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Plant now to attract monarch butterflies to your landscape

 
Plant now to attract monarch butterflies to your landscape
Monarch butterfly

It’s time to plan those butterfly gardens. Soon thousands upon thousands of monarch butterflies will be fluttering their way through South Texas, where they will be stopping to refuel before they continue south to their winter home in the forests west of Mexico City. Then in March, as the monarchs make their way north to Canada once more, they will be taking another break that is critical to their life cycle -- to lay their eggs on our Texas milkweeds.

Due to continually diminishing habitat, milkweeds have fewer places to grow naturally. The survival of a healthy monarch population depends to a large degree on those of us who grow favorite monarch nectar sources for their migration south, and more importantly, milkweeds for critical egg-laying host plants, in our springtime landscapes and common areas.

Calvin Finch, a retired Texas A&M horticulturist who regularly shares important information about monarchs, stated in a recent Wilson County News “South Texas Gardener” column, “The monarchs favor the milkweeds for nectar in the fall but they won’t be laying eggs again until next spring when they return from the Mexican wintering ground.

“Plant milkweeds this fall (now) so they will be established and ready to produce flowers and foliage next spring. Nurseries seem to have the tropical milkweed and the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Other plants that monarchs like for nectar are mistflower, porter weed, duranta, Mexican flame vine, and zinnias.”

Finch adds, “There are two other actions by gardeners that can add to the number and variety of butterflies that live and reproduce in our landscapes -- provide egg-laying sites for butterflies and adopt an insecticide-use policy in your garden that minimizes butterfly or caterpillar damage.”

Finch shares with readers a list of plants by calendar quarter that will produce blooms to meet the needs of butterflies all year round:

•August through October -- Coneflower, Vitex, Penta, Lantana, Sunflower, and Mealy Blue Sage

•November through January -- Fall Aster, Lavender Lantana, Calendula, Alyssum, and Dianthus

•February through April -- Verbena, Coreopsis, Salvia Greggii, Fanick’s Phlox, and Rain Lily

•May through July -- Zinnia, Plumbago, Mistflower, Milkweed, Pavonia, and Cosmos.

Editor’s note: Read Finch’s article each week in the Wilson County News or hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 2 p.m.

 
 
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