How to Build a Monarch Garden


In the mid 90s, more than 1 billion butterflies made an annual 2,000-mile migration from Canada to Mexico. In 2014, an estimated 60 million made the trip. A single migration takes three to four generations of butterflies, so no one monarch will make the whole trip. Along the way they meet with a challenging combination of herbicides, habitat loss, and extreme weather, making it impossible to maintain their numbers. 

Georgetown is part of a major butterfly highway, so we are in a good position to help. 

What monarchs need most is Milkweed. It is the only plant on which they will lay their eggs, and when the caterpillars hatch, it is their only source of food.  Milkweed contains a toxin the caterpillars incorporate into their wings and exoskeletons, rendering them poisonous to predators as adult butterflies. This is why native milkweed planting and conservation is critical to ensuring their survival. But be sure to add other wildflowers the adult monarchs will use for nutrients too. 

Getting Started

First, many butterfly plants prefer well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Compost is an excellent
additive for increasing organic matter in your soil.
For plants with uncommon soil requirements, you can amend the soil in that area, or consider potting. 

Some say a butterfly garden should receive full sun, but a variety of conditions is optimal. Some plants grow better in partial sun, and the butterflies may need refuge from the hottest days of summer. Think… mostly sunny with a side of shade.

Plant milkweed in groups of at least six. That number provides enough food for the number of eggs that will fit. While milkweed is the cornerstone, planting a mix of annuals will entice more monarchs to visit for caterpillar hosting and adult feeding.  

Butterflies also need an easy place to land. Flowers originating from a single apex or with large petals (e.g., zinnias or daisies) enable quick and easy landing and immediate access to nectar.

If pesticides must be used to take care of the pests in your wildflower garden, consider non-toxic varieties. The butterflies and other pollinators will thank you.

Ready to Eat

Not all plants provide nectar (e.g., roses), so be sure to research or ask about specific species. But, generally,  choose flowers with bright colors like pink, orange, yellow, and purple. Texas favorites include: 

  • Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)
  • Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana)
  • Buddleja marrubiifolia (woolly butterflybush)
  • Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)
  • Rudbeckia hirta blackeyed Susan)

Visit ……… how-to-germinate-milkweeds
for a step by step guide to get your garden started like the pros.