When evidence emerged that monarch butterflies were losing the milkweed they depend on due to the spread of herbicide-resistant crops in the United States, people across the country took action, planting milkweed in their own gardens. But a new paper shows that well-meaning gardeners might actually be endangering the butterflies’ iconic migration to Mexico. That’s because people have been planting the wrong species of milkweed, thereby increasing the odds of monarchs becoming infected with a crippling parasite.
That’s why many monarch buffs swung into action. However, the only species of milkweed widely available in the United States is Asclepias curassavica, which is native to the tropics. Tropical milkweed is pretty, easy to grow, and monarchs love it.
Butterflies Need More Than Plants!
Providing a few flat rocks for sunning and some cool, shady spots for resting will help butterflies regulate their temperature. If an area is particularly windy, you can use larger shrubs as a windbreak. While not completely necessary to include, some butterfly gardens have bird baths or other water features that allow butterflies to “puddle” and obtain hydration and mineral nutrients. Birdbaths and benches also provide a sturdy, sheltered place for caterpillars to pupate.
Once monarch season is over in your region (or should be) bring your pots inside so any late comers won’t be tempted to continue the season in (too) cold weather.
WHEN TO PLANT MILKWEED
Soil moisture and temperature are very important when growing Milkweed. The best time to put in Milkweed plants is in early spring after the danger of frost has passed, while the best time to plant milkweed from seed is in late fall – this allows mother Nature to take care of the cold stratification for you!
If you plant milkweed seeds late in the spring, the seeds may not sprout as theyo won’t be exposed to a duration of cold temperatures. Common Milkweed seed doesn’t germinate over 85 degrees.