Rocky Mountain Bee Plant: Pollinator Palace

When you’re trying so as to add a low-maintenance annual flowering plant to your backyard, look no additional than the rocky mountain bee plant! These crops originated in western North America and southern British Columbia. They’ll thrive when grown inside their native vary with little to no human intervention. 

These crops have been used as a meals supply by Native Individuals, however right this moment they’re admired as pollinator crops that may appeal to butterflies, hummingbirds, and native bees to your backyard. Additionally they help native wildlife for the reason that seeds are an vital meals supply for doves and different small birds. 

These native crops develop tall, generally reaching as much as 6 toes! Their tall, lanky stems sway within the breeze, topped with stunning pink-purple flowers. Due to their top, it’s greatest to select a location in your backyard the place they gained’t shade out smaller crops. Bee crops (Cleome serrulata) can assist create visible curiosity in your pollinator backyard when grown behind different smaller flowering crops. 

They readily self-seed yr after yr, which results in them being present in patches in open woods, prairies, and even rising in ditches alongside roads (they appear to desire disturbed floor). Cleome serrulata can survive in poor soil situations and is drought tolerant, making it an incredible alternative for the water-wise backyard! 

As soon as established, Cleome serrulata wants little in the way in which of water aside from what it’s going to obtain from pure rainfalls. In occasions of prolonged drought, it could want some extra moisture. Previously, it has additionally been cultivated to be used as a dye. 

Fast Care Information

Beeplant can get fairly tall, generally as much as six toes. Supply: AndreyZharkikh
Frequent Identify Rocky mountain bee plant, rocky mountain beeweed, stinking clover, spider flower, skunk weed, Navajo spinach
Scientific Identify Cleome serrulata
Household Cleomaceae
Top & Unfold 6 toes tall by 3 toes vast
Gentle Full solar to gentle shade
Soil Gentle sandy soil, well-draining
Water Low water, drought tolerant
Pests & Ailments Pest and illness resistant

All About The Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

Close look at C. serrulata flowers
Up shut, the various stamens of a C. serrulata flower are outstanding. Supply: Matt Lavin

Cleome serrulata, or rocky mountain bee plant, is a plant within the Cleomaceae household that goes by multiple widespread identify. It’s also often known as rocky mountain beeweed, stinking clover, spider flower, skunk weed, and Navajo spinach. Regardless of among the unflattering ‘stinking clover’ identify relating to the scent of its flowers, it doesn’t odor all that dangerous! 

Some have described the pink, purple, or purple flowers of this species as smelling “clammy” or “briny,” just like capers, which is sensible since rocky mountain bees are associated to the caper plant (the Cleomaceae household belongs to the identical order, Brassicales). 

The odor isn’t pungent, and you actually must lean into the flower buds to odor it. This odor is how the beautiful pink to reddish-purple flowers with 4 petals have attracted pollinators for a while. Species on this household are inclined to include resins that emit scents. 

Additionally, regardless of among the names that confer with it as a weed, it’s not thought of invasive and isn’t a noxious weed. Cleome serrulata is, in reality, an exquisite native plant that pulls all kinds of pollinators resembling butterflies, bees, and small birds resembling hummingbirds. Rocky mountain beeplant is native to western North America, and its habitat stretches from Southern British Columbia all the way in which south to New Mexico. 

This annual plant normally has pink flowers, however they are often reddish purple as effectively. The flowers have 4 petals and 6 lengthy stamens. They’ve an erect rising behavior of a single tall major stem and several other aspect shoots or stems that department off from that. 

The spirally organized leaves are trifoliate with three slender leaflets, and figuring out the younger leaves is one of the simplest ways to acknowledge seedlings earlier than they’ve flowered. Bee crops put down a really deep taproot, generally reaching as much as a foot deep. 

As soon as you start rising a rocky mountain beeplant, you’re certain to quickly have an infinite provide. Cleome serrulata is an annual plant that produces fruit that become seed pods on the finish of the rising season. These pods resemble small beans, and every comprises a number of seeds. This seed turns out to be useful for the reason that bee plant doesn’t survive any stage of frost and can die within the winter. You’ll have to sow every year to proceed your bee plant patch, however the seeds are very simple to gather. 

