Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials
Gardening for Monarch Butterflies
by Susan Littlefield
Soon millions of monarch butterflies will begin their annual journey, flying thousands of miles from eastern North America to overwintering sites high in the mountains of central Mexico. (Monarchs west of the Continental Divide winter in California.) We can help these beautiful creatures as they begin their long journey by filling our gardens with nectar-rich plants to fuel their long flight.
Flowers such as asters, heleniums, goldenrod and 'Autumn Joy' sedum will provide sustenance not only to visiting monarchs, but will nourish a host of other butterfly species as well. We can also help monarchs throughout the season by planting various species of milkweed plants, on which the caterpillar stage of these butterflies feeds.
The Monarch Watch Waystations Program was created to help gardeners help the butterflies. Started by University of Kansas ecology professor Chip Taylor with the goal of creating, conserving and protecting monarch habitats, it aims to establish more than 10,000 "monarch waystations" across the country with plantings of milkweed and nectar plants. This will help offset the drastic loss of monarch habitat due to development, widespread use of agricultural herbicides and monarch-unfriendly roadside management practices.
An easy way to provide this vital habitat is with a Waystation Seed Kit containing six packets of milkweed seeds and six packets of additional nectar plant seeds, along with instructions on creating a monarch waystation, available from Monarch Watch for $16.