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What to plant for bees when water is scarce

If water is scarce on your patch due to the type of soil or regular droughts, you might think that your choices of plants to attract bees and other pollinators is limited. But there are lots of things you can plant that actually thrive in drier conditions! 

Here are some examples of plants you can introduce on your patch to keep it looking pretty and to provide food for our precious pollinators.

Bee-friendly and drought tolerant plants


Succulents are plants with parts that are thick and fleshy so they can retain water in arid climates or soil conditions. Succulents such as Sedums and Sempervivums are great drought resistant plants. They can store water in their fleshy leaves and stems during wetter spells and use it whenever they need it. Their small flower heads ooze nectar during the late summer and are loved by bees and other pollinating insects.


There are so many benefits to planting herbs on your patch – they don’t just smell and taste delicious, lots of them can tolerate dry conditions too! Here are some to try:

  • Lavender – Lavender plants thrive in full sun and are drought tolerant. Their pretty purple flowers are very attractive to bees and other pollinating insects.
  • Thyme – Thyme plants hate too much water and are fairly drought tolerant. Their flowers are a wildlife magnet and are loved by honeybees, bumblebees, mason bees and leafcutter bees.
  • Sage – Sage plants need watering regularly (especially during dry spells) but not too much as they hate wet roots. Leafcutter bees and long-tongued garden bumblebees love their purple spiked flowers.
  • Rosemary – Rosemary plants are fairly drought-tolerant, but need to be watered regularly during dry summers. Their blue-purple flowers attract pollinators including mason bees, bumblebees and honeybees. 

Find more of the best herbs for bees on the Friends of the Earth website.


Lots of wildflowers are well adapted to tolerate dry conditions, and thrive on low-nutrient soils. Excellent drought plants that attract bees and other pollinators include:

  • Poppies
  • Cornflower
  • Toadflax
  • Thistles
  • Bugle (Ajuga)
  • Dead-nettles
  • Selfheal
  • Teasel

Discover more British wildflowers on the Plantlife website.

Make your own wildflower seedballs with our How to make a seedball resource: 

Other drought tolerant plants to attract bees

  • Sea holly – Lots of varieties like very free-draining soil and some even thrive in poor, dry soil and in sun.
  • Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) – Suitable for growing in a sunny situation, this plant will provide food for bees and other pollinators.
  • Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. Repens (Creeping blue blossom) – One of the hardiest ceanothus with powder-blue flowers that attract an assortment of pollinators.
  • Eryngium bourgatii (Mediterranean sea holly) – Grows in dry, well-drained soil, full sun is essential. Loved by wildlife, especially bumblebees.
  • Verbascum chaixii (nettle-leaved mullein) –  A drought-tolerant plant that grows in poor, alkaline, well-drained soil in full sun. Provides nectar and pollen for pollinators.

Find out more about these plants on the RHS website.

Drought resistant ground cover and lawns

Clover is an extremely drought-resistant plant so allowing it to flourish on your patch will keep it looking green all year round – and bees love it too! Find out more in this article from Treehugger.