Do butterflies – particularly monarchs – fascinate you?
Create an attractive haven for these wonderful migratory insects by growing milkweed and nectar-producing plants. Your garden will become a place where you can observe these flamboyant Lepidoptera. At the same time, you’ll help protect a migration phenomenon that is unique in the world and, unfortunately, in decline.
What are the criteria for getting Monarch Oasis certification?
If it meets the three criteria listed below, your garden is eligible for certification.
- Is laid out in a quiet and sunny location, sheltered from the wind.
- Presents a variety of nectar-producing plants, some of them native, AND, obligatorily, milkweed, in support of the monarch’s life cycle.
- Is maintained in way that respects biodiversity by applying the basic principles of organic gardening.
How to make a garden for monarchs
Create a flower garden where monarchs can reproduce and feed – while putting on a magnificent show for you. Integrate milkweed because it is the only plant on which female monarchs lay their eggs.
Step 1 – Choose a spot they’ll like
Butterflies like warmth and quiet. Set up your garden in a calm and welcoming, sunny area sheltered from the wind. Choose features that retain the sun’s heat, such as paving stones, low walls and natural stones. The monarchs will warm up here on chilly days.
A patch of damp sand, a little “beach” between flowerbeds, will make it possible for the butterflies to get the mineral salts they need. You don’t need a big yard – just a small corner or a few pots on a balcony will do the trick!
Step 2 – Plant an abundance of milkweed and nectar-producing flowers
Milkweed: a “home” for many insects!
Essential to the reproduction of the monarch butterfly, the milkweed is the sole food source for its caterpillar.
There are some species of milkweed indigenous to Québec, but recent studies make the case that monarchs that grow by feeding on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) or on swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) have wings that are the best developed for the upcoming migration. Read in our blog What’s the monarch’s favorite milkweed?
Milkweeds offer nectar and support for the life cycle of an entire community of insects native to Québec. When you plant it in your garden, you’re taking care of numerous useful insects in addition to supporting the monarch. They really need it!
If you garden on the balcony, choose the bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica). Treat this tropical species like an annual or grow it like a winter indoor plant. In order to avoid the accumulation of parasites, we suggest that you cut back the plants before bringing them inside for the cold season.
Monarchs are not edible for birds, because the caterpillars acquire a toxicity in feeding on milkweed. The bright colors on the caterpillars and butterflies signal their toxicity to predators. Birds that try the experience can fall ill, and they learn to avoid the species. You can therefore combine a monarch oasis and a bird garden without any problem!
Flowers rich in nectar
Adult monarchs feed off the nectar of flowers. A good variety of nectar-producing plants is a valuable asset for your garden. If space permits, add more diversity by planting annuals and perennials as well as trees and shrubs.
Favor native plants that are hardy, well adapted to our climate and generally require little maintenance.
Select plants offering successive flowerings. That way you’ll create an all-you-can-eat “floral buffet” that can be visited by pollinators throughout the season.
You’ll learn more about the flora that surrounds you and make the butterflies very happy.
Here are a few suggestions for plant species that will help you attract monarchs and other pollinators.
Discover the host plants of other Québec butterfly species in these books (in french):
- Papillons et chenilles du Québec et des Maritimes
- Papillons de nuit et chenilles du Québec et des Maritimes
Step 3 – Tending the garden in an ecologically responsible way
Pesticides, even low-impact ones, are harmful for butterflies. These products can kill caterpillars and adults, not to mention other beneficial insects. Avoid using them: other solutions exist.
Read up on the subject and take our advice and tips for making an environmentally friendly garden.
To get more involved
- Set off on Mission Monarch in your garden or near where you live to try to spot the traces of butterflies on milkweed and share your findings with the community.
- Encourage your city to become a friend of the monarch through the David Suzuki Foundation’s (in French only).
- Report your observations of other butterfly or insect species by participating in the Biodiversity Challenge.
- To add to your knowledge of the species, consult our page about the monarch.
Did you know that …
Monarch caterpillars and butterflies are not edible for birds. Most birds that eat them get sick and avoid repeating the experience. So you can easily combine a monarch oasis with a bird garden, if you want to enrich your My Space for Life Garden experience.