues of purple, pink, or white, agastache is a showstopper in any garden. Its aromatic foliage adds a delightful fragrance to the air, drawing bees in from nearby hives.

A bumblebee collecting pollen and nectar on Agastache 'Blue Fortune' (Mexican Giant Hyssop)
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’.

2. Allium

Alliums are known for their unique spherical flower heads that stand tall on slender stalks. These eye-catching blooms come in a range of colors, from whites and pinks to purples and blues. Alliums require little water once established.

3. Aster

Asters bring a splash of color to your garden with their daisy-like flowers in shades of purple, pink, blue, and white. These late-blooming beauties are a welcome pollen source for honey bees and other pollinators.

Closeup of a Carniolan bee on a European Michaelmas daisy (Aster amellus).
A Carniolan bee on the Aster flower.

4. Artemisia

With its silvery-gray foliage, artemisia adds texture and interest to your garden. This hardy perennial thrives in drought, high heat, and poor soil. It is often used for its aromatic qualities in herbal teas and potpourri.

5. Bee Balm

Bee Balm is aptly named for its irresistible flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This herbaceous perennial blooms in red, pink, purple, and white shades. While this plant tolerates dry conditions, prolonged drought will weaken them, so watering may be needed.

Zoomed in image of a honey bee on a wild bergamot or bee balm wildflower. Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia
Bee balm offers the garden a vibrant splash of color.

6. Beardtongues

Beardtongues are herbaceous perennials that are happy in dry, rocky soil. They tolerate drought conditions once established and repeatedly bloom from spring to fall. Their tubular blooms delight pollinators, providing a reliable food source.

7. Black-eyed Susan

These cheerful yellow flowers cope well with long periods of dry, hot weather. Black-eyed Susans offer a burst of color and grow in container gardens, borders, and landscape beds.

An extreme closeup of a honey bee on a Black-Eyed Susan bloom
Black-Eyed Susan and honey bee.

8. Blanket Flower

Blanket Flowers, or Gaillardia, are native to North America and boast vibrant daisy-like flowers with bold patterns. They adapt well to severe drought and poor soil quality, requiring little watering.

9. Butterfly Weed

Asclepias, commonly known as butterfly weed, showcase clusters of bright orange, yellow, and red flowers. This bushy perennial hosts monarch butterflies and provides nectar for various pollinators. It requires minimal care, grows in parched soil, and is deer resistant.

Macro photograph of a Honey bee (Apis mellifera) foraging for nectar and pollen from a Butterfly-weed flower (Asclepias tuberosa.)
Apis mellifera on butterfly weed.

10. California Lilacs

Despite their name, California Lilacs (Ceanothus) are not true lilacs but rather shrubs native to the western United States. They produce clusters of blue or purple flowers that attract bees and butterflies. California lilacs grow in arid soil and tolerate seacoast conditions and excessive heat.

Interesting reading: How to keep hives cool in summer

11. California Poppy

The California Poppy, with its vibrant orange and yellow blossoms, adds a pop of color to any garden. These drought-tolerant flowers bloom abundantly and are revered by pollinators. They are happy with poor soil, so feeding them is unnecessary.

A bee carrying pollen flies towards California golden poppies
A bee loaded up with pollen visits another California golden poppy.

12. Catmint

Catmint, or Nepeta, is a low-maintenance perennial with spikes of lavender-blue flowers. Its aromatic foliage attracts bees from early summer to early fall.

13. Coneflower

Also known as echinacea, coneflowers are prized for their distinctive cone-shaped centers and pinkish-purple petals. Unlike most flower varieties, coneflowers offer a bounty of nectar throughout the entire day, making them a prized species for honey bees.

14. Coreopsis

Coreopsis, or Tickseed, is a drought-tolerant perennial that offers an array of yellow, orange, and red flowers. These cheerful blooms add a bright touch to any garden, prospering in well-drained soil and a sunny location. Be sure to deadhead frequently for the best flowering.

