Tips for Selecting Plants

1. What plants are well suited to your site?

  • How much light does your garden get? Too little light can make plants weak and leggy; too much can scald the plant.
  • Is the plant cold hardy for your zone? Florida includes USDA Zones 8 to 11a. Enter your zip code or location to filter plants for your zone.
  • To water less, select plants suited to the soil’s moisture conditions.
  • Group plants with similar water requirements to avoid overwatering.
  • What’s your soil like? Examine the texture and get a soil test to check pH and fertility.
  • Test your water quality if irrigating with reclaimed water.
  • Select disease and pest resistant plants.
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2. What attracts bees?

  • Generally, the best plants for bees will be those that have abundant and accessible pollen and nectar.
    • Avoid pollen-free plant varieties (e.g., some sunflowers and lilies) because they will not provide pollen, which is the essential food source for bees.
    • Choose plants with flat flowers or short to medium-length flower tubes (corollas), and limit plants with long flower tubes such as honeysuckle. Many native wild bees have relatively short proboscises, or tongues, and may not be able to access nectar from flowers with long tubes; however, flowers with long floral tubes can attract other pollinators with long tongues or beaks such as butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds.
  • Increasing the number of flowering plant species in your garden can increase the abundance and diversity of bees attracted to the garden.
    • Aim for at least ten flowering plant species selected to complement one another Design your garden to have three or more different plants blooming at any given time during the growing season, which is yearround in southern Florida, and March through November in northern areas of the state.
  • Choose flower colors and plant species that appeal to bees.
    • Bees prefer white, yellow, or blue-purple flowers. Orange, pink, or red flowers are not as attractive to bees (but may be attractive to other pollinators).
    • Native plants are generally best for native bees. While bees may collect nectar from a variety of native and non-native plants, some specialist native bees require pollen from certain native plants in order to develop optimally

3. Select plants with different aesthetic qualities to create a visually pleasing garden.

  • Texture – use a variety of textures for interest:
    • Coarse - large, irregular leaves
    • Fine - tiny leaves and branches
    • Medium texture - average size, simple-shaped leaves
  • Color – select an array of flower colors including blue-purple, yellow, and white. Some pink-red-orange flowers can help to create color harmony but will be less attractive to bees.
  • Shape – use a variety of shapes to create interest. Typical shapes include: round, irregular, arching, cascading, spreading and mounding.
  • Size – a variety of sizes adds interest and definition. Mix tall trees, with medium height shrubs, medium height herbaceous plants, and small, low groundcover.
  • Diversity of bloom times – select plants that bloom early and late in the season. This can be done by selecting woody plants, which tend to bloom early, and herbaceous plants, which tend to bloom in mid-late season.