7 Flowers to Save Monarch Butterflies

Why do you garden? Before the pandemic, the question was asked with over 2500 replays consolidated into 30 key categories based on the words of local gardeners. The purpose was to identify customer values that would become the basis for my writing calendar, garden content, and weekly garden podcast.

You can guess a few, but here are the top eight since the initial survey.

  1. To unwind and relax/stress reducer
  2. Growing fresh/ healthy food
  3. To be outside with nature
  4. It’s healthy/exercise
  5. Therapy for mind/body
  6. To get fresh air and sunshine
  7. To nurture my soul
  8. To have something to care for and nurture

What’s yours? A garden center provides their community balance in life, health, and well-being.

Butterflies are magic and a natural extension of this garden experience.  Monarch butterflies are easy to recognize with their four-inch wingspan and vibrant black and orange pattern. Monarch populations have experienced a dramatic decline due to habitat loss and extreme weather and are in trouble. Every flower garden provides a link to this threatened butterfly by including plants that support their migratory and reproductive cycles.

#1 Butterfly Bush – The name says it all. Butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii, attracts more Lepidoptera species of all types, including Monarchs. Known locally as the summer lilac, their spikey flowers allow Monarchs to cling easily while drawing nectar from the many small tubular blooms. The long bloom season of this perennial shrub gives Monarchs a reliable supply of nourishment as they complete their long migration both north and south each year.

#2 Cosmos – is a member of the daisy family. Cosmos are appealing to Monarch butterflies because of the bright flowers and precious nectar stores. Although a cosmos blossom looks like one flower, it’s actually made up of many different tiny tubular flowers surrounded by a ray of petals. Cosmos flowers are one of the easiest annuals to sow from seed. Broadcast the seed over your garden plot in early spring, and Mother Nature takes care of the rest.

#3 Goldenrod – Don’t mistake goldenrod and ragweed. Ragweed is a notorious allergy problem and blooms at the same time in summer as goldenrod. There is a symbiotic relationship between goldenrod pollinators like butterflies and bees to carry off its heavy pollen grains. Goldenrod offers the garden a perennial firework of bright gold flowers all summer long.

 

#4 Lantana – Even if your garden is limited to a small balcony, you can attract Monarchs with lantana. These plants are usually sold in full bloom and an instant source of nectar as Monarch’s forage. Grow lantana in full sun to prevent problems with powdery mildew. Lantana is best grown in the hot sun and thrives in well-drained soil. Offered here at Watters in a host of summer colors. Miss Huff Lantana is the only mountain variety that comes back reliably each year.

#5 Lilac – Your grandma’s favorite landscape shrub belongs in your garden. New cultivars like ‘Miss Kim‘ are compact, with others like ‘Bloomerang’ offer a repeat bloom cycle to satisfy hungry butterflies. Every gardener should have at least one.

#6 Milkweed, Asclepias, is essential to adding the chemical to Monarch larvae that make them unpalatable to predators. This adaptation has been so successful for Monarchs the Viceroy butterfly has evolved to mimic the color pattern of Monarchs in hopes of evading predators. Watters sell native mountain varieties with a host of other colors so beautiful they can be added directly to container gardens and flower beds.

#7 Zinnia – Large butterflies Monarchs enjoy wide-open spaces that allow them to glide through the landscape unhampered. Zinnias are a frugal way to fill up large areas of the garden. One packet of Zinnia seed yields the promise of brightly colored nectar gardens for Monarchs all summer long. You will also find hummingbirds are drawn to the same setting.

Until next week, I’ll be helping customers attract more butterflies here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at his Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through the website at WattersGardenCenter.com or Top10Plants.com

 

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