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Butterfly Garden | Attracting Migrating Monarchs

This past Spring one of my goals for the summer and fall was to make my Central Texas garden friendly to all kinds of pollinators. My son's school has a Monarch Waystation. Each day I would pick him up from school and we would stop and watch the busy butterflies drinking nectar and the caterpillars munching on leaves. I researched the plants in their garden and added a few of my own.

The great news is - it worked! And it was EASY to add these plants to our garden! I will share a few of the plant species we used, and the benefits I have seen not just for our winged friends but for our home as well. This stuff makes me really excited. Plant/bug nerd over here... and I'm not ashamed!

 Our first big day of Monarch migrators arrived October 13, 2017. This monarch is enjoying a tropical milkweed plant -  ASCLEPIAS CURASSAVICA (other names include scarlet milkweed, Mexican milkweed, bloodflower, and silkweed)

Our first big day of Monarch migrators arrived October 13, 2017. This monarch is enjoying a tropical milkweed plant - ASCLEPIAS CURASSAVICA (other names include scarlet milkweed, Mexican milkweed, bloodflower, and silkweed)

 Tropical Milkweed and Monarch butterfly

Tropical Milkweed and Monarch butterfly

This past Spring I purchased a Tropical Milkweed from Home Depot (I think they had called it Butterfly Plant or something like that). I planted it in a sunny spot and the stems grew tall and lanky reaching toward the sun. The monarchs, wasps, bees, & hummingbirds love it's bright red and yellow flowers. It has been recommended that if you grow it in zones 7-10 that you should cut back your Tropical milkweed after Monarch migration is over.  The bloom time is longer than Monarch migration and may encourage Monarchs to stay even when it is too cool for them. More research is needed! These plants are hosts to Monarch larvae as well. You can bring this plant inside over winter in a planter. Let me tell you our migrating friends love this plant!

 Monarch and Mexican Sunflower blooms

Monarch and Mexican Sunflower blooms

Mexican Sunflower - (Tithonia Torch) - talk about a BUTTERFLY MAGNET. Mexican Sunflowers are amazing. I bought a packet of seeds from Lowe's this Spring on a whim, thought it may be fun to grow a different type of sunflower in our garden. These plants are extremely easy to grow from seeds. My sons helped me plant the seeds directly in to our garden in March. I had saved a few seeds and planted a those again in May. They grow quickly and turn in to giant bush-like butterfly trees! We have found that hummingbirds, swallowtail butterflies, and Monarchs love them. We have three Mexican Sunflowers still going strong in our backyard, one of them is at least ten feet tall towering over our backyard fence like a beacon to butterflies and hummingbirds! These plants flower more if you deadhead them every 2-3 days...our ten foot tree is a little too tall for me. I have our plants staked so they do not topple over on a windy/rainy day. They are heavy plants with all their flowers and stems so staking is necessary to prevent them from falling. Our ten foot sunflower tree is attached to our fence using wire hangers, works great!

 Mexican Sunflower up close and personal - Torch variety attracts pollinators the best. My sons smell their blooms and end up with yellow pollen noses. 

Mexican Sunflower up close and personal - Torch variety attracts pollinators the best. My sons smell their blooms and end up with yellow pollen noses. 

Mexican Sunflower Torch Variety

Swallowtail caterpillar Host plants/Food - we found swallowtail caterpillars on our dill, parsley, and carrots.

Monarch caterpillars need to consume milkweed.

 Spindle garden - a wild mix of Mexican Sunflowers, zinnia, asparagus, cardinal climber, morning glory, basil, bell peppers, red salvia, dill, black-eyed susans, and who knows what else! 

Spindle garden - a wild mix of Mexican Sunflowers, zinnia, asparagus, cardinal climber, morning glory, basil, bell peppers, red salvia, dill, black-eyed susans, and who knows what else! 

Butterflies were also attracted to Indian Blanket, Horsemint, Texas Lantana, and Turk's Cap that we had growing in various places in our backyard and front yard.

 Gregg's Mist Flower

Gregg's Mist Flower

Gregg's Mist Flower is another great option for butterfly gardens, I purchased one from a nursery in Denison, Texas. It is a perennial plant that works as a great garden filler, the stems are long and the flowers are not too showy. They spread through underground rhizomes so dig deep when spreading them to other gardens or giving them to friends!

 Zinnia - different varieties

Zinnia - different varieties

 The differnet types of swallowtail & frittillary butterflies really liked the Zinnia flowers-- ** NOT TO MENTION all of these flowers make beautiful arrangements for your home in a vase on your dining room table! **

The differnet types of swallowtail & frittillary butterflies really liked the Zinnia flowers-- ** NOT TO MENTION all of these flowers make beautiful arrangements for your home in a vase on your dining room table! **

Monarch Watch website lists these plants/seeds (listed below) as their recommended seeds and plants for a Monarch Migrating Station.  I hope to grow more of these varieties and find out what works best for our gardens!

The Standard Monarch Waystation Seed Kit, for gardens east of the Rocky Mountains, contains the following species:

MILKWEED
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) 
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) 
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) 

GENERAL NECTAR PLANTS
Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea)
Tithonia Torch, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)
Zinnia, Dahlia Mix (Zinnia elegans) 

The Western Monarch Waystation Seed Kit, for gardens west of the Rocky Mountains, contains the following species:

MILKWEED
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) 
Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) 
Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) 
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) 

GENERAL NECTAR PLANTS
Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea) 
Chia (Salvia columbariae)
Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea)
Tithonia Torch, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) 
Zinnia, Dahlia Mix (Zinnia elegans)

------------Thanks for reading! You may enjoy our post on our small Central Texas Garden