A Monarch Waystation simply is a garden that has both milkweed and nectar plants and just as you can grow these plants in the ground, you can also do it in containers that you keep on your deck, balcony, front steps or elsewhere around your home. All you need is pots, soil, plants and water.
Which pot? Larger pots (at least 18” wide) made of plastic are preferred. Perennial plants (milkweeds and nectar plants) have longer root systems and need room to grow year after year, so choose a pot that is at least 18″ deep as well. Larger pots also provide more protection from cold, enabling perennials to overwinter more successfully.
Choose pots that have good drainage. Include pieces of a broken clay pots or gravel in the bottom of your pot to promote drainage. Plastic pots are preferred over clay because they do not allow as much moisture to escape. Clay can also break in the winter.
Soil & Water: Use standard gardening soil with a small amount of compost. Soak soil well prior to planting, then plant plants and water well so that soil is saturated. Water plants as needed through the summer so they do not dry out.
Recommended plants for Container Garden Waystations:
– Milkweeds (native, perennial): Butterflyweed and Swamp milkweed
– Nectar plants (native, perennial): asters, goldenrods, rudbeckia/coneflowers, liatrus, coreopsis
– Nectar plants (non-native, annual): Lantana, verbena, zinnia, cosmos, Mexican sunflower
Care: Through the summer, you can deadhead the flowers to encourage further blooming. Collect seeds from annuals to use next year and collect seeds from perennials to share with friends or scatter outside.
Overwintering perennials in pots:
– In late fall, cut old stems down to 4″ height.
– Wait until plants are dormant (temperatures into the 30s) to overwinter them
– Group pots close together to provide greater warmth/protection.
– Water thoroughly before temperatures dip and the ground freezes. This provides some water through winter and some protection from the cold.
– Overwinter your plants either inside an unheated garage, a shed or outside in a sheltered spot on the ground (the ground will provide some warmth. A raised deck or pavement is too cold)
– Overwintering outside (on the ground or in a shed): Cover the pots/plants with leaves for insulation.
-Overwintering inside a garage: Provide water occasionally just to slightly moisten the soil. Look for a spot that stays 32-45°F.
– Late April, early May take your plants back out to their regular locations, water and watch them return.
More tips can be found online for overwintering plants. It requires some care but is quite satisfying to do.