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 your leisure. 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. To see what this type of gardening involves: How to plant an ecologically responsible garden.
How to make a garden for monarchs
Milkweed is the only plant on which female monarchs lay their eggs. Create a flower garden where monarchs can reproduce and feed – while putting on a magnificent show for you.
Step 1 – Choose a spot they’ll like
Butterflies like warmth and quiet. Set up your garden in a calm, 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!
Milkweed is the only plant on which female monarchs lay their eggs. Essential to the reproduction of these butterflies, it is the sole source of food for the caterpillars.
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.
Native 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! Read in our blog What’s the monarch’s favorite milkweed?
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.
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. Everyone’s a winner!
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
- 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 near where you live to try to spot the traces of butterflies on milkweed.
- Sign the David Suzuki Foundation’s monarch manifesto (in French only).
- Follow observations of the butterfly during migration on Monarch Watch
- Report your observations of other butterfly species on eButterfly
- To add to your knowledge of the species: 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.