Cleome serrulata was collected lengthy prior to now, in 1804 throughout the Lewis and Clark expedition. It was famous at the moment that it was being cultivated by Native Individuals. It was historically used as a meals supply, a medicinal therapy, and a supply of dye for coloring material and pottery. 

A black dye might be made by boiling down the older woody stems, and a yellow-green dye might be made by boiling down the recent younger spirally-arranged leaves. All components of the plant are edible uncooked, cooked, or dried. Rocky Mountain bee plant tea is claimed to be helpful as a therapy to alleviate abdomen aches and scale back fever. 


Cleome serrulata leaf structure
Cleome serrulate has trifoliate leaves. Supply: Matt Lavin

Cleome serrulata species (and lots of of these within the Cleomaceae household) thrive on borderline neglect, particularly of their native vary from southern British Columbia to northern New Mexico. This makes them an incredible alternative for parkways or areas in your property the place you want to make the most of the area to usher in extra pollinators. 

Solar and Temperature

Navajo spinach prefers full solar though it’s going to tolerate some gentle shade within the latter a part of the day. 6-8 hours of daylight per day will preserve your bee plant completely satisfied. For that reason, of their pure habitat, the lengthy stamens and slender leaflets of those native crops are generally discovered rising in open woods, prairies, or on roadsides the place they’ll obtain full solar. 

These native flowers can survive quite a lot of situations and may be reliably grown in USDA zones 1-10. They’ll even be present in elevations as excessive as 7200 toes. As an annual, this plant isn’t frost-tolerant and can die on the finish of the rising season. It’s, nevertheless, drought-tolerant and handles scorching summer time temperatures of 90° Fahrenheit and above very effectively. 

Water and Humidity

Rocky mountain bees are completely suited to survival unassisted of their native vary of Western North America, from New Mexico to the Dakotas. For that reason, you could by no means have to water your rocky mountain bee plant in any respect! It’s vital to water early within the spring to help within the germination of the seeds, however as soon as they’re established and rising in the summertime, they’ll survive on little or no in any respect. 

As with most crops, water them early within the day or within the afternoon after the warmth of the day has handed. Water on the base of the plant to keep away from wetting the foliage, particularly in humid areas, to stop powdery mildew points. As soon as the crops have gone to seed, watering is not mandatory. Permit the seed pods to dry out on the plant and gather for sowing subsequent yr. 


One other good thing about including mountain bee crops to your backyard is the truth that they not solely tolerate however desire poor soil situations. The Cleome serrulata species prefers gentle sandy soil that’s well-draining. They put out taproots that may penetrate the bottom as much as 2 toes deep! Which means you needn’t fear about amending the soil at your planting location. 

Their three slender leaflets and flowers with 4 petals may be seen thriving in a roadside ditch in spite of everything. The particular pH of the soil doesn’t matter as a lot as guaranteeing satisfactory drainage, as this species doesn’t do effectively in heavy moist soils.  


Rocky Mountain bee plant pods
Rocky Mountain bee plant produces seed pods that appear like beans. Supply: Matt Lavin

Excellent news! It’s not essential to fertilize your native rocky mountain bee plant in any respect! They’re splendidly low upkeep in all elements. Not solely do they require low water and like sandy soil, however additionally they don’t require any fertilizer. 

Fertilizing your rocky mountain bee plant gained’t harm it, but it surely isn’t mandatory. Plant it in a full solar location with well-draining soil, and also you’ll be having fun with stunning pink flowers that appeal to honey bees and different useful bugs all summer time lengthy! 


The rocky mountain beeplant may be pruned for a extra compact look. Nevertheless, the pink and purple flowers of this species are significantly beautiful when left to develop wild! Like the remainder of its household, it’s going to develop erect and tall, generally as much as 6 toes, with a number of stems branching off from the principle stem. 

Every stem will put out pink to reddish-purple flowers with six lengthy stamens. When you select to prune them, prune again the aspect shoots on the plant and permit just one major stem to proceed to develop. This can even scale back the general variety of pink flowers. 


