Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum→Help me plan a butterfly garden Please

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Name: Margaret
Delta KY
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Mindy03
May 1, 2020 1:22 PM CST
Hi everyone.
I am wishing to plant a butterfly garden as memorial to my oldest brother.
I am not good at designing garden beds so I need help selecting plants for butterflies
Specifically I would like to attract Monarchs because of a memory we shared concerning them.
I am in KY zone 6 which can sometimes be a zone 5
What I have selected so far
Butterfly bush
Butterfly weed
Milkweeds that are already growing here
Zinnia
Any suggestions will be much appreciated.
Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

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plantladylin
May 1, 2020 1:27 PM CST
I'm not real familiar with Kentucky plants but when doing a google search, I found this Univ. Ky page about native plants that attract butterflies: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/... If you scroll about 3/4 way down, there is a list of plants for Midsummer Blooms and Late Summer Blooms.

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Name: Margaret
Delta KY
I'm A Charley's Girl For Sure
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Beekeeper
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Mindy03
May 1, 2020 5:01 PM CST
Thank you so much. I didn't even think to check my state's links for information
Name: Jacob Hugart
Saint Paul, Minnesota (Zone 4b)
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jhugart
May 21, 2020 4:20 PM CST
What to Consider

You may find this article informative. Since you are focused on just Monarch butterflies, it talks specifically about that. Pretty much, this means Milkweeds, genus asclepias.

If you want to create an actual garden, you can get a list of plants here on garden.org using the advanced plant search to search for specific characteristics. Be careful with picking a minimum hardiness zone, you may eliminate plants that thrive further north. The caveat is that -- while you can mark plants that attract butterflies -- it doesn't specifically limit that to Monarchs.

The Butterfly Weed is an excellent choice. It will grow in your zone, and is considered native according to this web page on Kentucky native Milkweed species. You could pick anything on this list and be happy. It sounds like you've probably gone down this path already.

What to Pick

Once you have an idea of the options, you should decide where you want to put this garden. How wet is that area? How sunny is it? How big an area is it?

Then take a look at the plants you are considering, and eliminate any that can't handle the requirements. If it is a particularly dry area, for instance, Swamp Milkweed (asclepias incarnata) probably won't do well.
I would recommend getting live plants over seeds. I have a packet of milkweed seeds I got, and I should have put them in the ground last fall, since they need the freeze/thaw cycle and exposure to moisture in order to germinate.

How to Arrange Them

The good news is that the milkweeds all like sun or partial sun/shade. That means the main thing you must consider in arranging your plants is how tall they will get; the plant database on here will tell you that. For instance, Whorled Milkweed (asclepias verticillata) only gets about two feet tall, while Common Milkweed (asclepias syriaca) can get up to four feet tall. Make sure that the Whorled Milkweed is more southerly, or closer to an edge of your harden spot, so it isn't in the shade of the taller plant.

You can start with a small, rectangular plot for now, or plan out a butterfly-shaped thing that may take a while to complete. Just keep in mind plant height and sunlight more than color.

Other Help

If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

You may find more assistance on these garden.org articles:


Oh, a final thought: These milkweeds will be perennial. They will keep coming back. You may need to prune any old growth in the spring (I'd let it sit until then, as the stems can be winter homes for native bees, I believe), but you will get new growth from the taproot.
(Zone 5b)
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SassyBloomer
Jan 11, 2021 2:50 PM CST
I realize that I'm the new kid and this post is very old, but I wanted to point out an important attribute as it relates to asclepias syriaca (Common milkweed):

They are aggressive colonizers. That means you will end up with a monoculture if you don't routinely control them. Also, it really depends on your area, but they CAN grow up to 6-feet or more. The common milkweed in my yard are evidently extremely happy because they have grown to 7-feet in height for two years in a row, and they're not even in a full sun location.
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Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
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crawgarden
Jan 11, 2021 3:04 PM CST
Welcome to the site!

