Getting Started

Learning to Garden

Be a Butterfly Hero and Garden for Wildlife!

Photo by Nicole Hamilton
The iconic monarch butterfly is in trouble, but you can come to its rescue. After taking the Butterfly Heroes Pledge you will receive a garden starter kit complete with a seed packet of nectar plants or caterpillar host plants for monarchs. Using the tips below, plant a habitat garden or expand an existing one to provide for this beloved species. (Applies only to pledges received by June 1st, 2016). 

When you do, you'll join the ever-growing Garden for Wildlife movement and can become one of the hundreds of thousands of others who've had their garden recognized by National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Essential Elements for Your Monarch Garden

Monarchs, like all wildlife, need four things to survive: food, water, cover and places to raise young. Here's how to provide these elements for monarchs in your garden.

Photo by Nicole Hamilton
Food

Monarch butterflies feed on nectar, so plant plenty of native wildflowers and blooming shrubs that collectively provide nectar from spring, through summer and into fall. Regional guides for native plants that provide nectar are a great resource!

Water

Add gravel to your a birdbath or create a muddy patch in a corner of your yard to supply butterflies with a shallow place to drink water.

Cover

Monarchs need shelter from harsh weather and predators. A brush pile, a dense patch of shrubs, a meadow filled with tall grasses and wildflowers, or even just a planting bed with at least 10 plants close together will do the trick.

Places to Raise Young

All butterflies need host plants for their caterpillars to eat. Milkweed is the only host plant for monarch caterpillars, and without it, monarchs can't produce the next generation. Monarch populations have plummeted due to declines in milkweed, so planting it will help monarchs recover. There are many native milkweed species. Find which milkweeds are native to your area on our Milkweed Resources page.

Planting Tips and Design Ideas

Photo by Susannah Alle
Creating healthy habitat garden for monarchs is easy if you follow these simple guidelines.

Pick a Sunny Spot

Monarch butterflies feed on flower nectar from plants that grow in sunny areas. Ideally your butterfly garden should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Prepare a Planting Bed

Clear grass and weeds and gently turn compacted clay soil by adding compost to loosen and enrich the soil and improve drainage. The more area you can devote to garden beds planted with nectar and host plants, the more success at attracting monarchs you'll have. Try for a bed that is at least ten by ten feet, or multiple smaller beds. Turning your whole landscape into wildlife gardens is the best of all.

Choose Plants

Start by planting the seeds you receive in your Butterfly Heroes garden starter kit, then add more plants from your local garden center. Plants native to your region provide the best habitat for monarchs and all wildlife. Be sure to request plants grown without chemical pesticides.

Plant Densely and Diversely

The more native habitat plants you add, the more butterflies and other wildlife you'll attract. Planting in clusters will make it easier for wildlife to spot the plants that you've put out to attract them.

Think Seasonally

When you design your garden, make sure that something is blooming in spring, summer and fall to provide food for monarchs throughout their migration and breeding seasons.

Don't Use Pesticides

Monarchs and other butterflies are insects and insecticides will kill them, both as winged adults as well as during their caterpillar phase. Practice organic gardening and rely on birds, toads and predatory insects to control pests. No need to spray!

Photo by Kelly Senser
Spread the Word and Certify your Monarch Habitat Garden!

The more nectar plants and milkweed host plants in your yard, neighborhood and the community increases the odds of many monarchs heading your way. Take the pledge to create a garden for monarchs and become a Butterfly Hero. Challenge your friends and neighbors to do the same. Share your garden on the Butterfly Heroes Facebook page and on Twitter by including #butterflyheroes to your tweets.

Then apply for Certified Wildlife Habitat status for your garden and join the growing movement of people making a difference for wildlife where they live, work, learn, worship, and play! Just go to www.nwf.org/garden.

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