Plant a Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Posted by N. Astrid Hoffman on

Plant Your Own Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary 

The health and vitality of the monarch butterfly is been in peril for many years.  Western Monarch populations have plummeted 99% in recent years and Eastern populations have been reduced to 90% of their populations.

In 2022, The International Union of Conservation of Nature added the migratory monarch butterfly to the Red List of Threatened Species. 

Monarch butterflies, known for their distinctive orange and black wings, rely on milkweed plants as their sole larval food source. By planting milkweed and other nectar-rich flowers, you can provide essential habitat and resources for monarchs at all stages of their life cycle. 

Did you know that the monarchs are the only butterfly to migrate?  How amazing is that?  Their journey across three countries (Mexico, The United States and Canada) is not only dangerous but arduous.  Monarch Way-stations sprinkled along the journey gives these traveling invertebrate what they need for the next step of the their journey. 

The decline of butterfly populations is due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change.  Loss of milkweed habitat, in particular, has had a devastating impact on monarch populations, as it is the only plant that monarch caterpillars can eat. By creating a monarch butterfly sanctuary, you can help offset this loss by providing essential food and shelter for monarchs throughout their life cycle. Additionally, monarchs are important pollinators, helping to support healthy ecosystems and food production.  

This is a perfect time to plant a monarch sanctuary in your yard and begin creating a haven for these ethereal and majestic beings.  

Several years ago we create the Monarch Butterfly Conservation page on our website as a way to share the importance of this beautiful and important butterfly.

Before getting started on your monarch sanctuary, research what your native milkweed varieties are.  It is imperative to only plant native milkweed.  In warmer regions, where milkweed does not die back in the winter, a build-up of a debilitating protozoan parasite (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or OE) that infects monarchs can occur.  Non-native milkweed presence in the fall could cause migrating monarchs to break diapause (a temporary non-reproductive state) and lay eggs instead of completing their migration to Mexico.  Moreover, reseeding (and invasion) of non-native milkweed species can wreck havoc on native and migrating monarch populations.

Milkweed also must be cold-stratified, if it is planted in the spring. Keep in mind milkweed is a perennial and may take up to two years to flower. 

How to Build a Monarch Nursery Garden:

  • Choose the Right Plants: The key to a successful monarch nursery garden is selecting the right plants. Milkweed is the most important plant for monarchs, so be sure to include several species of native milkweed in your garden. In addition to milkweed, include a variety of nectar-rich flowers that bloom throughout the season, such as:




Mexican Sunflower

Purple coneflower (Echinacea)

* Remember to sow seeds through the spring and summer months to have different stages of flower growth.

  • Provide Host Plants: Monarch caterpillars are very particular about their food and will only eat milkweed leaves. Planting milkweed in your garden provides essential habitat for monarch caterpillars to feed and grow. Be sure to include a mix of milkweed species to ensure a continuous supply of food throughout the season.  Shop our milkweed selection and be sure to only choose varieties that are native to your region!
  • Create Shelter: Monarch butterflies need sheltered areas to rest and escape from predators and harsh weather conditions. Planting shrubs, trees, and tall grasses around the edges of your garden can provide shelter and refuge for monarchs and other wildlife. You can also add butterfly houses or shelters to provide additional protection.
  • Provide a Water Source: Butterflies also enjoy drinking water.  They use puddles, gravel and mud to take in minerals and nutrients. Consider creating a simple butterfly puddler, especially during droughts and dry spells. 
  • Avoid Pesticides: Pesticides are harmful to monarch butterflies, other pollinators, critters your pets and family. It is essential to avoid using them in your garden. Instead, practice organic gardening methods, such as handpicking pests, using natural predators, and promoting biodiversity, to keep your garden healthy and pest-free.  We recommend reading our post on IPM (Integrated Pest Management) for more tips.

Creating a monarch butterfly sanctuary is a rewarding and impactful way to support these iconic butterflies and contribute to their conservation. By providing essential habitat and resources, you can help monarchs thrive and ensure that future generations can enjoy the beauty of these magnificent creatures. So why not roll up your sleeves, dig in the dirt, and build your own monarch nursery garden today?  Your efforts will not only benefit monarchs but also help create a more vibrant and resilient ecosystem for all.  Your garden will attract and feed other pollinators and birds while adding a sense of magic to your yard!  Use our comprehensive list of herb and flower seeds to include in your butterfly sanctuary.  

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