A few years ago, we set out to create a butterfly garden, adapting our backyard into a bonafide stopover for migrating butterflies. In 2019 we received our official Monarch Waystation certification. A Certified Monarch Waystation means the area designated (our property) provides food, shelter and breeding habitat for monarchs.
Becoming a Certified Monarch Waystation
Here are the steps to certification:
Provide shelter from predators and from the elements. This is accomplished through plant variety and density. Recommended plantings = 2-10 plants (depending on variety) within each square yard of space. (Density is no problem for us. We tend to overplant…)
Provide milkweed varieties. Milkweed is the host plant for monarch butterflies. This means monarchs ONLY lay eggs on milkweed. That’s it. No milkweed = no monarchs. I recommend at least two varieties to add diversity to your garden in the form of different bloom times and plant height. We grow swamp milkweed (Asclepius incarnate) and butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). I’d love to add more.
Provide annual nectar plants in habitat. I don’t grow many annuals, but those I add to my garden in spring and summer are for the butterflies and other pollinators. My favorites are: Lantana and Pentas.
Provide perennial nectar plants in habitat. The older I get, the more I understand the ease of perennials. Know what I mean? My favorite butterfly perennials are: Bee Balm, Black-Eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Aster, Phlox, Purple Coneflower, Ozark Native Coneflower, and Sedum.
Tip: Mass plantings in color groupings is attractive to pollinators.
Take a look at our plantings. Some are not blooming yet. (I’ll show you another picture later in the summer.)
- Native Coneflower
- Purple Salvia
- Aromatic Aster
- Swamp Milkweed
- Bee Balm
Something to remember—it doesn’t take that much space to create a butterfly garden. This space is about 100 square feet.
We also add butterfly plants to garden beds around the front and side wherever we can find an open sliver of soil.
Other Certified Monarch Waystation Features
Grow other host plants (for other butterflies).
- Our Sweet Bay Magnolia is host for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
- Shasta Daisies serve as host for the Painted Lady.
- Black-Eyed Susans are host plants for the Silvery Checkerspot
- This spring, we are working on a new side bed that includes a row of spicebush, the host plant for the Swallowtail Butterfly.
Here’s a great list of Butterfly Host Plants.
Eliminate Pesticides. We use no pesticides. Yes, our grass contains weeds. But weeds are green and often bloom with tiny flowers the pollinators love. We are okay with that.
Mulch to retain water and reduce weeds in beds.
Remove invasive species. Invasive species keep native plants from flourishing. I’ve been pulling out vinca major (periwinkle) because it wants to take over our world.
Compost. Honestly, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as making your own compost from dried leaves, grass clippings, and vegetable scraps. Your soil will thank you. And you won’t feel so guilty when that lettuce goes bad and you need to toss it.
Water as needed. We have a sprinkler system which we use during the hottest part of summer, but we prefer to hand water using water from our cistern. (Rainwater drains into a cistern and our hoses are connected to it.) We also utilize Ollas to water dry areas of the garden. Love them!
Do you garden for the pollinators?
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.