They can, but they are very easy to control just by pulling them out.
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[Last edited by crawgarden - Feb 16, 2021 5:23 PM (+)]
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Name: Margaret
Delta KY
I'm A Charley's Girl For Sure
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Mindy03
Jan 12, 2021 7:26 PM CST
The milkweeds that grow here rarely get over 5 feet There are at least two kibnds growing here in differnet parts of the farm The butterfly Weed has a small colony started near the house which I will leave alone I just added a butterfly bush near that area The comon milkweed grows inthe fields and so far I have only seen a few plants in any one locatin Probably due to cattle and deer grazing those areas plus two of the fields have been cut for hay
Thanks for all of the advice on this I appreciate it
(Zone 5b)
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SassyBloomer
Jan 13, 2021 11:14 AM CST
Mindy03 said: I just added a butterfly bush near that area


Yay! I was hoping you'd provide an update👍🏻 As it relates to butterfly bushes, I've heard they are illegal in many states. Just for peace of mind, double check with your state or extension office to make sure these bushes are legal to have.😎
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Name: Margaret
Delta KY
I'm A Charley's Girl For Sure
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Beekeeper
Seed Starter Permaculture Region: Kentucky Garden Ideas: Master Level Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Mindy03
Jan 15, 2021 2:26 PM CST
If they were illegal in KY I don't think all of the stores would be selling them evvery spring
I had one years ago but a cold winter killed it That was the one that had 6 Monarch butterflies on it when my brother visited me one day
We do have to be careful about disposing of any trimmings from one becasue they seem to root easily I also like to trim off the dead flowers before they make seeds just to be safe
Name: John Caddell
Northern California (Zone 9b)
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jbcphotos
Jan 29, 2021 9:43 PM CST
some good advice in this thread. my advice is to pick flowers that the butterflies can sit on top of to keep watch for predators while they feed. Here's a really great book to read about pollination.

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(Zone 5b)
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SassyBloomer
Feb 12, 2021 11:25 PM CST
jbcphotos said:some good advice in this thread. my advice is to pick flowers that the butterflies can sit on top of to keep watch for predators while they feed. Here's a really great book to read about pollination.

Thumb of 2021-01-30/jbcphotos/cd6981



The author has an intriguing pen name. I presume it's to coincide with the book title?

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Name: UrbanWild
Kentucky (Zone 6b)
Kentucky - borderline of 6a & 6b
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UrbanWild
Feb 19, 2021 12:18 PM CST
If I had to pick one species of milkweed for monarchs it would be swamp milkweed. It grows well, tolerates a lot, stays where you put it, it is the easiest to save seed from and control oleander aphids on, and the leaves are tender right up until frost. There are some papers suggesting common milkweed is best but I get larvae on all of the milkweeds here. Swamp is by far the preferred and most successful judging from the numbers of larvae and those that reach later larval instars or pupate. It's also the longest flowering of any of the milkweeds I grow. Common has a tendency to walk underground and pop up all over. Fairly easily controlled but it can be persistent. Common milkweed also flops much more readily here. The leaves get really tough on older common milkweeds. Oleander aphids seem to take much more control and be far messier on common.

Since you're also planting annuals...Tithonia sp. (Mexican sunflower). It will start blooming day-glow orange blossoms about the size of your palm and run continuously right up into frost. Everything loves them but especially hummingbirds & monarchs. I'll never be without this plant.

Any of the Monarda sp. but I'm especially fond of our native M. fistulosa.

Definitely coneflowers...especially natives where you don't have to worry about selective breeding removing what attracts the pollinators for traits attracting humans.

If you tell me what other butterflies you want I may be able to make more suggestions.

Butterfly bushes are illegal in some locations and I would like to see that here as well but KY is pretty lax about many non-native invasives. Great plant...but too good at moving beyond your yard and taking over areas or becoming nightmares outside of your planting area.

Always looking for interesting plants for pollinators and food! Bonus points for highly, and pleasantly scented plants.

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Name: Margaret
Delta KY
I'm A Charley's Girl For Sure
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Beekeeper
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Mindy03
Mar 1, 2021 5:17 PM CST
Thank you UrbanWild. I actually like all butterflies. I am just adding some more plants for the Monarchs as a memorial to my oldest brother who passed away last year.

I believe we have some native coneflowers in the far reaches of the property where I ahven't been in a few years. I am lousy at identifying plants.

I love sunflowers too so those are already on my list anyway for the honey bees who love them.

We may have swamp milkweed growin here not sure. I know the common milkweed and butterfly weed does. There are 3 types growing on the propery
Name: Lee-Roy
Bilzen, Belgium (Zone 8a)
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Arico
Mar 1, 2021 5:44 PM CST
Variety, variety, variety. That's the key. Also, single flowers that are easily accessible are preferred: Asteraceae, Apiaceae, Lamiaceae...