A bumblebee on a bright yellow Coreopsis bloom
Pollinators enjoy Coreopsis flowers.

15. Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme is a low-growing herb with small, aromatic leaves and delicate pink flowers. It forms a dense ground cover and can tolerate dry conditions. However, this plant needs a lot of water to get established, so begin by watering generously each week.

16. Creeping Rosemary

Creeping Rosemary is a trailing plant with fragrant needle-like leaves and small blue flowers. It’s a hardy and drought-tolerant herb that adds a touch of beauty to rock gardens and containers. Use it as ground cover or to drape over walls. Creeping rosemary almost always flowers and is highly attractive to bees.

Creeping rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Prostratus) in bloom, visited by a bee in a sunny garden.
Rosemary is extremely drought-tolerant.

17. Firespike

With its striking red spiky flowers, firespike adds a dramatic touch to gardens. This plant is a magnet for bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies and is moderately drought-tolerant.

18. Foxglove

Foxgloves are tall, elegant plants with bell-shaped flowers in shades of purple, pink, yellow, and white. Bees adore these architectural beauties and make a stunning focal point in the garden. They grow in clay and poor soil, requiring minimal watering during dearths.

A pink Digitalis purpurea, foxglove or honeydew flower gets approached by a honey bee; blurred green background.
Foxgloves need minimal watering in summer.

19. Gaillardia

Also known as the Blanket Flower, gaillardia features vivid daisy-like flowers with vibrant shades of color. These resilient plants are happy in cold, hot, or humid climates. Gaillardia are short-lived perennials that offer long-lasting blooms from early summer to fall.

20. Goldenrod

Goldenrod produces brilliant yellow flowers that brighten the late summer and fall garden. This herbaceous perennial wildflower tolerates well-drained, slightly acidic soil with full sun exposure.

Macro shot of a bumblebee gathering pollen on a goldenrod plant
Goldenrod offers pollen late in the beekeeping season.

21. Helenium

Helenium’s fiery red, orange, and yellow flowers resemble small sunflowers. These sturdy blooms provide a rich nectar source for bees, preferring clay soil, and are rabbit and deer tolerant.

22. Larkspur

Larkspur showcases colorful flowers that attract bees and butterflies and add a touch of elegance to the garden. This annual thrives in sunny garden beds and borders.

A zoomed up close photo of a bee pollinating Larkspur (Delphinium variegatum) wildflowers in San Francisco bay area, California
Lakespur growing in the San Francisco bay area, CA.

23. Lantana

Lantana is a showy, drought-tolerant woody annual that blooms in clusters of tiny flowers. It comes in a variety of shades, including pink, orange, yellow, and purple.

24. Lavender

Lavender’s fragrant purple flowers and gray-green foliage are a magnet for bees and other pollinators. This versatile herb is known for its calming scent and can survive prolonged dry spells.

A bee on a lavender branch with blurred flora in the background
Lavender fields draw in pollinators from miles away.

25. Licorice Plant

Licorice Plant, or Helichrysum petiolare, is an excellent choice for gardens that experience long periods of dry weather. Its silvery-gray foliage provides an attractive contrast to container gardens or rockeries. This species needs to get established before it can deal with overly dry conditions.

26. Liatris

Liatris, also called Blazing Star or Gayfeather, boasts tall flowers in shades of purple, pink, and white. These gorgeous blooms appreciate full sun and dry sandy or rocky soils.

A Western honeybee collecting nectar from a prairie blazing star with an out-of-focus field in the background.
The Liatris enjoys dry sandy or rocky soil.

27. Milkweed

Milkweeds are robust plants that produce clusters of small, fragrant flowers. They produce a lot of nectar, but bees occasionally get trapped in the blooms.

28. Moss Rose

Moss Rose, or Portulaca, is a low-growing succulent with vibrant flowers. These heat-loving plants thrive in dry conditions, although they’re less tolerant than cacti.

Closeup of a Moss Rose bloom getting visited by a honey bee
The Moss Rose enjoys a hot, dry climate.

