Save the Monarch
The majestic monarch butterfly is in desperate need. Once a common sighting in backyard gardens, the orange-and-black butterfly known for its long migration to its overwintering grounds in Mexico is on the brink of collapse. Fortunately you can help provide the plants the caterpillars need to munch on to survive.
Milkweed Growing Instructions to Help Save the Monarch Butterfly
Courtesy of Linda Neymeyer
The following info was condensed from the website "ScienceViews.com", where you can search for "common milkweed" for more information. Other websites will also have information if you search for "milkweed seeds", etc.
Milkweed grows in sandy, clayey or rocky soils and prefers banks of lakes, ponds and waterways, and in ditches or ravines. The chemicals in the plants make the Monarch caterpillar's flesh distasteful to most predators and milkweed plants are the only plant on which the eggs are laid and larvae will feed and mature. Milkweed also attract bees and other insects. The plants grow from 2-6' tall with leaves of 4-8" long. Common milkweed flowers May--Aug with rose or purple clusters of 20-130 small flowers in a group. Seedlings usually bloom in the second year and it likes an area which is moist but drains occasionally.
To plant the seeds, remove weeds and sod. Cultivate the soil to a fine tilth, then firm by treading or rolling and rake lightly. Sow seed directly into ground in fall, Nov. being a good month. Sand may be added to the seeds to help distribute them. If planted in flats, cold treat for 3 months in a refrigerator. Water in the summer as needed. The plants will often be consumed in the spring as the butterflies migrate, but will re-grow in time for them to lay eggs later in the summer.
The Iowa milkweed plants, which are the seeds that have been given to BVGC members, are less hardy this far south and should be planted in the most cool area available (such as the bottom of a ravine) in soil that does not dry out often. These were not very successful in this area for our members unfortunately.
You may find the native Arkansas plants listed below easier to grow. All need sun to part shade and a moist condition that drains periodically.
1. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) Pink bloom, 3-4' tall, host plant for Monarchs.
2. Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) Purple bloom, nectar and host plant for Monarchs.
3. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) up to 5' tall, fragrant pink bloom, host plant for Monarchs.
4. Orange milkweed or Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), bright orange bloom, well-drained soil, Monarch food plant.
5. A tropical milkweed, 'Blood Flower', (Asclepias Curassavica) is native to Mexico and an annual here, even if it is listed as a perennial where you purchase it. At the Pine Ridge Nursery butterflies follow the staff around when they carry these!
You must also provide blooming plants in the area for nectar, orange, pink, and yellow flowers preferred. Butterflies love a sun-warmed rock and a shallow mud puddle or moist sand with a bit of sea salt scattered in it. A less windy spot is best. Parsley, sassafras, and cherry are also good host plants for butterflies in general and they like fruit slices, especially watermelon. Some sources for the above varieties of Arkansas native milkweed plants are: Holland Wildflower Farm (seeds), P.O. Box 328, Elkins, AR 72727; Pine Ridge Gardens Nursery (native plants) 832 Sycamore Road, Lindon, AR 72847 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Many may also be ordered from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery, LLC 9814 Pleasant Hill Road, Jefferson City, MO 65109 or email@example.com or their website, www.mowildflowers.net.
Good luck ... the butterflies will thank you by bringing color and life to your landscape!
Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.Nathaniel Hawthorne