Monarchs & Milkweed
Did you know monarch butterflies are unique from all other insects in the world? Find out what makes monarchs special and what you can do to ensure their return to your yard, year after year.
The Great Monarch Migration
Migrating Monarchs
Each spring, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies begin the journey of a lifetime, traveling up to 3,000 miles from Mexico and the Southern states in search of a place to lay their eggs. Monarchs are the only insect to make such a trek! This phenomenon is especially unique because a single generation does not endure the distance.

Typically, there are four generations to pass over the span of this yearly migration. The first three generations live 2–6 weeks, while the last generation will live for 6–8 months in the warmer climate of its winter habitat.

You can witness the peak of the monarch population in your area according to your latitude. Monarchs in the Midwest will be at their greatest population from late August to mid-September – The further north you live, the earlier the peak will be. To ensure more monarchs in your yard, you can encourage the growth of one very important weed.
Milkweed
Monarchs travel north in search of milkweed as a home for their eggs and food for the larvae. Milkweed leaves are the only food that allows monarch caterpillars to become butterflies, and it is found largely in the Midwest. There are many types of milkweed, and all fall under the scientific name Asclepias so be sure to plant native varieties for your area. Even on a smaller scale, planting milkweed is helpful, but the more you plant, the easier it will be for our monarch friends to find.
Wear gloves when handling milkweed and do not get the sap in your eyes!
Collecting Milkweed
Sowing Milkweed Seeds
Milkweed From Cuttings
From Seeds - Gathering
From Seeds - Germinating
From Cuttings
Late in the growing season you can gather milkweed seeds from the pods of your existing plants. Watch the pods until they just begin to split – Remove the pod and open it to reveal brown, mature seeds. If the seeds are pale or white, do not bother saving them. The silky material from inside the pod will likely stick to your seeds, but this is easy to remove; simply place the seeds in a paper bag or plastic container and shake gently until the silk is separated from the seeds.
For best results, give your seeds a cold treatment by placing them on a moist paper towel in a plastic bag. Store in a cool, dark place, like your refrigerator, for 3–6 weeks (or once they start germinating), then plant in warm, moist soil. If you prefer, you can skip the fridge and plant them directly outdoors in the fall after a killing frost, but mark your seedlings so you remember where they are next spring! Sow seeds under 1/4" or less of light, well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade, depending on your milkweed species.
Growing milkweed from cuttings may be easier, and may result in stronger plants than growing from seeds. Choose milkweed stems that are green, healthy and 1/3" in diameter. Cut stems at an angle in 4–5" lengths just below a leaf node. Use cuttings with at least 3 leaf nodes. After rinsing the cut ends, place stems in potting soil that is kept continuously moist. They should be ready to transplant in 6–10 weeks.
Other Plants to Attract Butterflies
Only after reaching the adult stage of being a full grown butterfly, monarchs can survive on nectar as well as milkweed. They like lots of colorful, native plants and flowers; many of which you can find in your local Garden Center.
• Alyssum
• Anthemis
• Arabis
• Asters
• Bee balm
• Black-eyed Susan
• Blazing Star
• Bloodflower
• Catnip
• Cosmos
• Daisies
• Dandelion
• Dogbane
• Gaillardia
• Goldenrod
• Heath Aster
• Heliotrope
• Impatiens
• Joe-Pye Weed
• Lantana
• Late-flowering Boneset
• Marigolds
• Mist Flower
• Phlox
• Primrose
• Purple Coneflower
• Red Clover
• Smooth Aster
• Thistle
• Tithonia
• Verbena
• Wingstem
Featured Décor for the Butterfly Enthusiast