Flower bulbs in the living environment increase biodiversity

Nutritional needs

A variety of insects, including pollinators such as bees and hoverflies, find their way to flowering plants in the built-up environment. Apart from the odd early-flowering tree, shrub or perennial, in early spring it is mainly the early-flowering bulbs that provide for their nutritional needs. Some flower bulbs provide nectar and pollen after spring, and are therefore of interest to insects.

The right varieties

Because the amount of nectar and pollen differs per bulb variety, some varieties are more suitable as a honey plant than others. A selection of the many suitable types:

Corydalis solida (fumewort)

Height: 6-10 inches

Flowering period: March-April

Location: partial shade/full shade

The fine markings of the honey mark in the tubular flowers serve as a signpost for insects, as it were. The markings make it extra easy for honeybees and wild bees, including red-tailed bumblebees, red mason bees, and tawny mining bees, to find the nectar and pollen.

Crocus tommasinianus (woodland crocus)

Height: 4-6 inches

Flowering period: February-March

Location: full sun

Melliferous plant, thanks to its large amount of nectar and bright orange pollen. Honeybees, bumblebees, and butterflies, including the small tortoiseshell, are often found on these flowers.

Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite)

Height: 2-6 inches

Flowering period: January-March

Location: full sun/partial shade

The nectar and yellow pollen attract bumblebees, honeybees, and butterflies. Due to its early flowering, this variety is especially interesting for the bumblebee, which becomes active early in the year.

Fritillaria meleagris (snake’s head fritillary)

Height: 8-20 inches

Flowering period: April-May

Location: full sun/partial shade

Fritillaria’s hanging bells with special markings are popular with wild bees (including bumblebees and grey-backed mining bees) and honeybees.

Galanthus nivalis (snowdrop)

Height: 4-6 inches

Flowering period: February-March

Location: full sun/partial shade

One of the earliest flowering gestation plants; sometimes the bells appear as early as December. Its orange pollen is attractive to honeybees, bumblebees, and butterflies, including the peacock butterfly.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta (common bluebell)

Height: 8-16 inches

Flowering period: April-May

Location: partial shade

Honey bees and wild bees, including bumblebees and the orange-legged furrow bee, are attracted to the nectar and the creamy white to bluish pollen in the lightly scented flowers.

Ornithogalum nutans (drooping star of Bethlehem)

Height: 16-20 inches

Flowering period: April-May

Location: full sun/light shade/partial shade

Honeybees frequently visit the silvery-white flowers with a green exterior that grow in clusters on the sunny side of the flower stem.

Tulipa sylvestris (wild tulip)

Height: 8-16 inches

Flowering period: April-May

Location: full sun/partial shade

Its fragrant yellow flowers with green-tinged exteriors attract honeybees and wild bees, including orange-legged furrow bees and red mason bees.


All these varieties are suitable for naturalizing in the open ground. Most are also suitable for flower boxes. For uniform planting, to immediately create a flower carpet, the number of flower bulbs per square foot varies from 10 to 20, depending on the variety. For less dense planting or combination planting with, for example, roses or perennials, lower numbers will suffice. Make sure to include lots of different varieties in your planting plan, to increase biodiversity. Mixes are popular. Mixing bulbs that have different flowering periods will ensure you can enjoy new flowers all spring long. Ready-made mixes are available for bees and butterflies, but flower bulb suppliers can also compose mixtures tailored to your situation.

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