29. Penstemon

Penstemons, or beardtongues, are water-wise plants that continue to flower for long periods. That’s ideal for honey bees, who appreciate the forage during dry periods.

30. Porterweed

Porterweed is a flowering perennial that produces nectar-rich blooms. It is relatively drought-tolerant once established.

Native bees collecting nectar from Porterweed
Two blue banded native bees collecting nectar from Porterweed.

31. Purslane

Purslane is a succulent annual with fleshy leaves. Its tolerance to dry conditions and attractive blooms make it a great addition to rock gardens or container plantings.

32. Red Campion

Red Campion, or Silene dioica, features eye-catching flowers that add a touch of whimsy to the garden. These nectar-rich blooms may be life-saving for bees and are pest and disease resistant.

A bumble bee on Red Campion (Silene dioica) growing wild in Northumberland in England's Northeast.
Red Campion (Silene dioica) is a rich source of nectar.

33. Russian Sage

Russian sage is a drought-tolerant perennial with aromatic silver-gray foliage and lavender-blue flowers. Its vibrant blooms make it a favorite of bees and butterflies.

34. Salvia

Salvias come in various species and cultivars, all of which pollinators love. From the deep blue Russian sage to the vibrant red blooms of Scarlet Sage, salvias are a reliable nectar source.

Macro image of a bee on a purple Salvia
Salvia can tolerate long dry spells.

35. Sedum

Sedums are succulent plants in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Their fleshy leaves store water for long periods, and bees are drawn into their flowers in late summer.

36. Sweet Almond Bush

Sweet Almond Bush, or Aloysia virgata, is a fragrant shrub that thrives in hot climates. It is a deciduous shrub that may only need watering once a month in summer.

White Sweet Almond Verbena (Aloysia virgata) flowers and a bee isolated on a black background
Sweet Almond (Aloysia virgata) flowers.

37. Yarrow

Yarrow is a hardy perennial with clusters of tiny flowers in a melange of colors. Its flat-topped blooms attract a wide range of pollinators and add a charming touch to wildflower meadows.

Tips for creating a bee-friendly garden that is drought-tolerant

  • Include a wide variety of plants that provide pollinators with pollen and nectar.
  • Grow a range of flowers next to each other to make it easy for bees to get what they want with minimal effort.
  • Choose native plants adapted to local climate conditions that naturally attract local pollinator species. They typically require less maintenance once established.
  • Plant various flowers, grasses, and shrubs that bloom at different times throughout the year.
  • Plan for a mix of ground covers, mid-height plants, and taller plants or trees. They provide varying habitats and feeding options for varying pollinators.
  • Group plants of the same species together to create a larger target for pollinators to find. This approach is more effective than scattering individual plants throughout the garden.
  • Different pollinators are attracted to different flower types, so plant varying flower shapes and sizes. Hummingbirds prefer tubular flowers, while many bee species are attracted to flat or clustered flowers.
  • Pesticides harm pollinators, so use organic or non-toxic control methods in your pollinator garden.
  • Using mulch helps the soil retain water, which assists drought-prone areas and suppresses weeds.
  • Regular maintenance is essential. Although drought-tolerant gardens require less watering, they still need weeding, pruning, and an occasional drink to thrive.

Commonly asked questions

How can drought-resistant plants benefit bees?

Drought-resistant plants provide a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees at times of nectar dearth.

Do drought-resistant plants require special care or maintenance?

Drought-resistant plants are generally low-maintenance once established. However, providing them with proper soil preparation, adequate sunlight, and occasional watering during establishment is crucial.

Are there any specific planting tips for drought-resistant plants?

When planting drought-resistant plants for bees, it’s essential to consider their water needs and choose an appropriate location. Plant them in well-draining soil to prevent water-logging and add organic matter to improve soil moisture retention. Mulching around the plants can help conserve moisture and reduce weed competition.

How do I provide bees with a continuous blooming period in dry conditions?

To ensure a continuous blooming period, select a variety of drought-resistant plants with different flowering times.

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