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Laying out a garden for monarch butterflies

Monarchs on Liatris spicata
Credit: Espace pour la vie (André Sarrazin)
Monarchs on Liatris spicata
Laying out a garden for monarch butterflies

What a remarkable butterfly the monarch is! It’s magnificent at every stage of its life, but what impresses most is its long migration. What would you say to the idea of welcoming the king of butterflies at your place? Getting the chance to see one up close as it gathers pollen is a moment of sheer happiness.

A few adjustments, and your yard or balcony could turn into a monarch oasis. A calm sunny place, especially one with some milkweed, its host plant – and that’s pretty much all there is to it!

Calm beneath the sun

Butterflies like to spread their wings in the sun to warm up. And being as light as they are, they can’t do it very comfortably in strong winds. So choose a spot that benefits from long exposure to the sun (minimum six hours a day) and adequate shelter from the wind, such as what’s provided by large-size plants or a trellis.

A yard in front or in back and a sunny balcony are perfect places for welcoming butterflies.

Their favorite plants

Incorporate a variety of flowering plants, ideally native ones. These are adapted to the climate in our regions, are more resistant to defoliation and, most important, butterflies prefer them: they recognize them more quickly, and they enjoy their nectar.

But a garden for monarchs wouldn’t be complete without milkweed, the only plant that the caterpillars feed on, and one of the most beautiful native plants in Québec.

In this province there are primarily four species of native milkweed, the most common are: the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and the swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

Maintaining the garden

Since the goal of this garden is to feed butterflies and caterpillars, pesticides are out!

Native plants require little in the way of maintenance. It’s enough to water when they need it to get them through dry spells and eliminate the weeds that compete with them, until they’re well established. They’re highly resistant plants, and they attract predatory insects that naturally control the populations of pest species.

Get close to nature, in your garden!

This garden will help you get closer to nature, while at the same time furthering the chances of monarch reproduction and survival.

Explore it every day and discover the extraordinary life that takes up residence there. And then, look out for the king of butterflies, who will no doubt come to forage there. A female will carefully deposit her eggs on a milkweed, and a new generation will come into being under your very eyes.

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