Growing Monarchs

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Me admiring monarchs in a butterfly garden art exhibition at Alchemy

My butterfly weed didn’t do well this year. But I’m not giving up on growing some monarchs. Some of my other butterfly friendly plants  are at least still alive...

I’m missing some of my seeds. I definitely want to plant more mexican sun flowers and zinnias (both annuals), they’re both very pretty plants! But I’ve lost those seeds, as well as my milkweed seeds. Oh well- I am thinking of trying a swamp milkweed variety called Ice Ballet.

Fun fact: The milkweed genus was named after Aesculapius, Greek god of medicine, because of its use to treat a variety of ailments.


I’m subscribed to a newsletter on the topic and they released their overview of their Raise the Migration event. So this prompted me to put all my notes together in one place.

I think I’ve probably missed this season, even if I got some plants.  Seems like now might be when the butterflies lay their eggs?

Here are my notes:

Perennials grow back bigger each year. Work well as borders. Propagate by cutting.

In order for annuals to grow back, you must harvest the seeds.

Need groups of at least 6 milkweed plants. Needs to not be too windy.

Tools: Caterpiller cage, floral tubes for cuttings, something to use as poop tray, bleach for disinfecting poop trays, magnifying glass for looking at baby caterpillars, gloves for handling milkweed (avoid getting into eyes).

Plants: Ice Ballet, Purple Milkweed, Hollyhock, Borage (annual), Black Eyed Susan (short-lived perennial), Purple Coneflower (perennial), Cosmos (annual)
Goal: 1-10 monarchs
Life-cycle: 30 days from egg to butterfly
Look for eggs: July?
Release Butterflies : Late August/Early September


Ice Ballet

Start: Direct sow outdoors in Fall
Germination: Requires light
Flowers: Mid Summer, Late Summer/Early Fall
Soil: Slightly acidic
Light: Full sun to some shade
Spacing: 24-36 in.
Propagate: Collect seeds in the fall, when the brown pods are dry and have begun to split. Crack the pods open completely allowing the seeds to dry for one to two weeks in paper bags Once they are dry, place the seeds into plastic bags filled with moist perlite or vermiculite and store them in a cold place, approximately 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit, for at least 4 to 12 weeks (stratification). Good germination results have been reported without stratification by soaking the seed. Soak the seed in hot water (190 degrees Fahrenheit) for 12 hours. Repeat this process two additional times for expected seed germination of 50%.

Purple Milkweed

Start: Sow seeds directly outside in fall, start seeds indoors 2 months before final frost-
Germination: Needs sun, indoors needs stratification
Flowers: late spring to early summer
Soil: Rich with good drainage
Light: Full sun – Some shade
Spacing: 1 to 3 ft
Propagation: difficult, try to save seeds


Start: After last spring frost, indoors 2-3 weeks before spring frost, cover with plastic
Germination: requires indirect sunlight, keep wet, 7-14 days
Flowers: two years from seed to bloom.
Soil: Rich moist and well-draining
Light: Full Sun
Spacing: 1/4 inch deep 8-10″ apart, in the back of flowerbed
Propagate: Reseeds self well
Note: may be best to use underground watering for hollyhock


Start: Spring and Autumn
Matures: 6 weeks
Flowers: Summer and Spring
Soil: Average well-draining soil
Light: Full sun – some shade
Spacing: 1/4″ deep, `1″ apart , thin for 2ft between plants
Propagate: Reseeds itself well
Note: plays well with strawberries

Black Eyed Susan

Start: Prepare planting containers approximately six to eight weeks before the last spring frost. Fill 3-inch starter pots with a mixture of 4 parts potting soil, 1 part medium-grit sand and 1 part perlite.
Germinate: Prepare black-eyed Susan seeds for indoor sowing five months before the last spring frost. Store them inside the refrigerator in a plastic bag filled with lightly moistened sphagnum moss. Remoisten the moss, as needed. Takes a week to germinate
Flowers: June to October Requires dead-heading
Soil: Average, well-draining
Light: Full sun to some shade
Spacing: 1/8″ deep, 12-18″ apart loosely covered

Purple Coneflower

Start: Mid-spring, early fall
Germinate: Fold a paper towel in half. Sprinkle it with water until it’s barely damp but not soggy. Sprinkle the coneflower seeds on one half of the paper towel. Fold the towel in half so the seeds are between two layers of moist towel. Seal the towel in a plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator for eight to 12 weeks.
Flowers: Summer
Soil: Rich, good drainage
Light: Full sun to some shade
Spacing: 12″ apart
Propagate: may be started from root division in fall, from 3+ year old plants


Start: indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost in trays or pots with a good seed-starting mixture. Seedlings grow fast, so move them into 5-inch pots as soon as they’re 3 or 4 inches tall.
Flowers: 7 weeks to first bloom, requires deadheading
Soil: Well-draining, sandy to average soil
Light: Full Sun
Spacing: 1/4″ deep, 8- 24″ apart, provide support
Propagate: Reseeds itself well, spreads

Where monarchs hang out


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