Creating a Bee-Friendly Low-Desert Garden

Creating a Bee-Friendly Low-Desert Garden

One of the great things that happens when you become a beekeeper is that you become acutely aware of what is blooming in your area. This also means you probably also become a gardener or at least a garden consultant to all your neighbors. 

In the low desert areas of Arizona, gardening has it’s own challenges because our plants need to be water-wise and able to withstand extreme temperatures. They also need to provide nectar and pollen for our honeybees year-round. No single plant blooms at all times so it’s important for us to provide a variety of plants that cover every season. Summer through Winter are usually the times that we see the fewest blooms, so finding plants to cover those months is a great way to help bees.

Bookleaf Mallee (Eucalyptus kruseana)

Something to keep in mind

When it comes to bees, they don’t like flowers that prevent them from getting to the nectar or pollen. Long, narrow tubular flowers are hard for them and so are flowers that are too ruffly. Flowers they REALLY love are the fluffy bottle-brush and feather-duster-type flowers with lots and lots of pollen-bearing stamens (Mesquite, Eucalyptus, and Fairy-dusters).

Wolfberry  (Lycium fremontii)

I’ve collected a list for you!

Here is a pretty sweet list of bee-friendly trees, shrubs, and  vines that will thrive in your desert garden. Take note of the seasons during which they bloom so that you can be sure to not have any gaps. Also be aware of what is blooming in your area so that if you have an abundance of Spring-blooming plants, then you may want to plant mainly Summer- and Winter-blooming varieties. And since I am a big believer in the Permaculture Stacking Functions, you may find that some of the plants you choose can also provide you with food (Mesquite and Wolfberry for instance.)

Texas Ranger

Water-Wise & Bee-Friendly Plants for Every Arizona Season

Most of these plants are described in detail in the Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert online resource


  • Anacacho Orchid (Bauhinia lunarioides): Spring to Summer
  • Black Brush Acacia (Acacia rigidula): Spring
  • Palo verde (Cercidium): Spring
  • Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco): Winter to Spring
  • Cat Claw Acacia (Acacia greggii): Spring
  • Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus): Summer to Fall
  • Coolibah (Eucalyptus microtheca): Summer
  • Bookleaf Mallee (Eucalyptus kruses’s): Summer
  • Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis): Spring to Summer
  • Feather Bush (Lysiloma microphylla v. thornberi): Spring to Summer
  • Ironwood (Olneya testa): late Spring
  • Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia orthocarpa): Summer
  • Leather-Leaf Acacia (Acacia craspedocarpa): Spring to Summer
  • Mediterranean Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis): Summer
  • Mesquite (Prosopis): Spring
  • Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana): Spring to Fall
  • Mexican Blue Palm (Brahea armada): Summer
  • Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia species): Spring
  • Mexican Ebony (Pithecellobium mexicanum): Spring
  • Palo Brea (Cercidium praecox): Spring
  • Red-cap Gum (Eucalyptus erythrocorys):
  • Summer
  • Shoestring Acacia (Acacia stenophylla): Fall to Winter
  • Silk Floss Tree (Chorisia speciosa): Fall
  • Sweet Acacia (Acacia farnesiana): late Winter to Spring
  • Tenaza (Pithecellobium pallens): Summer
  • Texas Ebony (Pithecellobium flexicaule): Spring to Summer
  • Texas Mountain Laruel (Sophora secundiflora): Spring
  • White Thorn Acacia (Acacia constricta): Spring to Summer
  • Willow Acacia (Acacia salicina): Spring


  • Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans v. angustata): Spring to Fall
  • Baja Fairyduster (Calliandra californica): Spring to Fall
  • Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis): Spring to Fall
  • Bee Brush (Aloysia gratissima): Spring to Fall
  • Black Dalea (Dalea frutescens): Fall to early Winter
  • Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa): Winter to Spring
  • Bush Dalea (Dalea pulchra): Winter to Spring
  • Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis): Year-Round
  • Chihuahuan Sage (Leucophyllum laevigatum): Summer to Fall
  • Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata): Spring to Fall
  • Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi): Spring
  • Flattop Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum v. polifolium): Spring
  • Golden Eye (Viguiera deltoidea): Spring
  • Green Feathery Senna (Senna artemisioides v. filifolia): Late Winter to Spring
  • Guayacån (Guaiacum coulteri): Summer
  • Langman’s Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae): Summer to Fall
  • Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla): Spring to Fall
  • Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima): Spring to Fall
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Various times during the year 
  • San Marcos Hibiscus (Gossypium harknessii): Summer to Fall
  • Shrubby Senna (Senna wislizenii): Summer
  • Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens): Summer to Fall
  • Turpentine Bush (Ericameria laricifolia): Late Summer to Fall
  • Violet Silverleaf (Leucophyllum candidum): Summer to Fall
  • Wolfberry (Lycium fremontii): Late Winter to Spring and Fall
  • Wooly Butterfly Bush (Buddleia marrubifolia): Spring to Midsummer
  • Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii): Spring to Fall


  • Queen’s Wreath (Antigonon leptopus): Summer to Fall
  • Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violacea): Winter to Spring

Note: There are other great flowering shrubs and trees that bees love, but these are particularly water-wise, which is nice to know with the uncertain future of water availability.

And please use wood mulch rather than rocks. Wood mulch (free from most tree-trimming companies, check out builds up the soil to retain more water and nutrients while rock mulch merely adds an inorganic layer to aid in some moisture retention. Rock mulch is made by breaking down mountains. Wood mulch goes to the landfill if not used. It’s a no-brainer.