Plants & Gardening

How to Attract & Support Monarch Butterflies

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 habitat for Monarchs includes milkweed host plants along with a variety of other native plants for nectar. Different milkweed species will mature and flower at different times throughout the season. Including a few milkweed species increases the likelihood that monarchs will visit your site for a longer period during the breeding season.

A 100 square foot garden of native plants is ideal for Monarch support. A few well chosen native plants can also be added to an existing garden – if a few clusters of Milkweed are included in the mix, you may start to see Monarchs. The top three elements you n,eed 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 plants from the Asclepias genus (Milkweed or Butterflyweed) for host plants. The Asclepias species 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.

    Milkweeds are not the only plants 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 very important. 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 Waystation Kit. Fill a 32-plant tray, choosing from a list of host and nectar plants with the highest appeal to Monarch butterflies. You save 25% over regularly priced plants.

  2. Pre-Planned Monarch Habitat Gardens. We’ve done the planning for you! Our pre-planned Monarch Gardens include a planting design, instructions and high plant diversity. Just choose the size and soil type that best fits your site.

  3. Shop for individual plants from our list of Monarch Favorites. If you're looking for a few Monarch magnets (less than 32 plants), all of the natives on this list are highly sought by Monarchs, including both host and nectar plants.

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