• Michelle

Free Monarch with Purchase of Milkweed

I was potting up Butterfly Milkweed seedlings for garden kits today when I noticed the seedling I was about to transfer had a Monarch caterpillar under a leaf. I didn’t want to disturb it, so I reached for another seedling, only to discover that it too was occupied.



When I took a close look, there were about 30 monarch caterpillars on each flat of Butterfly Milkweed, and another caterpillar on every single one of our quart pots of Swamp Milkweed. That's a lot of baby Monarch butterflies!


My husband had a little fun with the caterpillar invasion:


Boba Fett hunting a Monarch caterpillar in a Butterfly Milkweed forest
There's a price on your head

It's worth noting that these milkweed are nowhere near flowering. They are just little green plants, looking much like all the other little green plants in our greenhouse. The Monarch butterflies can smell them, even without any flowers, and can tell they are a rich place to lay their precious eggs. I wonder how this field of Butterfly Milkweed seedlings appears to a Monarch...


Seedling flats of butterfly milkweed
Monarch Buffet

Did you know there are several types of milkweed? We currently offer four different kinds, and are working on establishing two more. And yes, you can still plant perennials this time of year. You just have to be a little more diligent in the watering than you do in the spring or fall. The Monarchs are obviously still looking for tender young plants to lay their eggs, and they will thank you for adding one of these four types of milkweed to your garden now:

  1. Swamp Milkweed - Asclepias incarnata. This is a beautiful plant, growing about 4' tall with vigorous roots and thick stems. It does best in decent soil with moisture while it's getting established, but it has roots that grow so deep, we rarely need to water it in our garden. This seems to be the favorite of the Monarchs at our house. Not only do they seek the rich red-pink flowers for nectar, it is rare to find one without a caterpillar. Fritillaries and hummingbirds like the flowers, too.

  2. Butterfly Milkweed - Asclepias tuberosa. This is a shorter plant that makes nice 2' clumps with brilliant orange flowers. Butterfly Weed is not fussy about soil and is a favorite of bees and other pollinators. This is the milkweed featured in the rest of the photos in this post - so it obviously is great for Monarch caterpillars!

  3. Common Milkweed - Asclepias syriaca. The thing I like best about this one is the scent. It's particularly delicious in the evening, probably to attract moths and other nocturnal pollinators. But during the day, the flowers are large and lovely and certainly get their share of butterflies. It doesn't mind poor soils and is a healthy spreader, so use it in a place where it has room to roam.

  4. Whorled Milkweed - Asclepias verticillata. You wouldn't think this delicate-looking plant with thin leaves and lacy white flowers would be a milkweed, but the Monarchs can tell. It likes sandy loam and sun, but can tolerate a bit of shade and is the most drought-resistant milkweed we have. It forms attractive, fragrant colonies and is also a fairly healthy spreader.

  5. Monarch Waystation Garden Kit - All of The Above. If you really want to support Monarchs, consider supporting their whole life cycle. In addition to planting milkweeds for caterpillar hosting, Monarchs need blooming plants from the time they arrive in the spring until the time the last generation heads south in the fall, preferably with flower clusters or flowers with large surface area for efficient feeding. They also need a safe place to build a chrysalis within 40 feet of the milkweed host plants, ideally a shrub that will shield the chrysalis from predators. Our garden kit has two each of Swamp, Butterfly, and Whorled Milkweeds (Common Milkweed can be added upon request), a full season of blooms, and two shrubs that will grow to be a great chrysalis support and will bloom, too.


Now through the end of July, get 10% off your order from our Monarchs and Milkweed Collection with code "Monarch" at checkout. Consider adding milkweed to your garden today. It might even come with a little striped passenger! (Boba Fett not included).

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