Plants & Gardening

How to Attract Monarch Butterflies to Your Garden

The Monarch butterfly season begins in early spring as the iconic orange and black butterflies begin their northward migration from their wintering grounds in Mexico. As they fly north they seek milkweed plants (plants in the Asclepias genus). Known as host plants, milkweeds are the only plants upon which the female Monarch will deposit her eggs, and they are the only plants upon which the growing caterpillars feed.

attract monarchs to your garden

The best home for Monarchs includes milkweed host plants along with a variety of other native plants for nectar. Various milkweed species will mature and flower at different times throughout the season, and increasing the variety of milkweeds will also increase the likelihood that monarchs will visit your planting for a longer period during the breeding season.

A 100 square foot garden of native plants is ideal to support Monarchs, but simply choosing the right plants can attract them. A few well chosen native plants can be added to existing gardens, and with a few clusters of Milkweed in the mix, you may start to see Monarchs. The top three elements you need for a Monarch garden are:

    A good butterfly spot should get 6 hours or more of full sun a day. Ideally, the location will give shelter from the wind as well. The sunny side of a garage or along a solid fence in the sun offers enough protection. Any well-drained soil is acceptable, and the plants you choose should be based on what soil you have.

    Choose at least two species of Asclepias (milkweeds) as host plants. The milkweeds that you choose will depend upon your soil:
    If you have Dry Sandy soil - Butterflyweed, Whorled Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Common Milkweed.
    If you have Loamy soil - Sullivant’s Milkweed, Butterflyweed, Whorled Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Common Milkweed, Red Milkweed.
    If you have Clay Soil - Butterflyweed for Clay, Showy Milkweed, Common Milkweed, Red Milkweed.
    If you have Moist Soil - Common Milkweed, Red Milkweed.

    Milkweed is the first thing you need to attract Monarchs, but it’s not the only plant they need. Adult Monarch butterflies seek nectar from a variety of other native plants, as well. The nectar is food for adult butterflies and it fuels their flight. Fall blooming natives such as Asters and Goldenrods are important to include. The Monarchs need as much fuel as they can get on their long flight back to Mexico, in the Fall.

Now Select Your Plants!

Each of these options includes both host plants (Milkweeds) and nectaring plants.

  1. U-Pick Monarch Garden Kit. Choose from our list of Monarch Favorites and customize your own 32-plant tray. You'll get the best price on a full tray of plants, while choosing from a list of natives especially curated for their high appeal to Monarch butterflies.

  2. Pre-Planned Monarch Habitat Gardens. Created by the experts at Prairie Nursery, our pre-planned Monarch Gardens are designed for your success, with high plant diversity. Choose the size and soil type that best fits your needs. Our pre-planned gardens include planting design layout and instructions. It's easy - we’ve done the planning for you!

  3. Shop for your choice of individual plants from our list of Monarch Favorites. This is a good way to go if you are looking for a few Monarch magnets (less than 32 plants). All of the natives on this list are known to be highly sought by Monarchs.

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