Rocky mountain beeplant is an skilled at producing its personal seed. These are self-pollinators and create their very own fruit. As soon as the bee plant has concluded flowering for the season, it’s going to then focus its power on producing what seem like tiny bean pods. Every pod comprises a number of seeds. 

Depart the pods on the plant to dry on the finish of summer time after which gather the seed for subsequent yr. Don’t overlook that these seeds require stratification so they may should be planted within the fall for greatest outcomes. Additionally they require daylight for germination. Sprinkle them throughout your planting location after which cowl them with a tremendous dusting of sand or gentle soil. 


Cleome serrulata
Cleome serrulata flowers develop in clusters. Supply: Cletus Lee

Other than their pretty flower petals, yet one more good thing about rising this plant is that it has no identified pests or ailments that bother it! There are some rising issues to contemplate and a few minor points that will crop up, however in any other case, the rocky mountain bee plant is trouble-free. 

Rising Issues

Most rising issues are associated to the seeds. Rocky Mountain bee plant seed requires daylight to germinate. For that reason, it’s simple to unintentionally bury the seeds too deep, stopping them from sprouting. When direct sowing the seed, be sure you cowl with a skinny dusting of sandy soil or use a minimal layer of vermiculite. Since vermiculite displays gentle, among the gentle is mirrored downwards into the soil, which aids within the germination of those seeds. 

This seed additionally requires stratification to correctly germinate. The easiest way to realize that is to sow your seed within the fall in order that they’ll expertise the pure chilly, dormant interval throughout winter. The plant itself will let you know when it’s time to plant the seed because the pods mature and dry out on the plant. Then you’ll be able to crack them open and unfold the seed. When you’d wish to plant them within the spring, they’ll have to expertise a fake dormant interval which may be duplicated by inserting the seeds in a humid paper towel within the fridge for at the very least 30 days earlier than planting. 


There are not any critical pests for the rocky mountain bee plant! That being stated, they aren’t fully resistant to leaf-eating pests like leaf miners, aphids, and earwigs. Nevertheless, they appear to prioritize different crops and go away bee crops alone. 


There are not any extreme ailments for the rocky mountain bee plant! That doesn’t imply that they’re fully resistant to ailments that might have an effect on the foliage, resembling powdery mildew, or that the roots are resistant to poor drainage situations that trigger root rot

Nevertheless, they’re usually illness resistant. It’s nonetheless a good suggestion to not moist the foliage whereas watering and keep away from planting in a location with poor drainage. These points are extra of a difficulty exterior of its native vary, significantly the place it’s humid, as this bee plant is used to surviving in scorching and arid situations. 

Incessantly Requested Questions

Rocky Mountain bee plant with Nevada bumble bee
Rocky Mountain bee plant attracts in lots of bees and bumblebees. Supply: USFWS Mountain Prairie

Q: Is Rocky Mountain bee plant invasive?

A: It isn’t thought of invasive, however in ideally suited rising situations, it could simply self-seed yr after yr. For that reason, it’s normally present in dense patches alongside roadsides and on prairies. 

Q: Are Rocky Mountain bee crops perennials?

A: No, they’re annuals that have to be planted every year. 

Q: When do you have to plant a bee plant?

A: The seeds require a interval of stratification throughout the winter, so fall planting is really helpful. In any other case, they may want at the very least 30 days in your fridge earlier than planting within the spring. 

Q: The place do Rocky Mountain bee crops develop?

A: As its identify would recommend, within the Rocky Mountain area, together with southern Canada and the western United States. It’s also discovered as far east as Ohio and as far southwest as Texas. It has even been naturalized in components of Maine. 

Q: Does Cleome like solar or shade?

A: Cleome prefers full solar however will tolerate gentle shade. 

Q: Is Cleome a wildflower?

A: Sure, it’s a wildflower. 

Q: Do hummingbirds like cleome?

A: Sure, they like it! 

Q: Is cleome toxic to people?

A: No, all components of the plant are edible, both uncooked, cooked, or dried, and have been utilized by Native Individuals in conventional medicines. 

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