12 Flowers that Don’t Attract Bees

Colorful mixed celosia garden bed bordered by granite blocks.
My Garden Life
June 17, 2024
Table of Contents

By Kelly Miller

There’s a lot of buzz in the gardening world about flowers that bees love, but what about flowers that don’t attract bees? After all, bee-friendly gardening isn’t for everyone.

Some gardeners have bee sting allergies. Others have apiphobia, the fear of bees—one of the most common animal phobias.

If you want a vibrant garden that doesn’t attract bees, there are plenty of options. You can use foliage, rather than flowers, to provide color and beauty. For example, hostas come in variegated shades of green, yellow, and blue-green. Caladium, coleus, and cordyline are other plants with colorful foliage and minimal flowering.

A row of colorful coleus plants with flowering impatiens in the background.

You can also grow flowers that bees avoid. Let’s discuss the flower traits that bees find least appealing, then review twelve flowers that bees don’t love. 

What Types of Flowers Do Bees Avoid?

Bees are likely to check out any flower, but they find some more appealing than others. These four traits impact a bee’s attraction to certain flowers:

  • Shape
  • Color
  • Pollen and nectar richness
  • Fragrance

Bees are Drawn to Certain Flower Shapes

Bees like flat, bowl-shaped, and tubular flowers. These shapes provide landing pads while making nectar and pollen easily accessible. Fancy hybrids with ruffles or double flowers are less appealing to bees because their food is more concealed. 

A bumble bee collecting pollen from a pink Japanese anemone flowers-Anemone japonica.

Flower Colors that Bees Prefer

You may have read that bees can’t see the color red or that they avoid red flowers. This isn’t quite true, because bees do visit red flowers. However, red flowers appear black to bees, which makes it harder for them to find the pollen and nectar. Bees more easily see blue, violet, yellow, and white and seem to prefer flowers of those colors.

Red flowers aren’t bee-proof, but they’re the best choice for minimizing bee visitation. Furthermore, hummingbirds prefer red flowers and may be motivated to outcompete bees for access to their favorites. 

Close up of a bee gathering pollen from a blue aster flower.

Pollen and Nectar Richness Attract Bees

Bees feed on both pollen and nectar. They use their sense of smell to detect food within flowers and they may also use memory to associate certain flowers with food. Thus, flowers rich in pollen and nectar attract bees and encourage repeat visitation. Flowers with less pollen and nectar are less appealing.

In general, native flowers tend to be good food sources for bees. Meanwhile, modern cultivars and hybrid varieties are often developed to produce large, complex flower heads, but not much pollen or nectar.

Bees are Sensitive to Flower or Plant Fragrances

Some plants produce foliage and flowers that bees avoid. You can increase the chances that bees will avoid your garden by including some aromatic plants that are known to deter bees such as spearmint, basil, wormwood, and lemon grass. Meanwhile, you’ll love the rich fragrance these scented plants add to your garden!

Flowers that don't attract bees - A rock garden planted with Artemesia, variegated hosta, sedum and red barberry shrub in the background offers colorful combination without flowers.

List of Flowers that Don’t Attract Bees

Since flower form, abundance of pollen, color, and fragrance can all influence whether a bee finds a particular flower enticing, choosing flowers that fall short of those preferences is a good way to reduce the number of bees that visit your garden. While bees may occasionally visit the following list of flowers, these blooms are some of the least attractive based on a bee’s preferences.   

1. Feverfew

Feverfew is an herb in the daisy family with lovely white and yellow flowers. Feverfew is self-pollinating and doesn’t require bee visitation. Its foliage emits a bitter odor that repels insects, including bees. 

The small white-petaled, daisylike flowers of Tanacetum parthenium-Feverfew- is among flowers that bees don't like.

2. Marigolds

Some marigolds, such as Bambino varieties, have open centers. Others have more complex flower heads. These include pom-pom and double-ruffled varieties, such as African marigolds. These fancy marigold varieties are less attractive to bees because they don’t provide easy access to pollen and nectar.

Flowers that don't attract bees - A large terra cotta pot filled with orange and yellow African marigolds.

