As of late, many gardeners are looking to replace or add milkweed, the Asclepias species, to their landscape for the fall monarch butterfly migration. However, there is a reason why the plants are looking pitiful and it is part of nature's divine plan. Monarch butterflies make an incredible 2500 mile journey twice a year. Once in the spring from Mexico to Canada to mate, lay eggs and produce offspring and again in autumn, to return south to overwinter in the mountains of Mexico. In the fall, it is the responsibility of a single butterfly to make the journey. Fuel is needed for the trek south and nature's seasonal wildflowers help make this possible.
Goldenrod is a common 'weed' growing in the prairies and along the roadside. The tall bloom stalk provides a high quantity of nectar for pollinating insects and adds a gorgeous golden glow to the autumn prairie. Photo credit T. Voekler - Own work, commons.wikimedia.org
Mist flower's powder blue blooms can be seen growing in the meadows, marsh, and prairies along the monarch's gulf coast migration route in autumn. The fluffy flowers are a favorite nectar plant for monarchs. The butterflies so often frequent my planted mist flowers that the neighbors squeal with delight at the dancing monarchs. Photo credit, By KENPEI - Own work, CC BY 3.0, at commons.wikimedia.org
Duranta erecta is also a great source of nectar and a monarch favorite. Native to Mexico, this small potted plant found in nurseries will mature to nearly 20 feet tall with a stunning cascade of lavender flowers followed by draping ornamental golden berries that are a showy statement in any landscape.
During autumn, nectar plants and water sources are more important for monarchs than the host plant, milkweed. Energy is necessary for the long journey south. Trust natures' plan and let your milkweed die back or prune to encourage migration rather than reproduction. Native grasses, autumn wildflowers, and cool season flowering trees are a spectacular addition to the home landscape. Not only will you enjoy the enchanted autumn scenery but so will the monarch butterflies, bumblebees, and birds. Click here to find the MonarchWatch.org plant list. Scroll to the bottom to find the best nectar plants for autumn.
Each year, millions of monarchs arrive in Mexico around November 1st, "The Day of the Dead." Many Mexicans believe the butterflies carry the souls of their ancestors. May your day be filled with butterflies and the warmth of family and friends.
Here are a few items in adult and youth sizes from our Monarch Collection that will look stylish as you help support the monarch's journey. We will donate a $1 of every item purchased from our Monarch Collection to MonarchWatch.org