Milkweed is the host plant for Monarch butterflies. This means that it is the only plant the female butterfly will lay its eggs on. The Milkweed leaves are the ONLY plant it's caterpillars can eat to survive. Adults, on the other hand, feed by nectar from the flowers of the milkweed as well as many other flowering plants.
Monarchs are the only butterflies that migrate like birds—and those we see in Ohio now will soon be on their way south to Mexico. Even though the typical life cycle of a Monarch butterfly is only 4-5 weeks, our Fall Monarch butterflies will live until next February and March. They are called the Methuselah Generation, and some will have flown/floated up to 3,000 miles from Canada, New England and the Midwest to reach their wintering grounds in the mountain ranges of Mexico.
When temperatures rise in February, this long-lived and well-travelled Methuselah Generation will migrate north to begin the Monarch's life cycle over again. They require their host plant (Milkweed) to survive, but much of it has been eliminated from our landscape by development and the widespread use of weed killers. The Milkweed's flower is a source of nectar for the adult butterfly and the females lay eggs on its leaves because they are the only food its caterpillars can eat.
If you are interested in attracting and helping Monarch butterflies, you should consider planting Milkweed, as well as other flowers for nectar.
One of our clients in Shawnee Hills has created a beautiful garden for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Their focus has been to increase the survival of the Monarch butterfly by following some simple gardening steps, such as:
Planting the Monarch butterfly caterpillar's host plant, the Common, Swamp and/or Butterfly Milkweed and letting them reseed naturally.
Planting a variety of flowers for the adult Monarch to feed or nectar on like Purple Coneflower, New England Aster, Autumn Joy Sedum and Agastache.
Using organic weed killers only (chemical herbicides like Roundup kill butterflies and many other beneficial insects and pollinators).
The Monarch makes a remarkable journey every Spring and Fall, and every backyard offering Milkweed plants and other flowers for nectar can serve as a much-needed oasis.
If you would like more information on helping the Monarch butterfly please visit:
MonarchWatch.org for instruction on growing your own milkweed and tips on butterfly gardening including plant lists.
OSU Chadwick Arboretum Annual Spring Plant Sale in May for plants and helpful information.
Scioto Gardens in Delaware County for an eco-friendly and reliable source of native plants April through October.
Take a look at some of our client's beautiful photos around their home!