Flowers That Attract Monarch Butterflies

 With its four-inch wingspan and vibrant black and orange pattern, the Monarch butterfly is easy to recognize in the landscape. However, Monarch population numbers have experienced a steady and dramatic decline in the 21st century due to habitat loss and weather extremes. Every flower gardener can provide a link on the chain of life of this threatened butterfly by including plants that support the Monarch's annual reproductive cycle. 

  • 01 of 07

    Butterfly Bush

    Monarch on Butterfly Bush
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    The name says it all: the butterfly bush attracts Lepidoptera species of all types, including Monarch butterflies. The spikes of many small tubular flowers allow Monarchs to cling easily while drawing nectar from the many small tubular blooms. Furthermore, the long blooming season of this perennial shrub gives Monarchs a reliable supply of nourishment as they complete their long migration. 

  • 02 of 07


    Monarch Butterfly on Cosmos Flower
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    As a member of the daisy family, cosmos flowers are very appealing to Monarch butterflies because of their abundant flowers and rich nectar stores. Although a cosmos blossom looks like one flower, it is actually made up of many different tiny tubular flowers surrounded by a ray of petals. 

    Cosmos flowers are one of the easiest annuals to grow from seed; just broadcast them on the top of the soil early in the spring, and Mother Nature will tell them when the temperature is right for germination. The flowers are extremely drought and heat tolerant, but they will also bounce back after a light frost. 

  • 03 of 07


    Monarch Butterfly on Goldenrod
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     Don't mistake goldenrod as the culprit for your allergies; the plants are often mistaken for ragweed, which blooms at the same time as goldenrod. Furthermore, goldenrod plants depend on pollinators like butterflies and bees to carry off its large, heavy grains of pollen, whereas the dusty pollen of ragweed is easily dispersed by the wind. Finally, the flowers of ragweed aren't showy, compared to the vivid gold clusters of flowers produced by goldenrod plants. 'Fireworks' is one of the best-behaved selections for well-manicured gardens.

  • 04 of 07


    Monarch Butterfly on Lantana Flowers
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     Even if your flower garden is limited to the smallest balcony, you can attract Monarchs with the prolific lantana plant. These plants are usually sold in full bloom, meaning you have an instant source of nectar to offer to your foraging Monarchs. 

    Grow lantana in full sun to prevent problems with powdery mildew. Lantana thrives in well-drained soil, and its salt tolerance makes it a great choice for the beach cottage. Choose sterile cultivars that don't form berries for the longest bloom time. 

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  • 05 of 07


    Monarch Butterfly on Lilac
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     Your grandma's favorite landscaping shrub belongs in your contemporary landscape. Not only are today's modern lilac hybrids more mildew resistant than ever before, but newer cultivars like 'Tiny Dancer' are compact and some like 'Bloomerang' even offer a repeat blooming cycle to satisfy hungry butterflies. 

  • 06 of 07


    Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed
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     Without milkweed plants, there can be no Monarch butterflies. It's as simple as that. Plants in the milkweed Asclepias family are essential to adding the chemical to Monarch larvae that make them unpalatable to predators. In fact, this adaptation has been so successful for Monarchs that the Viceroy butterfly has evolved to mimic the color pattern of the Monarch, in hopes of evading predators. 

    Choose the native A. tuberosa, a long-blooming orange perennial that's easy to grow from seed. If you're more drawn to pink flowers, try A. incarnata in moist soils. 

  • 07 of 07


    Monarch Butterfly on Zinnia
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    Large butterflies like the Monarch enjoy wide-open spaces, that allow them to glide through the landscape unhampered. Zinnias are a frugal way to fill up large areas of the garden, and one packet of zinnia seeds yields the promise of a happy nectaring site for Monarch butterflies all summer long. If you choose red and orange types, you're apt to draw hummingbirds as well.