Here’s what to plant to have Monarch butterflies stop by your garden this summer!
Monarch butterflies fluttering around your yard is the finishing touch to any garden. Not only do these beauties look nice, with their vibrant black and orange patterned wings, but also they pollinate plants, increasing the health and production of our gardens. Even the caterpillars are helpful since they rid plants of pests that can cause harm when they feast on leaves. Monarch populations have been decreasing, but by inviting them into our gardens this summer before they make their way back to Mexico this fall, we can do our part to help Mother Nature out!
How Do You Attract Monarch Butterflies?
Growing Monarchs’ favorite plants is key to attracting them to your yard. Like other pollinators, Monarchs eat (actually, drink) nectar from brightly colored flowers, and as they go from bloom to bloom for their feast, they pollinate plants. Monarchs are drawn to flowers that grow in clusters and that have flat surfaces that can serve as landing pads. Grow plants with varying bloom times, so the Monarchs always have something to sip from, and don’t forget to include some native plants, which Monarchs prefer. Avoid using pesticides in and around your Monarch butterfly garden, as the chemicals can be harmful to pollinators. Within your yard, place some flat, smooth rocks in sunny areas, so Monarchs have a place to rest. Trees and shrubs also provide shelter and protection for Monarchs and other pollinators.
Plants to Attract Monarchs
While Monarchs are known to be nomadic, not sticking around for very long, there are some plants you can grow to increase your chances of seeing them in your yard.
Milkweed is the most important plant for Monarchs. Without this perennial, there would be no Monarchs! The butterflies lay eggs on the underside of milkweed; then, when the caterpillar emerges, it eats the leaves — milkweed is pretty much an all-inclusive resort! Plus, the milkweed leaves have toxins in it that don’t harm, but rather help, Monarchs. When the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, these toxins stay in the Monarch. That’s why animals that eat Monarchs become sick and therefore end up avoiding the butterfly’s distinctive patterned wings. Milkweed is native to North America, and there are many species native to Iowa. Plant a few varieties, which come in different colors and bloom times, to increase the chance of having Monarchs call your garden home.
Bee Balm has pom pom-shaped blooms in shades of red, pink, purple, and white that attract many types of pollinators, like — you guessed it! — bees and Monarchs. Also known as Wild Bergamot, this native perennial blooms from July to September and prefers rich soil and a sunny spot. To promote fresh blooms, remove spent flowers regularly. You can also encourage a bushier plant by pinching off stem tips as growth appears in the spring.
Hibiscus has large, bright flowers available in a number of colors. While the tropical variety won’t survive our Bettendorf winters, more hardy perennial varieties will. Rose-of-Sharon or Althea Shrub reaches up to seven feet tall and has flowers up to four inches wide, creating perfect landing pads for Monarchs. The Hardy Hibiscus or Rose Mallow is another that can withstand our winters. This hibiscus dies back to the ground every winter — Rose-of-Sharon does not. Both of these hardier hibiscus plants bloom in late summer to fall. We have many great varieties in stock and blooming now.
Catmint is related to catnip but is much showier. It has clusters of lavender-blue flowers on spikes and fragrant leaves. Many varieties tend to sprawl out, making them great for an edging effect. If you prefer to keep it contained, grow Catmint in a pot. Besides Monarchs, other species of butterflies, as well as bees and hummingbirds, will be attracted to this perennial. It typically blooms late spring and lasts until fall.
Liatris, commonly called Blazing Star, has bottle brush-like flowers that bloom from the top down, unlike many other flowers. Available in purple, pink, or white, Liatris is native to North America and blooms mid- to late summer. Even after the flower has bloomed, this perennial provides interest to the yard with its tall spikes and grass-like foliage that’s green during the growing season, then turns bronze in fall. Grow Meadow Blazing Star for your best bet at attracting Monarchs, as this one is known to be a favorite among these butterflies. Plus, the plant’s seeds provide delicious food for songbirds!
Creating a butterfly garden means both you and Monarchs will benefit. You’ll end up with a colorful, thriving yard, and the Monarchs will be well fed and protected. Stop by our store to get started on your Monarch butterfly garden!