Top ten plants that are bad for bees

Lavender, alliums, fuschias, sweet peas - keen gardeners know the very best flowers to entice bees to their gardens. But what about plants that are  bad for bees? Here is our expert guide to the top ten plants that you should avoid to keep bees happy and buzzing, plus the perfect alternatives. 

Macro of honey bee eating nectar

Here is the list of plants bad for bees and their bee friendly replacements:


1. Rhododendron

Spectacular and beautiful, not many people know the common rhododendron hides a poisonous secret – its nectar is toxic to bees. It’s common practice for beekeepers to keep their hives closed until the flowering season is over. The resulting honey from rhododendrons has also been known to contaminate honey, making it unsafe for humans to eat.

Good for bees alternative: Clematis have beautiful, wide flowers and are 100 per cent bee-friendly.

2. Azalea

Rhododendron’s sister, azaleas are also toxic to bees.

Alternative: Foxgloves are a bee favourite and despite being poisonous if consumed by humans, they are both honey and bee safe.

3. Trumpet flower, or angel’s trumpet

Though ornamental and sweet smelling, the trumpet flower’s nectar can cause brood death in bees and is best avoided.

Good for bees alternative: Try honeysuckle instead for deliciously scented results.

4. Oleander

Harmful to butterflies as well as bees, oleander has a severe effect on hives. Nectar taken to the hive concentrates as it dries out, which increases the amount of toxins and usually results in a mass hive wipeout. 

Good for bees alternative: Snapdragons are equally as bright and arguably more attractive in small or large gardens.

Snap dragon (Antirrhinum majus)

5. Yellow Jessamine

Pleasantly aromatic and attractive as they are, bees are often poisoned by the vines and flowers of the yellow jessamine and its toxins are said to be as severe as hemlock.

Good for bees alternative: Plant Black-eyed Susans in tubs and along fences for a pretty, easy-to-grow substitute.

6. Mountain Laurel

Part of the blueberry family, the mountain laurel is an evergreen shrub with sweet, white or pink flowers when in bloom. Pretty they may be, but the honey produced by mountain laurel is toxic to humans and is often bitter tasting.

Good for bees alternative: Lilacs are both beautiful and wonderfully sweet smelling. Easy to grow and are loved by bees and butterflies. 

7. Stargazer lily

Stunning but deadly, stargazer lilies’ pollen is poisonous to bees.

Good for bees alternative: Hollyhocks are impressive and just as beautiful as the stargazer but bee-friendly.

8. Heliconia

Exotic and interesting, heliconia, or lobster-claws as its sometimes called, is very toxic to bees.

Good for bees alternative: Although not quite as exotic, hyacinths are fragrant, gorgeous and easy to grow.

9. Bog rosemary

Not to be confused with the herb, bog rosemary is acutely poisonous and the honey made from this plant can cause paralysis to humans.

Good for bees alternative: Why not try planting a classic rosemary bush – aromatic, resilient and favoured by bees.

10. Amaryllis

Now most commonly recognised as decorative Christmas flowers, amaryllis are gorgeous in bloom but their pollen produces toxic honey.

Good for bees alternative: Dahlias are a highlight of late summer gardens. Beautiful and simple to grow, dahlias often flower until the first frosts of the year.

Pink Dahlia Flower Closeup