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An updated photo of my Monarch Waystation in bloom, mid-August, Year 2. This garden is 10 ft deep and is positioned outside the fence of my main garden, where I grow edible and medicinal plants. In addition to seeing lots of Monarchs this year, I've noticed a huge increase in pollinators overall. Scroll down for a numbered plant list and suggestions for designing (and registering!) your own Monarch Waystation.
A Monarch Waystation is an intentionally-managed garden that provides food and habitat for the struggling Monarch butterfly population. As a rule, a waystation must include at least 2 types of Milkweed, the 'host' plant for Monarchs.
This year, I've registered my garden as a certified Monarch Waystation, through MonarchWatch.org. This means that my garden has met the criteria for providing food, shelter, and breeding grounds for Monarch butterflies and that my gardening practices have proven sustainable enough to continue supporting Monarchs into the future.
I'm pretty excited about this. Read on to find out how you can do the same!
A Monarch Waystation has to meet several criteria in order to be registered, but luckily for small-space gardens, size is not a very big hurdle. While your Monarch plants must be sited in plenty of sunlight (which butterflies thrive on) the overall size of your plantings need only be 100 square feet total.
You'll be asked to fill out a form accounting for how well your garden performs in the following categories:
A butterfly host plant is the place where butterflies lay their eggs for the next generation. Host plants also act as the sole food source for the developing caterpillars, so that they can become strong, healthy butterflies.
Milkweed and Butterfly Weed are two varieties of the same plant, and are both members of the genus Asclepias. Butterfly Weed is the only Milkweed that goes by a different name!
Monarch caterpillars need plenty of milkweed to become butterflies; one caterpillar alone will eat 20-30 large leaves!
While host plants are food sources for caterpillars, nectar plants are food for fully-developed butterflies. Recent research suggests that a lack of nectar plants may be playing a bigger part in the decline of Monarchs than previously realized.
Annual nectar plants, like marigolds and zinnias, provide food for Monarch butterflies.
Check out our full list of host and nectar plants below
While providing habitat and food for Monarchs is a great focus all on its own, we also want to be sure as gardeners that our big-picture practices are aligned with the overall protection of these pollinators. Monarch Watch does a great job of reminding us that how we do things in the garden really matters.
*Update: After the season wrapped up, I decided to leave my plants in place to overwinter. Many forms of wildlife, both visible and microscopic, rely on the food and shelter that spent and dormant plant matter provides. I wait to cut them down until early spring.
Should you leave dead plant matter in place throughout the off-season to provide habitat for teeny, tiny bug life? Here, last year's Bee Balm stays put while this year's growth develops.
A Quick & Easy Monarch Waystation: Our Monarch Butterfly Wildflower Seed Mix has 27 different wildflowers, including 4 different types of milkweed, nectar-rich annuals, and long-lasting perennials wildflowers that monarch butterflies can't resist. Simply sow the mix over prepped soil, water, and enjoy the show!
Now that you know what will be required of your garden to become a certified Monarch Waystation, you're welcome to register your site. To do this, you can visit MonarchWatch.org and download a print form to mail in or fax, or you can fill out your form online.
If you pay just a little bit extra, you'll be sent a sign to post, making your Certified Monarch Waystation official! Mine looks pretty boring right now, but some quick-climbing plants should fill in and frame my sign nicely.
Though not every plant is visibly in bloom in this shot (Phlox! Salvia! Lavender!) here is a numbered view of my garden. A plant list is below, followed by a comprehensive list of host and nectar plants for designing your own waystation.
Potted Butterfly Weed
Potted Common Milkweed
Potted Swamp Milkweed
Potted Tropical Milkweed
Milkweed Seed Collection
Common Milkweed Seeds
Swamp Milkweed Seeds
Butterfly Weed Seeds
Potted Bee Balm
Potted Blazing Star
Potted Joe Pye Weed
Indian Blanket Seeds
Mexican Sunflower Seeds
Scarlet Sage Seeds
Blue Sage Seeds
Moss Verbena Seeds
Annual Monarch Seeds