This article shares all you need to know about the importance of biodiversity in your garden, and how you can get there with low-maintenance plants and flowers that won’t require all your attention.
How did we decide what makes a low-maintenance plant?
For the purposes of this article, we are describing a low-maintenance plant as something which:
- Takes minimal effort to grow from a seed
- Requires minimal maintenance once replanted into your garden (if required)
- Lasts for more than two years, requiring less time for annual replanting
- Attracts bees, potentially passing on the tasks of pollination and new growth.
For biodiversity, we’re looking for:
- Plants which attract bees, therefore attracting other insects and birds
- A range of plants, including herbs and flowers to attract a variety of garden wildlife.
What does biodiversity mean?
Biodiversity refers to the variation of biological life in a certain space, such as the different types of flowers, plants, and trees you have in your garden. In turn, a diverse range of plants bring a diverse range of garden wildlife, such as pollinators, insects, birds, and more.
To understand how diverse even the UK garden can be, just take a read through our guides of British garden wildlife:
- Beginner’s Guide to Garden Wildlife
- Beginner’s Guide to Hedgehogs
- Beginner’s Guide to Foxes
- Beginner’s Guide to Birds
- Beginner’s Guide to Voles
- Beginner’s Guide to Toads & Newts
- Beginner’s Guide to Insects
What is the biodiversity crisis? Why is biodiversity important?
According to Earth Justice, the biodiversity crisis has two areas of concern:
“1. We’re losing species altogether.
- Even species that aren’t at immediate risk of extinction are thinning out, and that imperils other species that depend on them. Scientists estimate that vertebrate species have declined by an average of 70% in the last half century.”
So, why is this important?
Well, other than the tragedy that is losing entirely unique species forever, it also affects our ability to survive on Earth. For example, a diverse garden brings bees, one of nature’s most prolific pollinators, responsible for every third bite of food we eat.
Think about that. One bite. Two bites. Three bites – thank you, bees.
This is because they travel from plant to plant, taking pollen with them as they go, nurturing the growth of more plants with each flap of their wings. Without a biodiverse nature that can support pollinator insects—or insects which removes pests from crops—life as we know it would completely change and certain foods would become much rarer, if impossible.
What flowers attract bees?
1. Bee-friendly Perennials: Chives and Lavender.
A “perennial” plant is one that lives for more than two years in an ideal environment. A couple perennials that insects, especially bees, love include:
Chives have grass-like leaves, purple miniature allium flowers, and can be put into salads, soups, and dips for that mild onion-y flavour people love. Not only that, but they’re a visually pleasing herb in a garden, able to thrive in a container or in the ground and require no real maintenance outside of watering and the occasional trimming of older leaves or flowers.
For speed, some prefer to purchase ready-grown chives and transplant these into their garden. The perfect time for this is early spring.
Another perennial that will bring your garden to life is lavender, famous for its gentle purple beauty and perfumed scent. Plant in a sunny spot in late spring once any risk of frost has passed and prepare for summer blooms.
Once your lavender is well established, lavender is drought tolerant and will likely not even need watering if planted in the ground (unless there’s a drought). Lavender is so low maintenance that it even thrives in dry, nutrient-sparse soil.
As lavender is purple, lavender is a big hit with many insects, but especially bees, such as bumblebees, leafcutter bees, flower bees, and mason bees. This is because bees can see purple better than any other colour, so purple flowers are the most attractive!
2. Potted plants for bees: Salvia.
Not to be confused with lavender, salvia come in a wide variety of types and colours, often attracting bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects with their nectar. They add a touch of colour to your garden for months, flowering from mid-summer to first frosts, and often have aromatic foliage.
Plant Salvia in a sunny spot in late spring, ideally in well-drained or stony soil.
The three most low-maintenance types of Salvia are:
Herbaceous perennial salvias (Salvia nemorosa and Salvia x sylvestris):
These are hardy and come back to life year after year.
Tender perennial salvias (Salvia greggii):
This type can come back year after year, but may need protection over winter, which is why this type can be best grown in pots for easy portability.
Shrubby salvias (e.g. Salvia x jamensis and Salvia microphylla):
These types are sub-shrubs with woody stems, and most are hardy in mild winters, but may also need protection in moderate winters. Once again, pots may be best for this type of Salvia.
3. Flowers bees love: Alstroemeria.
Alstroemerias are herbaceous perennials, producing new leafy stems every spring before flowering in summer and autumn, then dying again during the winter. They can do so for many years, even if left in your garden throughout winter, and tend to look exotic.
They should be planted in spring and their ideal environment is a sheltered, sunny spot in free-draining soil, and for the first couple of years after planting, apply a thick layer of mulch every autumn around the plant. This helps to insulate the roots until they are hardy enough to withstand winter outside.
Alstroemerias flower throughout spring and summer, bringing bees to your garden for months at a time!
4. Flowers bees love: Snowdrops.
Snowdrops are hardy perennial flowers that bloom in winter, when spring is just round the corner, recognisable for their small, white bell-shaped flowers. In fact, they’re so hardy that they’ll even push through snow-covered ground to flower.
When planting snowdrops, choose a partly-shaded spot with moist, but well-draining soil, ideally with a leafmould or garden compost incorporated. Snowdrop bulbs dry out quickly, so it is especially important that the soil does not dry out during the summer (or before you’ve transplanted your bulbs into your garden).
Bees absolutely love snowdrops, and so will you – win-win.
5. Flowers bees love: Heather.
Heathers are best planted in spring and will bring compact colour to your garden. When planting heather, you want to choose a sunny spot for more vibrant colours, but they will also thrive in light shade.
Once planted in your garden, heathers will need to be watered for the first year while they get established, but afterwards they will become drought-tolerant and only require watering during extended droughts. After your heather has flowered, only a light trim is needed to remove any dying flowers, encouraging further growth and a neat garden.
Bees love the colours and nectar that heathers bring to your garden, but none quite so much as winter-flowering heathers, available from autumn onwards. These are perfect for borders and help provide a source of food for bees during the winter, the most difficult season for them to survive.
What plants are not good for bees?
Although unexpected, there are some flowers which may harm bees, due to toxins in their pollen. Some species are rare to find in the UK, but flowers that are bad for bees include:
- Rhododendron: A flowering shrub.
- Carolina Jessamine: A woody vine, sometimes also called a yellow jessamine. Mostly found in South-East America.
- Summer Titi: Also known as southern leatherwood or American cyrilla. The Spring Titi, however, is fine for honeybees.
- Mountain Laurel: A flowering tree that is mostly found across the eastern U.S.
- California Buckeye: A buckeye tree that is toxic to honeybees.
Low maintenance bee-friendly plants: Summary!
Plants and flowers bees love that you can plant in spring:
Flowers bees loves that you can plant after spring:
- Winter-flowering heathers (plant in autumn)
- Hyacinth (plant in late summer/early autumn for spring bloom)
- Primrose (plant in mid-September to early October)
Flowers that are bad for bees:
- Carolina Jessamine
- Summer Titi
- Mountain Laurel
- California Buckeye
Of course, if you’d be embarrassed to see more garden wildlife appear in your low-maintenance garden in its current state, remember that we have a wide range of eco-friendly cordless garden equipment that’ll help you prepare your biodiverse greenery for a spring and summer of busy bees.