Friday, October 16, 2015

Monarch Migration - Feeding Them Along the Way

I saw a few small groups of monarchs flitting around the yard today so I'm thinking that this is the beginning of their migration south.   They were really loving the mistflowers today.   But here are some more nectar plants that butterflies seem to go for in my garden.
One of today's monarch visitors feeding on the blue mistflowers.    This mistflower grows low to the ground, dies back in the winter, and blooms in the spring and the fall.  

 Caelsalpenia or Mexican Royal Poinciana with what this uneducated butterfly watcher thinks is some sort of skipper.    Grow it for the blooms and the butterflies are just a bonus.   It has long legume looking seed pods and reseeds easily.   Expect die-back in all but the mildest winters. 

Lantana in all colors is magnetic to butterflies.   The open shape of the flower gives them easy access to the flowers nectar.  I was told that the orange lantana doesn't make nectar, but I've seen butterflies feeding on them so . . .    well, you decide for yourself.   

Lantana comes in tons of different colors.  This pink and yellow combo is a native that you will find growing in brushlines and that we find growing in our tree fields.   Isn't it a beauty!  


Turk's Cap is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds both.    It blooms on new growth so don't be afraid to trim it to the size  you want.   But be aware that it is a vigorous volunteer - but it's easy to pull out when it pops up where you don't want it.   I love large sweeps of Turk's Cap
This delicate little groundcover is called frogfruit.  There is a second variety which has a seraded leaf.    Butterflies love this stuff!   It's a perennial so expect it to die back in the winter.
This Tropical Milkweed has been the subject of lots of controversy.   With the decline of the monarch population the past few years, some have suggested that tropical milkweed is to blame and that we should only plant the native varieties.  There is a disease that old Tropical Milkweed develops that is toxic to Monarchs.  After a bit more research, it seems that we can keep growing the tropical variety but we are supposed to trim it  back in the fall.  Have no fear;  it will grow back the following spring.  Another thing to consider is that you don't want your migrating butterflies to become confused by available host plants and think they should stay and lay eggs.   Cutting your host plants back in the fall keeps them moving south after a short stop for re-fueling.   
And last, is Porterweed.   It's a vigorous grower with dark purple blooms that must be delicious because mine always has butterflies hanging around. 

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