Attracting Monarchs (and Other Butterflies)

Many years ago, my husband and I tried to grow a wildflower meadow in our backyard. We wanted to limit the amount of lawn we needed to mow and attract more wildlife, especially butterflies. 

Unfortunately, we weren't very successful. So, when a few milkweed plants appeared in my front flower beds several years ago (maybe 5, now?), I let them grow. Each summer, my kids and I would check for monarchs but found no evidence. Each year, more plants would creep into my garden and I'd leave them. Then we'd go back watching for monarchs. Nothing. We had a large mass of milkweed but no monarchs.

Until this year, that is. They seem to have appeared suddenly- multiple butterflies flitting and dancing together.   

Sipping nectar from butterfly weed, purple cone flower,

 and other flowers.
Landing on the milkweed (laying eggs?). 

Photos taken 22 July 2012

My family is so excited. Now we'll look for eggs (they're really hard to see) and wait to see if any caterpillars emerge. No matter what happens, we enjoyed spending time watching them flit about on Sunday afternoon.

The lesson I learned is that you need patience when building a butterfly garden But "if you build it, they will come"... eventually. (I already knew this, of course, but it's hard to be patient sometimes, isn't it?).

If you want to start a butterfly garden, start small. Go to your local nursery to learn which plants are native to your area and plant one or two. You can add others over time to attract more and more butterflies.

ADDED LATER: Mass Audubon has a great post called "Don't Weed the Milkweed." I highly recommend you read it to learn more.

Have you planted a butterfly garden? Was it successful? What species of butterflies have you attracted?

Related Posts:
Life from Milkweed