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Preparing for Royalty

by chief cultivator

Monarch butterflies are regal insects and one of the wonders of the insect world, migrating across the United States, with only their four crepe paper-like wings and tiny bodies to fight against bad weather, predators, and car bumpers.

Unlike other royalty, Monarchs arrive in the spring without much fanfare. One day you’ll look up to see a tattered traveler flitting about the garden looking for a quick meal. Then, a few more show up, and by the time May arrives, the Monarchs are generally doing a full court press in all of our flower beds.

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Because you should take hospitality seriously, prepare for the butterflies well before they arrive. Start by making a list of the plants they love to feast on. Buddleia (butterfly bush) is generally the first plant we think of, but we have noticed that some varieties may be more appealing to the insects than others. In our unofficial survey, Monarchs seem to prefer the buddleia varieties that produce light blue or lavender flowers better than white or pink flowering forms. Purple-flowered varieties like ‘Black Knight’ have also fared well.

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Our survey, however, has been a casual one, and just when we think the butterflies don’t like white and pink buddleias, then we see them massing on these shrubs for a meal. So, we usually end up planting one of each to create a complete buddleia banquet. Annual flowers should also be on the menu if you want to entertain Monarchs. Two top choices are tithonia and zinnia. Tithonia, also called Mexican sunflower, is a magnificent plant that can grow to 6 feet tall (although there are shorter varieties available) and produce endless crops of orange, daisy-like flowers that Monarchs find hard to resist. In fact, if you only have room in your garden for one butterfly plant, we recommend tithonia. This sun-lover can be a bit rangy and may require some staking, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Start the seeds directly outdoors after frost danger has passed. It loves hot weather and will grow quickly. All you need to do is keep it weeded, watered, and then stand back and watch the fun as butterflies of all types zoom in for a meal.

Tags

butterfly attracting

comments

I selected the link under &#x27;planning your vegetable garden&#x27; for &#x27;10 Tips for Planning Your Vegetable Garden&#x27;, but where are the ten tips? <br/>
Sprite
simonsaysgo commented on 06/07/12
We are planning our 2011 garden and these flowers are on the list! Thank you for the heads up and great ideas.
Sprite
Ward House commented on 12/15/10
Thanks for sharing all your tips about attracting Monarch butterflies! I LOVE them and am really going to make an effort to attract more in my garden this Summer. I thought they all migrated to Mexico from (I think) Canada. I watched a show on PBS about that but must have the wrong butterfly (remembering details less and less as each year passes! Yikes!). <br/>Your pictures sure capture the unbelievable pattern and colors of a Monarch! The other 2 pics were great too! I love it when I&#x27;m potographing and happen upon some special insect, tiny bloom or a &quot;surprise guest&quot; as you might call it! I&#x27;ll have to get busy and start preparing for that royal visitor! I already have the &quot;Black Knight&quot; and last year was my first experience w/Mexican Sunflowers. I fell in love with their deep orange color! I&#x27;ll try some of your other suggestions. Oh! I just remembered a pic I took that has a guest in it, I&#x27;ll have to post it in my gallery for you- it&#x27;s more like a &quot;cute&quot; little guest though! Thanks, Faerie Garden
Sprite
faerie garden commented on 04/12/10

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