3. Roses

Bees appreciate wild roses, such as ‘Climbing Prairie Rose’ and ‘Wood’s Rose.’ These varieties have open faces and large pollen-filled stamen clusters. On the other hand, double bloom, and ruffled varieties, such as English roses, are less attractive to bees.

A shrub rose in a garden border covered with lush pink rose blooms.

4. Forsythia

Forsythia is a flowering shrub that produces grand yellow blooms in March and April. Many hybrid varieties are sterile and don’t produce any nectar or pollen to attract bees.  So if you’re looking for a spring-blooming shrub with flowers that don’t attract bees, forsythia would be a good choice.

Close up of yellow forsythia flowers along a branch.

5. Zonal Geraniums – Pelargonium species

A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Sussex compared the pollinator attraction of 32 popular garden flowers. They collected data over two summers. The least popular flower among pollinating insects (including bees) was zonal geranium. With minimal pollen to offer and an odor that repels insects, these easy-to-grow flowers are a great choice for gardeners who wish to avoid bees. 

Red and pink zonal geraniums in a large terra cotta pots.

6. Tulips

Some tulips are bee-friendly, others are not. To grow a variety that won’t attract bees, choose an unscented red tulip. Most tulips aren’t known for fragrance so it’s fairly easy to avoid varieties that are marketed for their fragrance. Red tulips aren’t visually appealing to bees, and its unlikely they’ll offer an enticing aroma.

A row of red Double Rococo Parrot Tulips on a spring day.

7. Impatiens

Popular impatiens varieties have been developed to produce lovely flowers, not pollen. Thus, impatiens are a poor food source that bees will readily pass by in favor of better options. Even though impatiens are on the list of flowers that don’t attract bees, they’re one of the best options for bringing color to shady locations, making them a valuable landscape plant.

Overview of magenta and salmon pink impatiens plants sprinkled with flowers.

8. Carnation

Bees like some Dianthus flowers, but aren’t as attracted to showy carnation hybrid types with dense, ruffled petals. These flowers are low on pollen and conceal their food under layers of petals, thus discouraging bee visitation.

Close up of pink carnations in the garden-Dianthus caryophyllus.

9. Cardinal Flower

Cardinal flower is native to the Americas but evolved to attract hummingbirds, not bees. The red tubular flowers permit hummingbirds to insert their beaks. As the hummer sips nectar, the flower’s anther releases pollen, which the bird then spreads throughout the plant to pollinate its flowers. Meanwhile, bees are discouraged by the flower’s concealed nectar and confusing shape. 

Spikes of red Queen Victoria cardinal flowers attract hummingbirds but they are among the flowers that don't attract bees.

10. Trumpet Lily

Trumpet lilies are a group of Asian lily hybrids with large flowers that resemble the bell of a trumpet. Like many exotic hybrids, trumpet lilies offer more value to the human eye than to bees. Bees haven’t evolved to easily access nectar from deep tubes within complicated flowers such as these.

Close up of trumpet lily flowers  with a grassy lawn background- Pink Perfection lily variety.

11. Celosia

Red celosia flowers add a lot of color and textural interest to a garden, but between the unappealing color and flower forms this is not a plant that bees will be drawn to. Celosia are available in a range of colors and it’s not necessary to only plant red flowers to minimize bees visiting your garden or planters.

A  row of yellow, magenta, orange, and red celosia plumosa plants in a garden.

12. Chrysanthemums

Most chrysanthemums are double-flowered, meaning they bear an abundance of petals and flowers within flowers. These elaborate designs discourage bees. Furthermore, mums are low on both pollen and nectar.

A larger bowl planter filled with different colors of chrysanthemum flowers-white, yellow, bronze and lavender.

Growing the Garden that Works for You

Bees are beloved, but it’s okay if bee-friendly gardening isn’t right for you due to an allergy or other concern. Without bees, a garden can still be colorful and eco-friendly.

Along with flowers, there are also many veggies you can grow without bee pollination. Most shade-tolerant veggies, such as leafy greens and broccoli, neither require nor attract bees. Learn more in our guide to Vegetables that Grow in Shade.  

A small, newly planted vegetable garden in a partially shady location.


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