Post by: Jonathan Léger
Prepare Your Milkweed for the Monarchs Arrival
The word is out that the population of Monarch butterflies is decreasing. These insects have delighted legions of children on the North American continent for generations and the thought of their demise is distressing to many. Since the caterpillars require milkweed to thrive, residents of cities, suburbs, and rural areas are concentrating their efforts on propagating the species to ensure the survival of this wondrous species. If you have never grown milkweed before, here are some tips that will help your plants grow to be strong and healthy to nurture the Monarch caterpillars long enough for them to reach their butterfly adulthood.
Prepare a garden space that will accommodate at least six plants. When Monarch caterpillars start eating, they are very, very hungry. By giving them access to multiple plants, you create a better opportunity for more of them to survive to adulthood and, after all, isn't that the whole point of growing milkweed in the first place?
Diversify Your Milkweed Garden
To really increase your odds of successfully creating a habitat for these lovely butterflies, begin preparing more than one garden plot for them in the spring. Keep in mind that not every plant thrives, so if you grow your milkweed in multiple locations around your yard, you will increase your odds of success. Even if a storm blows through your area, it might destroy one of your milkweed patches, but it won't destroy your chances.
If you do choose to grow your milkweed in a container garden, you can overwinter them and place them back outside in the springtime for bigger plants that season. Overwintering works for most milkweed varieties, but not all. Move them indoors once they have stopped producing flowers or fruits. Once indoors, remember that they will still need to be watered all winter long. Perennial milkweed will go dormant in the winter and can remain potted outdoors throughout the winter.
Plan Ahead for Next Seasons Monarchs
After you have placed your plants into the soil, remember to put mulch around them. The protective layer of mulch will help to keep moisture in and help your plants to thrive. Leave some open space around the seedlings and check on them after a rain storm to make sure they don't get covered. You can buy a commercial mulch specially made for this purpose or you can use grass clippings. Both work very well.
Once you begin growing your milkweed plants, you can either wait for wild milkweed butterflies to show up to lay their eggs or collect caterpillars from nearby milkweed and place them on your plants. Watching these caterpillars grow to adulthood makes it worth all the work in the spring.
Jonathan Leger is a member of the Garden Writer's Association and a gardening enthusiast.
He runs a site dedicated to the history, education and care of knockout roses at
Make milkweed your friend. Your friends will love your milkweed. My name is Brad. Learn more about me now.
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