Suitable Monarch habitat can be easily integrated with an existing flower garden. There is no minimum area requirement for your habitat; however, a truly effective Monarch habitat will be at least 100 square feet. The total area may be split among several sites at your location and there is no upper limit for the size of a Monarch habitat.
Monarch plants need lots of sun; therefore, Monarch habitats need to be located in an area that receives at least six hours of sun a day. See the attached reference for shade tolerance of recommended plants.
Milkweeds and nectar plants will do best in relatively light (low-clay) soils. Good drainage is needed to avoid root rot and provide good aeration of the roots. Areas with poor drainage may need more tolerant species such a swamp milkweed and New England aster.
To assure that the maximum number of monarchs survive in your habitat, the plants should be relatively close together. However, they should not be crowded – be sure to follow the planting recommendations specific to each plant. All monarch life stages need shelter from predators and the elements. Planting milkweeds and nectar plants close together contributes to this shelter for monarchs and other wildlife.
To maximize the utilization of your habitat by monarchs, it is desirable to include a number of milkweed species. It is best to have at least 10 plants, made up of two or more species; however, a large number of plants (more than 10) of one species is sufficient. Milkweeds of different species mature and flower at different times during the season. By increasing the number of milkweed species in your habitat you will increase the likelihood that monarchs will utilize your property for a longer period during the breeding season.
Monarchs, other butterflies, and numerous pollinators need nectar. By providing nectar sources that bloom sequentially your Monarch habitat can provide resources for monarchs throughout the breeding season and the migration in the fall. A Monarch habitat should contain at least 4 biennial or perennial native plants that provide nectar for butterflies.
See the table below of recommended native wildflowers for monarchs usually available as plants or seeds. Plants are recommended in flower gardens to obtain the fastest results.
|Scientific Name||Common Name||Light Preference||Bloom Period||Flower Color||Height (inches)||Moisture||Space (inches)|
|Aster novae-angliae||New England Aster||sun - med shade||Sept - Oct||purple||40 - 60||avg - moist||24 - 36|
|Aster laevis||Smooth Aster||sun - light shade||Sept - Oct||blue||20 - 30||dry - avg||16 - 20|
|Aster azureus||Sky Blue Aster||sun - light shade||Sept - Oct||blue||18 - 36||dry - avg||12 - 18|
|Asclepias syriaca||Common Milkweed||sun - light shade||June - Aug||lavender||48 - 60||average||36 - 60|
|Asclepias incarnata||Marsh or Swamp Milkweed||sun - med shade||Aug & Sept||rose-purple||48 - 60||avg - moist||24 - 36|
|Asclepias perennis||Aquatic Milkweed||sun - med shade||June - Sept||white||18 - 24||moist - wet||12 - 18|
|Asclepias purpurascens||Purple Milkweed||sun - med shade||May - June||rose-purple||24 - 48||dry - avg||18 - 24|
|Asclepias tuberosa||Butterfly Weed||sun - light shade||June - July||orange||24 - 36||average||18 - 30|
|Asclepias verticillata||Whorled Milkweed||sun - light shade||May - Sept||white||12 - 36||dry - avg||10 - 20|
|Asclepias viridis||Spider Milkweed||full sun||May - June||green||12 - 36||dry - avg||18 - 24|
|Coreopsis palmata||Prairie Coreopsis||sun - med shade||June - July||yellow||18 - 24||dry - avg||18 - 24|
|Coreopsis tripteris||Tall coreopsis||sun - light shade||July - Aug||yellow||40 - 110||dry - avg||18 - 24|
|Dalea candida||White Prairie Clover||sun||June - July||white||18 - 26||dry - avg||16 - 20|
|Echinacea purpurea||Purple Coneflower||sun- med shade||June - Aug||pink/purple||30 - 40||avg - moist||18 - 24|
|Eryngium yuccifolium||Rattlesnake Master||sun - light shade||July - Aug||white||30 - 48||average||16 - 24|
|Eupatorium perfoliatum||Boneset||sun - light shade||July - Sept||white||36 - 48||avg - wet||24 - 36|
|Heliopsis helianthoides||Ox-eye Sunflower||sun - light shade||June - Sept||yellow||24 - 48||dry - moist||18 - 30|
|Liatris aspera||Rough blazing star||sun - light shade||Sept||purple||24 - 48||dry - avg||12 - 16|
|Liatris pycnostachya||Prairie blazing star||sun||July - Aug||purple||30 - 48||dry - moist||12 - 20|
|Liatris scariosa||Eastern Blazing Star||sun - light shade||Aug - Sept||purple||36 - 60||avg||12 - 16|
|Lobelia siphilitica||Blue Lobelia||sun - light shade||Sept - Oct||blue||18 - 30||avg - moist||10 - 16|
|Monarda fistulosa||Wild bergamot||sun - light shade||June - July||lavender||36 - 48||average||16 - 24|
|Physostegia virginiana||Obedient plant||sun - light shade||July - Sept||pink/white||36 - 60||avg - moist||16 - 20|
|Rudbeckia hirta||Black-eyed Susan||sun - light shade||June||yellow||24 - 36||average||16 - 24|
|Silphium integrifolium||Rosinweed||sun - med shade||July - Aug||yellow||60 - 90||dry - avg||24 - 36|
|Silphium laciniatum||Compass Plant||sun||July - Aug||yellow||48 - 96||average||18 - 30|
|Silphium perfoliatum||Cup plant||sun - light shade||July - Sept||yellow||72 - 96||avg - moist||24 - 36|
|Solidago nemoralis||Gray Goldenrod||sun - light shade||Aug - Sept||yellow||18 - 30||dry - avg||16 - 24|
|Solidago rigida||Rigid Goldenrod||sun||Sept||yellow||30 - 48||average||16 - 24|
|Solidago speciosa||Showy Goldenrod||sun - light shade||Sept - Oct||yellow||24 - 48||dry - avg||18 - 24|
|Veronicastrum virginicum||Culver's Root||sun - light shade||June - Aug||white||36 - 48||avg - moist||16 - 20|
Local sources for seeds and plants of these native species can be found at Grow Native.
Information on suitable non-native species can be found at Monarch Watch.
Dry Condition Planting Diagram
Wet Conditions Planting Diagram
Note: Plants are arranged tallest to shortest, with shortest in front. These diagrams are just one of hundreds of plant combinations that can be used from the above table.
You should have a plan to sustain a Monarch backyard habitat area. Specific actions you take will depend on the features of your habitat; however, some general examples include mulching, thinning, fertilizing, amending the soil, removing dead stalks, watering, eliminating insecticide use, removing invasive plant species, and incorporating additional features.
Information provide in part by Monarch Watch. Contact Monarch Watch to find out how to be certified as a Monarch Waystation.