Airplanes in the Garden

Monarch Butterflies Take Flight
by Joan Z. Calder
Gardening to Attract Monarchs
  • The monarch migration is truly one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, yet it is threatened by habitat loss in North America—at the overwintering sites and throughout the spring and summer breeding range as well. Create a paradise for butterflies by planting a garden of caterpillar host plants and nectar plants, and you will be contributing to monarch conservation.
  • Monarch butterflies require two types of foods.
    • The caterpillar stage requires milkweed—caterpillars eat the leaves. The botanical name for milkweed is Asclepias (Üh-SKLEE-pea-us).
    • The butterfly stage requires nectar—butterflies drink nectar with their proboscis.
  • Choose a location in full sun.
  • Monarchs require warmth to fly and plants to blossom.
  • Herbicides and pesticides kill butterflies. Learn safe alternatives at
  • Plant the milkweed where it will not be disturbed. The caterpillars like to wander to find the best place to make their chrysalis.
  • Plant milkweed in groups of two to four plants around the garden.
  • Choose shrubs native to your area with flowers that provide nectar. Check with your local nursery for suggestions for host and nectar plants that will attract butterflies.
  • Plant nectar plants near the milkweed. Select flowers that bloom at different times so your garden provides nectar from spring through autumn. Butterflies typically visit flowers that are brightly colored (red, yellow, orange) and provide landing platforms.
  • Favorite nectar plants:
    • Aster
    • Penta
    • Lantana
    • Zinnia
    • Monarda
    • Tithonia
    • Black-Eyed Susan
    • Cosmos
    • Verbena
  • Provide a water source. Butterflies like wet sand or mud to get minerals.
  • Locate a seating area nearby to watch your new friends.
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