Buddleja, Monarda, Rosa (singles), Mentha, Ajuga, Lavandula, Helenium, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Tothonia, Zinnia, Calendula, Agelica, Agastache, Salvia, Eryngium, Echinops....
Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
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ZenMan
Mar 10, 2021 10:04 PM CST
Hi Margaret,

Like you, I actually like all butterflies, and not just the Monarchs. One of my hobbies is raising and breeding zinnias, so I have a couple of zinnia gardens, and a variety of butterflies and skippers visit my zinnias to feed on their zinnia nectar, including Monarchs.
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There are several species of Milkweed, but I am under the impression that only one of them is a food plant for Monarchs. There are some native Milkweeds in our immediate rural area here in eastern central Kansas, but I have never seen a Monarch caterpillar feeding on any the them, so I conclude that our native Milkweeds are not the food plant species for Monarchs. As we all know, Monarchs are migratory, famously so, and I rarely see the same Monarch butterfly for more than a day or two.

Zinnia blooms have a daily supply of nectar, and we have clouds of skippers and some butterflies on my zinnias, "pigging out" on what nectar they have. I plan to experiment with Butterfly Feeders, which are analogous to Hummingbird Feeders. There is commercial Butterfly Food, which is something like the Hummingbird Food that is available for Hummingbird Feeders. You dissolve the commercial food in water to create artificial nectar for butterflies. Hummingbirds also feed on my zinnia nectar, so I hope that feeding the hummingbirds with my hummingbird feeders will satisfy their appetites, and thus leave more zinnia nectar for the butterflies.

Your memorial garden for your oldest brother is a very sweet thing. I wish you the best of luck with it. Thumbs up

ZM
I tip my hat to you.
Name: Margaret
Delta KY
I'm A Charley's Girl For Sure
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Beekeeper
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Mindy03
Mar 11, 2021 1:20 PM CST
Thanks eeeryone for the suggestions.

Lee-Roy I love zinnias and plant them every year. I am actually looking for more seeds of those flowers in spite of my husband trying to limit me on how many seed I buy He should just give that up since it never works
Name: Lee-Roy
Bilzen, Belgium (Zone 8a)
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Arico
Mar 12, 2021 6:09 PM CST
Mindy03 said:Thanks eeeryone for the suggestions.

Lee-Roy I love zinnias and plant them every year. I am actually looking for more seeds of those flowers in spite of my husband trying to limit me on how many seed I buy He should just give that up since it never works


You're welcome.

Many people like butterflies, but they don't like the stage that comes before them: caterpillars, because they eat their plants. If you truly care about butterflies to thrive into the future, you need to (ideally) cater (to some extent) to them too.
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Hamwild
Mar 13, 2021 11:35 AM CST
Arico said:

You're welcome.

Many people like butterflies, but they don't like the stage that comes before them: caterpillars, because they eat their plants. If you truly care about butterflies to thrive into the future, you need to (ideally) cater (to some extent) to them too.


Adding to this (in case it wasn't mentioned before), swallowtails like to lay their eggs on parsley. While it doesn't look pretty (and dies after flowering it's second year), you can help start the next generation. Green Grin!
Name: Nancy
Northeastern Illinois (Zone 5b)
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Murky
Mar 15, 2021 11:32 AM CST
Mindy03 said:Thanks eeeryone for the suggestions.

Lee-Roy I love zinnias and plant them every year. I am actually looking for more seeds of those flowers in spite of my husband trying to limit me on how many seed I buy He should just give that up since it never works

Just tell your husband that you could be buying the plants instead of the cheap seeds and show him what that would cost. I would think that would stop him from ever complaining about seeds again.

I'm in Zone 5, and I see most monarch caterpillars feeding on the Common Milkweed. The most common milkweed varieties that I see the butterflies feeding from are the Common Milkweed and Swamp Milkweed. Both nicely fragrant too, so that's an added bonus.

[Last edited by Murky - Mar 15, 2021 11:36 AM (+)]
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
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Weedwhacker
Apr 26, 2021 8:39 AM CST
Mindy, so many good suggestions have already been given - I just wanted to add that my 'Autumn Joy' sedum is an absolute magnet for butterflies and bees (and it is so easy to grow!). Best of luck with your garden, that is such a wonderful way to remember your brother Lovey dubby

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