How To Create A Monarch Waystation
Pollinators need our help - and your yard can make a difference! A Monarch Waystation is an intentionally-managed garden that provides food and habitat for the endagered Monarch butterfly population.
As a rule, a waystation must include at least 2 types of Asclepias plants. Asclepias, known by the common names Milkweed or Butterfly Weed, is the host plant that is essential for the survival of Monarch caterpillars. Its nectar-rich, fragrant flowers attract adult Monarch Butterflies and many other pollinators, too. When you plant a Monarch Waystation, in addition to seeing lots of Monarch butterflies, you’ll notice a huge increase in pollinators overall in your yard!
Read on for a garden design plan, plant list, and tips for designing and registering your own Monarch Waystation.
Planning Your Monarch Waystation
A Monarch Waystation has to meet several criteria:
- Monarch waystations must be sited in full sun for Milkweed & Butterfly Weed plants to thrive.
- The overall size of your planting must be 100 square feet minimum (for instance, 25 feet wide by 4 feet deep, or 10 feet wide by 10 feet deep).
- A minimum of 10 Asclepias host plants must be included, and you must include at least two different varieties, to provide a good food source for Monarch butterflies and caterpillars.
- A variety of nectar plants must be included with blooms from spring through fall, to provide a reliable food source for adult butterflies throughout the growing season.
- You must follow sustainable gardening practices - no herbicides or pesticides that would harm caterpillars or butterflies!
Host Plants For Monarch Butterflies
A butterfly host plant is the place where butterflies lay their eggs for the next generation. Host plants are the sole food source required for the survival of developing caterpillars so that they can become strong, healthy butterflies.
Monarchs exclusively rely on Asclepias (Milkweed or Butterfly Weed) as their host plant.
- There are several different varieties of milkweed, including Common Milkweed, Butterfly Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Whorled Milkweed, and Tropical Milkweed.
- Planting multiple varieties of milkweed, which often have varying bloom times, helps to prolong the time frame that Monarch butterflies can make use of your waystation.
- Monarch caterpillars need plenty of milkweed to become butterflies. In fact, one caterpillar alone will eat 20-30 large leaves!
Nectar Plants For Monarch Butterflies
While host plants are food sources for caterpillars, nectar plants are food that fuels the flight of adult butterflies. Recent research suggests that a lack of nectar plants is playing big part in the decline of Monarchs.
- Annual flowers, which bloom quickly but only have a one-year lifecycle and don't return for a second season, offer nectar-rich flowers that are important in a Monarch Waystation. Examples include Gaillardia, Cosmos, Marigold, Verbena, Zinnia and more. Shop Annual Wildflower Seeds
- Perennial flowers return year after year from their established root system, and typically start blooming once the plants are 2 years old. These are also important additions to a Monarch garden. Butterfly favorites include Bee Balm, Black Eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Hollyhock, Echinacea and more. Shop Perennial Plants or Shop Perennial Wildflower Seeds
- Be sure to plant flowers with bloom times from spring through fall. These will provide food for Monarchs at the both ends of your gardening season. For example, Asters and Goldenrod provide food for many pollinators (including Monarchs) late into the fall, when other flowers have faded.
Sustainable Gardening Practices
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.
- Eliminate pesticides. This can be a tough one for everyone to get on board with, especially if you're experiencing a particularly horrific bug infestation. But as butterfly-lovers, we do need to develop an awareness that many insecticides are designed to kill a wide range of pests - pollinators included!
- Thinning, dividing, mulching, and watering. You'll need to provide some information about how actively you care for your plants. Practices such as weeding, thinning, and watering ensure that your plants are at their best and are capable of producing high-quality blooms for your visiting Monarchs.
Get This Look: Monarch Waystation Garden Plan
Though not every plant is visibly in bloom in this shot (Phlox! Salvia! Lavender!) here is a numbered view of a certified Monarch waystation. A plant list is below, followed by a comprehensive list of host and nectar plants for designing your own waystation.
- Hardy Hibiscus
- Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
- Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
- Wild Bergamot / Oswego Tea (Monarda fistulosa)
- Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
- Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantine)
- Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
- Elderberries (Sambuca nigra)
- Medicinal Hops (Humulus lupulus)
- Native Grass
- Spotted Bee Balm/ Dotted Horsemint (Monarda punctate)
- Dill (Anethum graveolens)
- Passion Flower Vine (Passiflora caerulea)
- Ball Dahlia ‘Sylvia’ & Pompon Dahlia ‘Golden Scepter’ (Dahlia)
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
- Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
- Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Shop This Plant List
More Recommendations For Your Monarch Butterfly Garden
Perennial Nectar Plants
Annual Nectar Plants
Benefits Of Certifying Your Monarch Waystation
Now that you know what will be required, you can register your garden as a certified Monarch Waystation through MonarchWatch.org!
Certification means that your garden has met the criteria for providing food, shelter, and breeding grounds for Monarch butterflies, and that your gardening practices have proven sustainable enough to continue supporting Monarchs into the future.
To apply for certification and join over 40,000 butterfly gardeners, you can visit MonarchWatch.org!
Once approved, you'll receive an official Certificate of Appreciation. For just a little bit extra, you can even order a cool sign to hang in your garden! You can even choose a fun name for your site, which will be printed on the sign. Your garden will be listed on the interactive online map, along with all of the other Certified Monarch Waystations in the US.