North America is home to over 4,000 bees, with at least 800 residing in Texas. These include various species such as plasterer bees, bumble bees, oil-collector bees, leaf-cutter bees, mason bees, and others.
Unfortunately, according to Shubber Ali, CEO of Garden for Wildlife, bees and other pollinators are suffering. This decline can be attributed to various factors, including habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. As the numbers of bees and other pollinators continue to decrease, entire ecosystems are being negatively impacted.
While the decline in native bees and other pollinators is a problem, there is good news.
Texans who create habitats with elements such as food, water, cover, places for raising young, and sustainable practices attract two times more wildlife visitors. By incorporating native plants that attract bees and provide them with food, Texans can establish a hospitable habitat for these crucial pollinators. This will help ensure that bees continue to play a vital role in the ecosystems of Texas.
“Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, making them more resilient to drought, heat, and other environmental stressors,” explains Ali. “They also provide the essential food and habitat that native bees need to survive and thrive.”
In Texas, there are many different types of plants that you can incorporate into your garden to help support native bee populations. Here are some of the best native plants for Texas:
>Texas Scarlet Hibiscus: This beautiful flowering plant produces large, showy red blooms that are a favorite of many types of native bees. It blooms in the summer and can grow up to 6’ tall, making it a great addition to the back of a garden bed.
>Salvia: Salvia is a genus of flowering plants that includes many different species, all of which are popular with native bees. Some of the most popular species for Texas gardens include Blue Mistflower, Black and Blue Salvia, and Mexican Bush Sage.
>Snowy Milkweed: As the name suggests, milkweed is a favorite of many different types of butterflies, including a host plant for monarchs, but it’s also a great plant for supporting native bees. It produces clusters of white flowers in the summer and can grow up to 3’.
>Sweet Goldenrod: Goldenrod is often overlooked by gardeners because of its reputation for causing allergies, but it’s actually an excellent plant for supporting native bees. It produces tall spikes of yellow flowers in the fall and can grow up to 6’ tall.
>Purple Coneflower: The purple coneflower is a hardy perennial plant that produces beautiful purple flowers with a distinctive cone-shaped center. It blooms in the summer and is a favorite of many different types of native bees.
>Spotted Bee Balm: Bee balm is another plant popular with both bees and gardeners alike. It produces clusters of red, pink, or purple flowers in the summer and can grow up to four’ tall.
>Wild Indigo: Wild indigo is a plant that is native to Texas and is a favorite of many different types of native bees. It produces tall spikes of blue or purple flowers in the spring and can grow up to 4’ tall.
>Narrow-Leafed Sunflower: this popular wildflower is native to Texas. It features bright yellow blooms with a dark center that attract many bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. It’s easy to grow and can thrive in a range of soil types and light conditions. Can grow up to 8’ tall.
By incorporating these plants into your garden, you can help support native bee populations in Texas. In addition to providing food for bees, many of these plants also provide habitat and shelter for other beneficial insects, birds and other vital wildlife.
Ali considers, “Protecting our pollinators, particularly the bees native to the Texas landscape, makes a great deal of sense considering how a meadow of wildflowers make us smile, and a hearty meal fills our soul.”
Cover photo Dara Mullen
Guest contributor Shubber Ali, CEO of Garden for Wildlife, Inc., has held a life-long passion for conservation. His deep understanding of the native plant field will continue efforts to conserve and recover at-risk species. Ali is focused on engaging millions of Americans to restore habitat by growing native plants. The Garden for Wildlife enterprise helps to grow the adoption of native plantings through improved plant availability, advanced gardener education, and focused partnerships with native plant nurseries, builders, and other stakeholders.