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Winter-blooming Plants to Nourish Bees

This week, I ran across an article, 7 winter-blooming plants to nourish bees, from OSU, written by Kym Pokorny.  Her source for this article was Andony Melathopoulos.  Andony was one of our Winter Dreams Summer Gardens 2022 presenters. He spoke about the many different types of bees and their importance to our environment.

This caught my eye because I really enjoyed his presentation. Andony, the Oregon State University Extension Service pollinator specialist and assistant professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences, is a very good presenter with a great deal of knowledge about his topic.

In the article, I learned that black-tailed bumblebees can be out and about as early as January.  With bees starting to come out that early, it is important that we have plants which are starting to bloom to provide them nutrition.

The winter-blooming plants which he suggests having in our yards are:

  1. Hazelnut (Corylus):Members of the Corylus genus – including the popular contorted and weeping hazelnuts – are one of earliest sources of pollen for bees.
  2. Oregon grape (Mahonia):No garden – or bee – should be without one of these evergreen shrubs, especially since it’s designated as Oregon’s state flower. But an even better reason are the insanely yellow flowers that last for weeks.
  3. Heath and heather (Erica and Calluna):Bees zoom in to heaths and heathers like they’re approaching a runway. In shades from purple to copper to gold, these low-growing plants make a mat of color throughout the year, including winter.
  4. Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflora):Though it doesn’t have the fragrance of other jasmines, this vining shrub has bright yellow flowers that are a welcome sight in winter.
  5. Witch hazel (Hamamelis):Bees get fired up over witch hazel with its crepe paper-like flowers in orange, red and, most famously, yellow.
  6. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):The periwinkle-colored flowers of rosemary will pop out all winter but really provide a spectacular spread of nectar and pollen in late winter when many bees and hummingbirds are gearing up.
  7. Manzanita (Archtostaphylos):These evergreen shrubs explode with white flowers that bumblebees and hummingbirds flock to. Manzanitas are native to the western United States and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from large, treelike shrubs to ground covers.
  8. Chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum):Bees go gaga over this California native, which blooms after Christmas and keeps on blooming through the end of winter.

“Even a small amount of habitat will sustain bees, even rare species,” Melathopoulos said. “These are tiny creatures. Well-thought-out landscapes can provide all the food they need in winter. Gardeners can really help with that.”

He also suggests checking out the Extension publication Trees and Shrubs for Fall and Winter Bloom.

These are plants that I will consider planting this spring for blooming next year.


By Kym Pokorny,

Source: Andony Melathopoulos,