Establishing a bee friendly garden using Native Plants, and others

by Bob Luttrell, B Sci (Agr), UQ
Bob the Beeman

Long time amateur beekeeper and meliponist, ex farmer, home gardener

This list of plants divided into NATIVE and EXOTIC Sections is based on my own observations, and on the observations of others who are keen to foster the presence of bees in their gardens. Plants have to fulfill a number of purposes for bees and this varies with the type of bee. There is of course the obvious requirement for food, nectar and pollen, which are the staples of the diet of bees in general. Additionally plants will provide leaf material for nesting of leaf cutters, resin for building cells and defense of stingless bees and the solitary resin bees, twig shapes suitable for night roosting by males in some solitary bees, even nesting sites for some bees in the form or premade holes in standing trunks and logs.

The lists are heavily based on observation of the social stingless bees, but the many and varied solitary bees are not forgotten. The latter are often quite specific in their choices, and regular in their forage routines.

The order for now is as I think of them, perhaps later a degree of system will be applied. Perhaps even flowering times would be useful.

When planting for bees, it does take a number of plants of a certain type all flowering together to be of interest to encourage bees to visit.  The small Sennas are great for this by taking little space and flowering for a long time. The same for the Plectranthus and Dianella.

Some plants found  useful for general bee foraging by myself and others


There are other needs to consider like providing nesting areas for the various solitary bees. Stingless bees are easy, they can be provided with an appropriate box. Some solitaries nest in the ground so need specific ground conditions. An area of bare soil will help, and under house area is attractive for some. Standing logs with holes are attractive for others. There is much published in this areas. Bee hotels in fact are almost fashionable. Mud brick walls, are less so, but very popular with some bees, much to the chagrin of the owners of mud brick houses.

Xanthorrhea spp
A favourite of stingless bees, a signature plant. If one flowers and has no stingless bees, there are none within range. Old flower stems are a good nest site for carpenter bees. Do not remove if entry holes are present, usually low on the stem. There are several varieties, and they are very slow growing
Hibbertia spp
Popular with solitary bees and stingless bees. H melhaniodes has been very special here at Samford, coping with difficult soils, but it grows naturally in the ranges of NQ. It is loved by BBBs, teddybear bees, stingless bees, Lipotriches bees, and the combination dominate the few Apis visiting. It is a shrub about 2.5m wide and 2m high at maturity. Flowers short lived, but a new batch are produced each day.
Dianella sp
Dianella spp attract many stingless bees, leafcutters, and some other solitary bees. They come in a diversity of heights and forms, all of interest to bees, and one, D brevipedunculata, is attractive food for the pale headed rosella
Plectranthus spp
This is available in many native species, with many forms, heights, leaf sizes and shapes. Even flower colour varies around the dominant mauve. Very popular with stingless bees and MANY solitary bees such as BBBs, leafcutters, resin bees. They flower over a lengthy period, but planting several varieties ensures a long availability of flowers.
Peltophorum pterocarpum
A tree from northern Australia, that is very much liked by stingless bees and BBBs
Senna spp Acclinis, clavigera, guadichaudii
Liked by BBBs, Teddy Bear bees, Carpenter Bees, stingless bees, Lipotriches bees, Emerald Homalictus, Red Singers S clavigera and S acclinis are up to 2m tall, light shrubs. S guadichaudii likes to scramble on larger trees so needs space.
Bracteantha spp

Paper Daisies are liked by many small solitary bees such as leafcutters, and the social stingless bees

Photo by marc Newman

Backhousia citriodora
Worked strongly by stingless bees
Syzygium spp and lilypillies
Liked by stingless bees, and others
Eremophila spp
Worked enthusiastically by stingless bees
Hakea spp

