Description: This Monarch Waystation design is for home gardens.
Considerations: Pick a location that has both full sun and easy access to water. While the plants are becoming established, they will need frequent watering. After plants are established, they do not require such care. The garden should be in a prominent location for easy viewing. Provide a designated pathway as well as a defined garden edge. Protect the garden from foot traffic while enjoying it up close!
Size: There is no minimum size for Monarch Waystations. It will depend on your site. The important thing is to include both host plants for the caterpillar (milkweed for Monarchs) and nectar plants for adult butterflies. For a simple waystation, plant at least 10 milkweeds and 10 nectar plants that include asters and goldenrods. Milkweeds are both host and nectar plants. It blooms May – August. Asters and Goldenrods bloom in the Fall and are an important nectar source for the final generation of Monarchs that migrate to Mexico. A list of 15 recommended plants are provided here.
Design: Plant taller plants towards the back of your garden and shorter ones in front. If your garden is circular, plant the taller plants in the center and shorter ones on the edge. Use the proper spacing between plants to allow space for growth. Also, create a mass of color by grouping together many plants of a single species.
The Common milkweed and goldenrod are similar in height and could be placed at the back or center of your garden. New England aster is shorter and would go well at the base/perimeter of the garden. Information on the height, width/spacing, bloom time, and color can be found in the “Attributes of 15 Native Host and Nectar Plants for Monarch Waystations.” These attributes can help you pick additional plants for your garden.
Soil preparation: For best results, plants need good drainage, adequate nutrients and available water. If you are creating a new garden bed, begin by removing grass and weeds. Peel away about two inches of the surface and skim the grass off with a spade. Spread 2-3 inches of organic matter such as peat moss, compost or aged manure (up to 4 inches if the soil is very poor) over the planting area and dig in or till to a depth of 6-8 inches. This will improve drainage in heavy clay soil and will help sandy soil hold moisture longer. Break up clods of dirt and remove rocks. Rake the soil level and remove large clumps. You can also use the approach called “Lasagna Gardening.”
Other components: Monarchs enjoy places such as flat stones to rest and bask in the sun. Monarchs also congregate on wet sand and mud to “puddle,” drinking water and obtaining minerals. Place coarse sand in a shallow pan and insert the pan in the soil of your garden. Monarchs also sip from bird baths.
Remember: Perennial gardens take time to become established. Your garden will: sleep in the first year; creep in the second year; and leap in the third year!
Sources for non-cultivar, pesticide free plants: Monarch Plants for Waystations