TAKE ACTION AND START A MONARCH BUTTERFLY GARDEN
Learn how to start a monarch butterfly garden.
The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) population in North American has been in decline over the last twenty years. Teachers and youth organization leaders can take action and help the monarch recover by planting a monarch butterfly garden.
Monarch gardens can be started nearly anywhere. One place to consider planting a garden is a schoolyard or in existing landscaping where monarch-attracting plants can be incorporated. If areas are not available on school premises consider working with local gardening clubs or parks. Every new monarch butterfly garden that is planted can have a positive impact on the monarch’s stressed population. The key is to locate a garden in a place where butterfly-attracting plants will grow well.
The size of your garden really depends on what is available to you. However, if you can establish a garden plot with at least 100
square feet you will be able to provide an adequate number of plants needed to both attract and hold monarchs. Remember that nectar plants bring butterflies to your garden, but the milkweed keeps them in your garden. If your area is limited and you already have a garden spot established, you may consider adding some monarch-attracting plants.
The native plants that attract monarchs grow best in sunny areas, so your garden needs to be in full sun (at least 6 hours or more a day). Butterflies prefer areas with little to no wind. Plants can be protected from the wind by large shrubs, hedgerows, or fences. While most butterflies and butterfly plants prefer lots of sun, shade can also be utilized in a butterfly garden. Some plants grow better in partial sun, and the butterflies may need refuge from the hottest period of the summer.
Many native butterfly plants prefer well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter. Compost is an excellent additive for increasing organic matter in your soil. However, it is important that you research soil requirements for all your plants before planting. This gives you the best chance to grow thriving plants!
LARVAL FOOD PLANTS
Milkweed is the cornerstone of a successful monarch butterfly garden. Female monarchs only lay their eggs on milkweed and monarch caterpillars need milkweed plants to grow and develop. Plant at least 10 milkweed plants in your garden. Otherwise, there is a good chance your monarch caterpillars will run out of milkweed and food. You may also want to consider planting different species of milkweed as they will mature and flower at different times of the year allowing for monarchs to use your garden longer through the season. Milkweeds to consider include the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), butterfly weed
(Asclepias tuberosa), purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens), whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), and the swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). Swamp milkweed is an exception to most butterfly plants, as it will tolerate poorly drained soils. See the list below for details regarding milkweed flower colors and flowering times.