Home > Gardening with Ellen Le February 2014

Gardening with Ellen Le February 2014

Gardening with Ellen Pell


Gardening with Ellen

Why write about Monarch butterflies in a gardening article? Because the main reason I garden is to grow plants that will attract pollinators: birds, bees and butterflies.

2013 was a sad year for me and many of my gardening friends. We saw NO Monarch butterflies in our gardens. The Monarchs are clearly in trouble. This is a crisis situation!

Several reasons have been suggested.

Climate: Snow or frost in their winter roosting sites, as well as drought conditions.

Habitat: Monarchs have a winter (October to late March) habitat and another that they migrate to for the remainder of the year. Overwintering colonies are found in Mexico's oyamel fir forest on only 12 isolated mountaintops. Continued thinning of these forests has dramatically reduced these sites.

Food Supply: Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, which is their ONE AND ONLY host plant. Since Monarch caterpillars will only eat milkweed: NO MILKWEED = NO MONARCHS. Farmers kill milkweed because they consider it a weed. Developers destroy milkweed habitat as they reduce greenspace in the act of constructing buildings and laying down impervious cover.

How can we save the Monarch? PLANT MILKWEED EVERYWHERE.

Plant milkweed and nectar plants to compensate for the loss of habitat. Asclepias tuberosa is a very pretty, orange- flowered perennial variety. But it is only one of the 100’s of milkweed varieties that nourish Monarchs. Spread the “plant milkweed” message to every gardener you know. Planting milkweed seeds is something every gardener can and should do to ensure the Monarch’s survival.

Milkweed seeds are available FOR FREE at:


Or buy milkweed seeds and plants online or at your local nursery.

Ellen Pell, Master Gardener.

Credit to Peg Baseden, Master Gardener

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