glyphs-new

Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!

The Monarch Butterfly is an iconic North American species, but it is in trouble. Find out how you can help.

The Monarch Butterfly is an iconic North American species, but it is in trouble. The species population has decreased dramatically over the last several decades due to pesticides, loss of habitat, decreasing number of pollinator flowers, and a changing climate. As a matter of fact, the Monarch population has decreased by 90% since 1992. And the milkweed plant population, which is the only source of food for Monarchs, is also down 90%.

This species is an important pollinator, and its decline could be a “canary in the coal mine” for the health and population of other important pollinators.

The good news is that you can help save the Monarchs by planting milkweed!

If you live in North Carolina, we recommend planting Asclepias tuberosa, also known as Butterfly Milkweed (among other names). This species is native our area, provides an excellent source of food for the Monarch Butterfly, and looks beautiful when in bloom. A perennial, Butterfly Milkweed produces bright orange blooms all summer long, year after year, so long as its root system remains in place.

There are many ways you can grow Butterfly Milkweed from seeds. Here is one easy method:

  1. Obtain seeds + coffee filter or paper towels + plastic bag + Tupperware container
  2. Soak your coffee filter and lay it on a plate
  3. Put the seeds on the filter, then fold the filter such that the seeds are inside of the wet filter
  4. Place the folded filter inside of the plastic bag and seal the bag
  5. Put the bag in the Tupperware container
  6. Put the container in the refrigerator for one month
  7. Now you can transfer the seeds and plant them in a seed starting tray, a pot, or directly outdoors
Monarch butterflies store a poison called Cardiac Glycosides that they had ingested by feeding on the leaves of the milkweed foliage in their larva stage. These toxins provide these butterflies with a poisonous defense against its predators such as lizards, birds, and frogs.

If you choose to plant your milkweed seeds outdoors, here are some tips:

  1. Do so in spring, after the final frost
  2. Choose an area of the garden in full sun that drains well. Butterfly Milkweed is not terribly picky about its soil
  3. Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost over the area and mix into several inches of soil below
  4. Soak this soil/compost mix
  5. Plant the seeds. The plants will grow to a mature height of 18 to 30 inches tall and can be spaced 12 to 18 inches apart
  6. Protect the area if it may be disturbed by pets, children, rabbits, etc.
  7. Keep the soil moist until the plant is established and showing new growth
  8. After that, water only occasionally, as Butterfly Milkweed plants prefer dry soil
  9. Milkweed seeds should show signs of life within 14 to 28 days but can take up to 40 days to successfully germinate.

Once your plants begin to flower, look for monarchs during their migration in September or early October. Enjoy!

Oh, and PS, the Monarchs want you to give yourself a pat on the back for being so awesome!

Like this article? Pass it on.

Related Articles

8 Ways to Accidentally Kill Your Tree When Planting
Drought Resistant Trees
When Good Mulch Goes Bad
How To: The Fundamentals of Watering
Why Dead Wood is Good Wood
Video | Want more birds in your backyard? Plant these native trees.
Best Native Trees for Butterflies
Fall & Winter Tree Care Checklist
Video | Fall Tree Care Checklist: Leave your Leaves, Plant New Trees, and Other Important Tasks
Top 10 Most Surprising Benefits of Trees
How I Learned to Love to My Trees
Video | Trees are Critical to Our Future
Think Your Tree is Dead? Look a Little Closer
How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | How to Spot the Warning Signs: Dead, Dying or Hazardous Trees
Right Tree, Right Place: What to Plant and Where to Plant it
Video | How To: Choosing the Right Tree for Any Location
Our Favorite Tree Recommendations for Tricky Areas
Using Fertilizer? Think Twice Before You Do.
The #1 Reason Most Soil Tests Don't Work
Friend or Foe: When to Take Action Against Pests
The Insect Apocalypse is Here. How Can You Help?
16 Fascinating Facts About Fungi
Mycorrhizal Fungi: The Unsung Heroes of Tree Care
Case Study: Watch How Soil Improvement Turned this Tree from Sickly to Stately
From Dead Dirt to Healthy Soil in 7 Simple Steps
6 Pruning Mistakes to Avoid
How to Install and Enjoy Your Rain Gauge
Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!
4 Fascinating Facts About Mistletoe
Proper Care for Newly Planted Trees
8 Ways to Accidentally Kill Your Tree When Planting
Drop that Rake! Why Leaving the Leaves is Vital to Your Plant's Health
Save Time This Fall: Leave Your Leaves
Video | How To: The Fundamentals Of Watering
Video | The Fundamentals of Mulch: Proper Care, Installation, and Selection
Too Many Choices: Which Mulch or Weed Barrier Should I Choose?
When Good Mulch Goes Bad
How To: The Fundamentals of Mulch Installation
Five Ways to Spot a Thirsty Tree or Shrub
Soaker Hoses, Irrigation Systems, and Treegators, Oh My!
Drought Resistant Trees
How To: The Fundamentals of Watering
The Joy of Planting Native Trees in Durham, North Carolina
Brightening Up Neighborhoods Across Durham
Changing lives one seed at a time in Durham
Soil Decompaction - An Essential for Good Tree Health
Emerald Ash Borer is in NC!
Cabling & Bracing - Options for Making Your Tree Safer
Tree Care for Crape Myrtles
How to Prevent Tree Damage
Help! My Tree Has a Disease!
Dragon’s Blood Tree
Deep Root Fertilization: Myths & The Truth
The Dangerous Truth About Ghost Insurance Policies
Stump Removal - The Mighty Stump Grinder!
Happy Trees Begin With Proper Planting
Trees & Shrubs Need Check-Ups Too!
How To Protect Your Trees from a Lightning Strike
Mulching: A Cheap, Easy Way to Increase the Health of Your Trees!
Crape Myrtles: A Tale of Love, Murder, and Proper Pruning
The World's Oldest Trees
Help! Insects are Attacking my Trees & Shrubs!
Tree Care: Save Money and Increase Your Property Value
Root Collar Excavation is Critical to Your Tree's Survival!
Tree Risk Assessment: The Key to Safer Trees & Peace of Mind!
10 Tips on How to Choose the Right Tree Service and Avoid Scams
Happy Trees Grow From Healthy Soil
TCIA Accreditation: Empowering You With Confidence
What is Tree Care?
Mulch Volcanoes: the Mt. St. Helens of Tree Problems
Trees Need a Thriving Soil Food Web
Call Leaf & Limb