5 Native Bee-Friendly Plants | NZ flora that Bees Love.

There is nothing better than a walk in the New Zealand native bush, complete with dashing waterfalls and birdsong in the canopy. And there are many reasons for bringing native bee-friendly plants from NZ into your garden - especially those loved by the bee.

Regardless of the size of your property or your motivation level, planting native bee-friendly plants in NZ will have your place looking fantastic, as well as providing shelter and food to bees and insects.

Natives are low maintenance, leaving more time for you to spend doing what you love. You’ll not only have a beautiful garden buzzing with happy bees, but you’ll be helping support your local environment and native ecosystems.

1. NZ Flax 

Flax planted in a row

NZ flax, also called Harakeke, grows a mass of brightly coloured flowers from September through to January and is a smorgasbord of pollen for bees.

Plus, the high protein count in flax pollen means the pollen is an excellent source of food and energy for our hard-working little friends.

An excellent choice for attracting bees to your garden. NZ flax has been used over the years in traditional weaving as well as creating shelter from the elements. With strong, wide roots, flax has the added benefit of stabilising any land you have that is prone to instability and erosion.

2. Pohutukawa

Pohutukawa tree standing tall against the blue skyline

Having a Pohutukawa, or “NZ Christmas tree”- as it’s more affectionately named, is sure to attract foraging bees with its bright red brush-like flowers that cover the tree during the summer months.

Not only will this add colour to your garden but you’ll also enjoy visits from native birds like the Tui and Bellbird. 

Generally suited to our coastal areas where the temperatures are warm and sunshine hours are plentiful (like we have here in Nelson), the Pohutukawa tree thrives in other areas too. Trees respond well to an annual trim, meaning they can thrive in all their beauty in your contained back garden. 

3. Rātā

Southern Rata flower in bloom

Adored by bees and birds, the Southern Rātā is the South Island cousin to the Pohutukawa tree. Preferring to grow along the top of the South Island, the Rātā’s vibrant red flowers draw the eye as they stand out against the green hillsides and rugged coastlines.

Rich in nectar the resulting honey from Rātā and the Pohutukawa, is white or light in colour, smooth in texture, and has a slightly salty taste. 

These trees tend to grow very big, so careful planning is wise when planting a Rātā in your backyard. Since their root systems tend to be invasive, avoid planting Rātā trees near buildings and underground pipes.

4. Native Hebe

Picture of a bee-friendly plant from NZ, the native Hebe

One of the bees’ favourite flowers is the native Hebe — the largest family of native plants available in NZ. Hebes can be planted as ground cover, kept as small shrubs or even nurtured into a hedge. 

Bees are drawn like magnets to the Hebe’s mass of flowers, which provides a feast of nectar in one spot. Flowering for extended periods, Hebes are available in a range of shapes and colours which can have your garden looking amazing throughout the seasons.

5. Mānuka

Manuka tree in full flower, one of the native bee-friendly plants in NZ

Everybody has heard about Mānuka honey, how great it tastes, and the amazing anti-bacterial properties in each pot. Māori (the indigenous people of New Zealand) have used Mānuka bark for its medicinal powers, to aid in healing wounds. 

Mānuka trees start life as small shrubs and end up growing into tall trees. As they mature, they provide shelter and a canopy for other less hardy plants growing underneath. Particularly when planted closely together on a hillside or the forest floor.

Highly attractive to bees, the Mānuka’s delicate white or pink flowers have a relatively short flowering season.

Usually between September and March and approximately six weeks in length. This scarcity contributes to the demand for Mānuka honey around the world today.

Conclusion - Bee-friendly plants in NZ that bees will love.

Even though some native bee-friendly plants in NZ end up being large trees, many can be grown comfortably in your backyard. Native plants are generally hardy and drought resistant and can grow pretty much anywhere and in any climate. 

If you are wanting to attract bees to your garden then consider adding some bee-friendly plants. NZ has a wide range of natives that can provide a much-needed food source for our wee friends.

Adding NZ plants will attract bees, which increases the yield of any fruit and vegetable plants in your garden. As well as enjoying the scents and sights of our classic New Zealand flora.

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