Attracting Monarch Butterflies: Growing A Monarch Butterfly Garden

By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
Image by Jeff McCurry

Pollinators play an essential role in the overall health and production of our gardens. Whether choosing to grow flower gardens, vegetables, or a combination of both, bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects are integral to success. In recent years, the decline in monarch butterfly populations has been of specific interest. Many gardeners ask how to attract monarch butterflies. Which plants do monarch butterflies like?

With minimal planning, even small containers of flowering annuals or perennials can serve as a resource to this beautiful species of butterfly.

How to Attract Monarch Butterflies

Attracting monarch butterflies is much similar to attracting other pollinators to the garden. Including the right plants is key. Beneficial insects are attracted to flowers that provide a steady source of nectar throughout the growing season. This is no exception in the creation of a monarch butterfly garden.

Adult monarch butterflies, which migrate towards Mexico, will need a consistent supply of nectar-rich blooms. This can be achieved by planting a wide range of flowering plants in the monarch butterfly garden. What plants do monarchs like? Annual flowers such as zinnias, Mexican sunflower, and firecracker vines are all excellent options in attracting adult butterflies to the garden. But don’t stop there.

Generally, these butterflies prefer native plants, so you’ll have to research specific native wildflowers in your area. That being said, some of the more common plants for monarchs will include:

Although watching adult butterflies flutter by can be quite rewarding, it is essential that growers also consider plants for monarch caterpillars. Monarch butterflies are unique in that the female will only lay eggs specifically on milkweed plants. Milkweed plants for monarch caterpillars will ensure that they are able to begin feeding as soon as they have emerged from the eggs. As the caterpillars consume the plant, they ingest a toxic latex substance to which they are immune.

Since monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, planting the correct varieties is imperative. This makes some research necessary when planting your monarch butterfly garden. Among the most common types of milkweed for butterflies are whorled milkweed, clasping milkweed, butterfly weed, and eastern swamp milkweed. Before planting any types of milkweed, it will be important to check local lists of noxious weeds and invasive species. While we do want to create habitat that supports the growth of monarch populations, it is also important to do so responsibly.

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