Attracting Monarch Butterflies to Your Garden

Guest contributor Herman Samana shares information on creating a butterfly garden in your yard.

We all have real power to make a positive difference in protecting the Monarch butterfly and making it thrive. Here are some simple ideas to get you started.

Plant milkweed

Plant milkweed for monarch butterflies and caterpillars to eat, and they will come. Make sure you grow milkweed in full sun, in clusters of at least six plants, or those hungry caterpillars will run out of food quickly. That way, they’ll produce enough nectar for all of the wonderful butterflies that visit your garden.

You should also:

  • Try not to use pesticides and look for natural solutions whenever possible.
  • Provide runways near water sources so butterflies can drink safely.
  • Butterflies like safe spaces where they can sit at night, such as trees and bushes or flat rocks in the sun for the butterflies to relax.
  • Take care of plants carefully – a life cycle can occur under a tree leaf at any time! Stay away from using peat-based compost.
  • You can even go the extra mile and register your place as a Monarch Waystation.

Types of milkweed to plant — and other plants Monarchs love

Here is just a handful of the many plants that will attract butterflies and other pollinators to your garden.

  • The types of milkweed Monarch butterflies love best include swamp milkweed, showy milkweed, and butterfly milkweed.
  • Nectar plants they enjoy include Joe Pye weed, Mexican sunflower ‘torch’, butterfly bushes, and buddleja buzz.
  • Pollinator plants they feed on include native wildflowers that will do well in the soil and sunlight conditions in your garden.
  • For the Western U.S., check out these planting resources for more ideas about what to plant.

Blueprint for a Butterfly Garden  

When considering the physical space and layout of a butterfly garden, there are some essential ideas and necessary steps one need to take to help the butterflies thrive successfully:

  • Consider the physical space and plan a design that works for your garden.
  • Designate space for wild disarray. Dead foliage on the ground and tall, wild grasses are a favorite hibernating spot for some caterpillars and pupae.
  • Plan for sunny areas and partially shaded areas.
  • Research what kind of conditions and planting practices will promote optimal growth for nectar/pollinator plants in your region.

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