Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome serrulata) Quick Facts!
Host Plant to several species of “white” butterflies!
Nectar plant for Monarchs, Swallowtails and many other butterflies.
Native to much of the US, excluding the southeast
Native in Canada
Hardy in USDA zones 3-8
Dry, sandy soil, drought tolerate once established
Pink flowers bloom in Summer
Grows about 2-5 feet tall
Space 1-2 feet apart
Stinking Clover: Not Just a Clever Name…
Yes, Rocky Mountain Bee plants earn the nickname of Stinking Clover or Skunkweed because of an obnoxious odor emitted by its foliage when crushed. Pro tip: consider a location not directly adjacent to a house window.
So why is the Bee plant a butterfly garden superstar? Two reasons: show stopping flowers and unstoppable nectar supply! The Rocky Mountain Bee plant is a Butterfly Garden A-Lister!
Hot pink to reddish-purple blooms erupt near the bottom of stately 2- to 5 foot stems and work their way up to the crown, resulting in weeks-long bloom times. Removal of spent blossoms will encourage repeat blooming of these tall, graceful beauties that nod elegantly in passing breezes.
The neon pink flowers are like a Las Vegas sign, letting nearby pollinators know they’ve hit the nectar jackpot! The Bee plant’s nectar is so bountiful that butterflies have actually been known to “gang up” and chase birds away from the blooms!
Monarchs and Swallowtails are especially fond of feeding at the Rocky Mountain Bee plant, and it serves as a host plant for Great Southern White, Western White, Cabbage White, Checkered White, Common White, and Becker’s White butterflies. Bees find the flowers irresistible (as you might surmise), and so do hummingbirds.
Smooth Sailing with Rocky Mountain Bee plant
The Bee plant’s odiferous ways put deer and rabbits in the habit of giving it a wide berth. Specimens will reseed themselves in uncrowded soil, but they are not considered aggressive plants. Bee plant prefers dry, well-drained sandy soil, but will also grow in clay. The plant thrives in full sun and is drought-tolerant once established–a wise choice for xeriscapes.
Excellent results have been reported when seeds are cold-stratified for 2-3 weeks in damp sand, although the recommended time is 30 days. The tall mature plants mix well with ornamental grasses, and the globes of Green Milkweed make a lovely counterpoint to the pink columns of the Bee plant blossoms.
Rocky Mountain Bee plants are not fussy–look for it growing wild in the Western regions of the United States, in mountainous areas and in prairie flatlands. It is frequently spotted in dry roadsides, disturbed areas, and washes.
Don’t Let the Smell Scare You!
Honestly, the nickname “skunkweed” is an exaggeration…the Rocky Mountain Bee plant has an occasionally unpleasant odor about it (when its leaves are crushed), but its vivid, tall pink flowers and bountiful nectar make it absolutely worth an occasional nose-wrinkling!
Please note: Joyful Butterfly offers only native Rocky Mountain Bee plants–non-native specimens do not produce the copious amounts of nectar our native Bee plants are known for!