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Smart Thoughts

Simple Steps to Protect Pollinators with a Monarch Butterfly Garden

Monarch butterfly garden

If you’re thinking about a creating monarch butterfly garden, you’re in good company. There’s a lot of buzz in gardening circles around the topic of pollinator support, and monarch gardens are one way to bring beauty and wonder into your landscape. Plants that attract Monarch butterflies are more readily available than ever before due to heightened awareness of our responsibility to maintain a healthy planet. Many of the plant selections for your monarch butterfly garden will be labeled as such, making monarch gardens as easy as 1-2-3.

1: Find a sunny spot. This can be as large or small as your gardening area allows, from a pot on the front steps, balcony, or even driveway, to a section of your existing flower bed or vegetable garden. Container gardening is great for butterfly gardens, either in a soft-sided pot or instant raised bed. So don’t worry if you don’t have a big yard! Plants that attract monarch butterflies are sun-lovers, just like the monarchs.

2: Select your nectar-producing plants. Butterflies have a real sweet tooth. They need lots of sugary nectar to fuel their high metabolism and their incredibly long migration. Monarch gardens need to be full of pinks, blues, purples, and reds, as these are the colors of flowers that attract monarch butterflies. Why? Because bees can’t see the color red, there is less competition for the nectar. Cool, huh? Some great choices are pentas, liatris, salvias, petunias, purple coneflower, cosmos, and zinnias.

3: Don’t forget the next generation! Host plants are necessary for monarch caterpillars to become monarch butterflies. Not only does a monarch butterfly garden need the right plants to feed the monarchs, it needs to have the right plants for next year’s butterflies. When the adult monarch visits your monarch gardens, she will be looking for some milkweed to lay her eggs. Milkweed, also known as Asclepius, is the only plant the monarch caterpillar will eat, so plant plenty. These hungry, hungry caterpillars can strip a milkweed plant in a day.

Check out the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge where you can register your monarch butterfly garden. Be one in a million!