How to build a butterfly and pollinator garden in seven steps
May 18, 2016
Pollinator garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Creating habitat, no matter the size, is helpful for monarchs and pollinators. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.
Monarch butterflies and pollinators are in trouble. You can help by planting a pollinator garden! You can plant a garden anywhere - your yard, school, church, business or even in a pot for your front steps.
Despite its namesake, milkweed is not a weed. These beautiful wildflowers are the only source of food for monarch caterpillars and essential for their survival. Plant milkweed that is native to your area and attract all kinds of pollinators. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS.
Native wildflower gardens add a pop of color to your garden, help bumblebees and butterflies, and need less maintenance. This purple coneflower attracted both bumblebees and a crab spider! What's not to love? Photo by Jim Hudgins/USFWS.
A simple, native flower garden will attract beautiful butterflies to your yard and help pollinators stay healthy. In addition to nectar from flowers, monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive, so if you notice the leaves on your milkweed have been chomped, don’t worry, it’s a great sign!
Gather your supplies and research what varieties of milkweed and wildflowers are native to your area. You can also look up pollinator-friendly plant lists for your region. If you’re starting from seeds, find a local seed supplier.
What you’ll need
- A yard, raised bed or some flower pots
- Garden tools to break the soil or build a raised bed
- Extra dirt and mulch
- Native milkweed and nectar plants
Seven easy steps
- Choose your location: Butterflies enjoy basking in the sun. Gardens should be planted in sunny spots, with some protection from the wind.
- Take a look at your soil: Break ground to see the consistency of the soil in your yard. Soil may influence the kinds of plants you can grow, or may require special considerations. If you find that your soil type doesn’t match the plants you’d like to plant, you might consider building a raised bed or using flower pots.
- Prep your soil: If you’re planting in your yard, remove the lawn and current plant cover and rake the soil. Additional dirt can be helpful no matter the location and is necessary for raised beds and flower pots - add your soil to the bed or pot.
- Choose your plants: Find a nursery near you that sells native and local plants and milkweed for your area. Native plants are the ideal choice because they require less maintenance and tend to be heartier.
- Choose plants that have not been treated with pesticides, insecticides or neonicotinoids.
- Plant perennials to ensure your plants come back each year and don’t require a lot of maintenance.
- Choose a diversity of plants that bloom throughout the seasons to ensure pollinators benefit in the spring, summer and fall. This will also ensure that your garden is bright and colorful for months!
Help track monarch movements, milkweed growth and monarch life stages by reporting your sightings at http://journeynorth.org/monarch/
Visit the Monarch Joint Venture for even more details: http://www.monarchjointventure.org/get-involved/create-habitat-for-monarchs/
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
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