Build a Southern Migration Station for the Monarch Butterfly
Across the United States, in the months of August and September, there is a very special event. Whispering in the wind, the Monarch Butterflies will start to make their journey back to Mexico for the winter months. This very special bug is part of every garden. Their migration story is significant, just like the bee-loved honey bee, they are pollinators. Four generations pollinate the whole United States and Mexico in just one year, making them a very important part of our ecosystem. It is a big job for just a small creature.
The Monarch Butterfly is part of our human experience, even if they just flutter through our garden without us giving them a second thought. Just like the generations of caterpillars that grace our gardens, the metamorphosis cycle is part of understanding how we can all grow, change, and become more in this life. These lovely winged friends glide in on the season winds, capturing our hearts and reminding us that there is more to the life we live and we are part of a bigger picture.
Should you be lucky enough to see these beautiful friends, they need our help. Their populations are declining. The solution is so easy, we can do it. The caterpillar only eats one kind of plant, the Milkweed. It can be grown anywhere and there are several types. The mama butterfly will lay her eggs on the Milkweed. Once the babies hatch it's chow time!! This is an amazing process to experience. Simply planting milkweed in your garden can make a big impact on our whole ecosystem. You can plant it in the ground or in a container.
4 Tips for planting Milkweed:
- Find a spot. Look for a place that works for you. A successful garden is one that fits your lifestyle. The good news is that Milkweed can grow in lots of different places. It preferably likes to be in full to half-day sun. Mama Monarchs like to have a little protection, so near a tree or structure is helpful. The Caterpillars like to have a solid place to hang their chrysalis too.
- Get your plants! Most garden centers will have Milkweed as part of their seasonal inventory. This is the easiest way to go for sure. If you are savvy with seeds and or strapped for cash there are some great sources that will just send you the seeds for free!
- Companion Plants are a great option to add to your Monarch Habitat. Attract them with lovely colors and scents of seasonal annuals and perennials. In the southeast, the Penta, Vinca, Angelonia, Lantana, and Dianthus are just a few good ones! The trick here, look for what the garden center is carrying and plant early in the season. Look for bright colors of yellows, pinks, reds, and purples (yes you might even attract a few hummingbirds). Herbs are great too! Set aside some Flat Leaf Parsley and Fennel to add the Swallow Tail Butterfly into the friend group! Our Monarchs love the Crape Myrtles the flowers and added protection from the elements.
- Get planting! Plant in the ground or in containers. Use good soil and mulch. Give it some time and enjoy. It is important to remember you will get other bugs and do not use pesticides. These fellow bugs are part of the process.
Great Resources for Learning More!