Worked by stingless bees and other solitaries

Photo by marc newman

Westringia fruticosa
Worked by stingless bees, green and gold nomia, reed bees
Grevillea spp
Worked by stingless bees especially for pollen, but also nectar, less consistent than others. Small flowered forms best Recently experienced good honey flow from silky oak (G robusta) Great diversity of size and shapes
Palms, various
Very popular with stingless bees, even days after flowers are cut, bees collect profuse white pollen
Tecomanthe hilli
Worked by stingless bees including Austroplebeia, the small bees tiny against the huge tubular flowers
Pandora pandorana
Worked by stingless bees
Pandorea jasminoiides
Worked by stingless bees
Crotalaria spp.
Liked by large firetailed resin bees
Leptospermum spp.
Stingless bees work at certain times, also other bees and flower wasps. L. petersoni has been spectacularly attractive to many species of bees in my garden if it flowers well.
Hardenbergia violacea
Stingless bees, common spring solitary bees
Scaevola spp.
leafcutters, special relationship to ‘open’ the flowers of some species. Stingless bees steal nectar by cutting flower tube to access.
Acacias in general
Source of pollen, and nectar from extrafloral nectaries in some cases. I have recorded this with A bancrofti and A mangium used in forestry plantings in the tropics is recognized as a honey producer from nectaries, even in the first year of planting.
Eucalypts and Corymbia
The main stay of the Australian bush for bees of all kinds. When a Eucalypt of some sort flowers within range of a stingless bee colony, they will largely ignore the carefully planted but relatively lean forage to go to the large resource of the Eucalypts. Plant to fit the yard, some of the new grafted varieties are very attractive to the bees, yet also quite small showy trees
Angophoras, Lophostemons
Worked by stingless bees and others, variable flowering
Used by many bees, stingless and solitary
Banksia spp
Used by the banksia bees, one of the Hylaeine bees
Persoonia spp.
Specifically used by the Persoonia bees
Hypoestes floribunda
Small plant, loved by stingless bees
Stenocarpus angustifolia ‘Doreen’
Great for stingless bees
Myoporum viscosum (Boobialla)
Loved by stingless bees
Mallotus philipensis (male)
Worked by stingless bees
Cupanopsis anacardioides
Common name Tuckeroo, liked by stingless bees
Geitoplesium cymosum
Scrambling lily, liked by Blue banded bees, and other solitary bees
Eustrephus latifolius (Wombat berry
Very actively worked by BBBs and other solitary bees
Bacopa monnieri
Liked by stingless bees, and just a small low growing ground cover, likes moisture.
Crinum pedunculatum
River Lily, all pollen collected by stingless bees Large tuberous lily.
Melastoma malabathricum
Blue tongue is well liked by the large carpenter bees
Philydrum lanuginosum
Woolly Frogmouth is liked by stingless bees
Artanema fimbriatum
Koala Bells is liked by Blue banded bees
Bulbine vagans
Stingless bees and Leafcutters observed on this plant. This has a green and gold Nomia plus a stingless bee.
Stylidium spp
Blue Banded bees observed on this uncommon plant
Wahlenbergia spp
Exoneura (reed bees) use blue bells for forage and repose, a unique situation. Also Lassioglossum and Homalictus solitary bees
Used by various bees in the unique conditions in which it grows.
Haemodorum planifolium

Blood root lily

Photo by Marc Newman

Hovea graniticola
Photo by Marc Newman
Spyridium scortechini
Philotheca epilosa
Leilonema rotundifolium
Pavetta australiansis
Shrub, also known as Butterfly bush. Likes by BBBs. Flowers Oct-Nov.
Mirbelia speciosa
Photo by Marc Newman
Melichrus urceolatus

Urn heath

Photo by Marc Newman

Leucopogon melaleucoides
Photo by Marc Newman
Jacksonia scoparia


Photo by Marc Newman

Petrophile canescens
Cone Stick
Jagera pseudorhus
Foambark (stingless bees in large numbers)
Microcitrus australasica
Finger Lime well worked by stingless bees. Popular commercial bush tucker shrub
Melia azedarach
White cedar – liked by stingless bees
Castanospernum australia (Blackbean)
Large tree, bright red orange flowers on branches, very much likes by stingless bees. Good replacement for the poisonous African Tulip tree.
Barklya syringifolia (Crown of Gold)
Slow growing, dense crowned small tree, spectacular mass of yellow flowers in Spring.
Attractive small daisy, of some value
Atriplex nummularia
Old Man Salt bush, a shrub that loves dry and tough conditions is loved by stingless bees
Carpobrotus glaucescens (Pigface)
A creeping succulent, liked by stingless bees, and scrub turkeys, and chooks
Rhodosphaera rhodanthema (Deep Yellowwood)
Large tree, much likes by stingless and other bees.
Amylena congena sub sp congena (Variable Mistletoe)
A surprising forage plant for stingless bees, this photo taken on a mistletoe plant on Citrus.

Next: Trees used for resin