Monarch Gardening

Butterfly Gardening

How do I know which species of milkweed to plant in my area?

See the milkweed fact sheet on the Monarch Joint Venture website ( They have prioritized milkweed species known to be important for monarchs in each region of the U.S. 

Other than milkweed, what are other important features to consider when gardening for butterflies?

The Monarch Joint Venture has a great flyer on “Gardening for Monarchs” that can be downloaded from their website. 

Where can I find milkweed seeds or plants to add to my site?

Check out the Milkweed Seed Finder managed by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. 

The Monarch Watch Milkweed Market may also have milkweed plugs available for your area. 

Consult with a local gardening group, such as Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, or a local Wild Ones chapter for more information about where to find native plants. Native plant nurseries are a good place to start looking for native milkweeds and nectar plants. 

What are some symptoms of diseased milkweed plants, and how do I treat plant disease?

We certainly aren’t plant experts, but diseased plants is something that does come up on occasion. Some symptoms of diseased or unhealthy milkweed plants could include unusual spots on the leaves, misshapen or asymmetrical leaves or pods, or sometimes plants can appear wilted or weakened. These things can be caused by a number of different fungi or bacteria, but it is usually a good first step to look for tiny insects on the undersides of the leaves that may be eating the plant (not aphids). If these tiny thrips or mites are present on the undersides of the leaves, you can try to spray the undersides of the leaves with a strong dose of water. If you suspect a fungus or bacteria in your plants, you can try cutting back anything that looks diseased. If this doesn’t work, consult with a local garden club or native plant nursery to see what they recommend. 

How and when do I collect milkweed seeds to plant next season?

This depends on the species you are collecting and where you live! First, we recommend only using native milkweed species for monarchs, so make sure to collect only species that are native to your area. You should harvest the entire seed pod when it has split open, but has not disbursed seeds. The seeds inside the pod should be brown in color. You should NOT collect all of the milkweed seed pods if you are collecting them from a natural area. Leaving some milkweed seeds will help milkweeds to spread in that area the following year. 

Once you have collected the pods, you will want to remove the seeds from the pods and the fluff that they are attached to. There are many different methods for doing this, so you can try different things to see what works best for you. We like to split open the pod, keeping one end pinched tightly, then you can slide your finger over the ripened seeds scraping them off into a container. Make sure to label the species, location, and date that you collected them. 

Species native to areas that experience extended periods of freezing temperatures usually require cold stratification, or a period of exposure to cold/freezing temperatures, in order to germinate the following season. Some people prefer to sow the seeds outside in the fall or later winter/early spring to let the seeds undergo this process naturally. Another option is to keep the seeds in an airtight container with just a slight amount of moisture (using a medium such as sand or a damp paper towel) in your refrigerator or freezer. They should remain their for about 3 weeks, but it doesn’t hurt them to stay cold longer. When you are ready to plant, remove the seeds allowing them to warm up, plant, water, and watch them grow! 

Can I transplant milkweed from the wild to my garden?

It is possible, but not always easy or successful. It is best to transplant milkweed when plant shoots are very small. Milkweed has a deep tap root and if you cut off too much the transplant is less likely to succeed. If you find small plants that are likely growing from seeds disbursed the year before, these will be much easier to tranplant to your garden! If you do try to transplant milkweed, make sure that you get as much of the taproot as possible, and do not take all of the plants from the site you are transplanting from. 

What host plants can I plant to bring other butterflies to my garden?

Just as monarchs need milkweed, other Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) species require host plants for development. Some are specialists, meaning that they require a particular type of plant, but others can eat a variety of different plants. Depending on the region that you live in, you can attract different kinds of butterflies by growing the plants that their larvae need to develop, in addition to nectar sources that the adults use. Check out the North American Butterfly Association’s Butterfly Garden and Habitat webpage for more information and regional butterfly gardening guides for more ideas about what plants to use in your area.