Help monarch butterflies by safely adding milkweed to your outdoor spaces

Help monarch butterflies by safely adding milkweed to your outdoor spaces

In recent years, the monarch butterfly population has decreased by more than 80 percent. The main reason for this decline is a lack of milkweed , which is the only food source for the species’ caterpillars and larvae, and the only place where monarchs will lay eggs.

Planting milkweed outdoors is a great way to help butterflies. It will also improve your garden or windowsill by providing beautiful, low-maintenance wildflowers. While seeds can be purchased on Amazon and other online marketplaces, you can also get them from non-profit organizations such as Save Our Monarchs and the Live Monarch Educational Foundation ,. This will allow you to obtain seeds while also supporting conservation efforts.

Fall or spring are great times for planting milkweed. Despite its undeserved bad reputation among pet owners , there are still ways to safely incorporate it into your garden.

Plant milkweed in between cement slabs

Most species of milkweed are easy to grow. The native wildflower of North America, milkweed, is easy to grow and maintain. Charles van Rees, an ecologist, conservationist and founder of the blog Gulo In Nature ., said that the species can thrive in almost any climate or environment. He says that milkweed is low-maintenance and won’t cause headaches.

Any inhospitable spot, including side yards or alleyways, can be home for milkweed, even if it is surrounded by hardscapes such as cement slabs. Your neighborhood’s furry residents don’t need to worry if there is no fencing or walls around the area. the cardenolide rich sap it uses to defend itself can make milkweed toxic to wildlife. However, the bright colors of milkweed warn predators away. Animals don’t usually eat milkweed unless they’re forced to–like when they’re corraled and have no other food available. Still, if you are neighbors to a lot of pets and wildlife in general, opt for variations such as Joe Pye weed, and stay away from the most toxic kind known as Utah milkweed.

[Related: To save monarch butterflies, we need more milkweed]

To plant milkweed between cement slabs consider how much rain your area gets each year. Van Rees says that most milkweed species prefer sandy, well-drained soil. Concrete may make it more difficult for ground to drain.

“If you have more waterlogged soils, look for moisture-tolerant species like the swamp milkweed,” he says. These plants “don’t mind wet feet.”

Next, consider how much sunlight your plant would get. Most milkweed species were born in open meadows and have evolved to thrive in full sun. Only a few species of Milkweed can tolerate partial shade, such as the purple milkweed (native in the Eastern, Southern, or Midwestern United States) and the whorled weed (native in the eastern North America).

No matter what variety you choose, milkweed seeds should be planted under 1/4 inch soil and at least half an inch apart. To ensure that they take root, water the area often until they sprout.

Add milkweed to planters or flowerpots

Milkweed works great in a container, as it can thrive easily and safely away from your dog, says Kevin Lenhart, design director at Yardzen, a residential landscaping company founded in California.

“Cats might be a challenge,” he chuckles.

Some species, like common milkweed, can self-propagate through underground rhizomes, which allows them to spread aggressively even without the help of pollinators. By keeping the plant in a pot, you can protect your pets’ eyes and stop milkweed spreading to areas your fur babies frequent. Lenhart explains that most milkweed species have a milky, white sap that can irritate the eyes. He says that milkweed is unlikely to get in the eyes of your dog and would not cause any serious health problems.

A plastic container is the best choice for planting milkweed. Plastic is lighter than other materials and can be moved indoors easily for winter storage. It is important to consider the size of your container. Prefer spacious and deep containers around 10- to 12-inches tall and 5-inches wide, as milkweed root systems tend to grow large. To prevent your plant from getting waterlogged, make sure that your pot has a drainage hole.

If you plan to plant your milkweed in the Fall you can just put them in the planter. But, if you are waiting for spring, experts recommend that you head-start your seeds in small cups with soil. Van Rees suggests keeping them indoors until they are ready to be moved outdoors in a larger planter.

You can plant your milkweed seeds by digging small holes in the soil with your finger. Then, add the seeds to the pot. Continue watering the plant until it sprouts.

Plant milkweed in large patches

Milkweed is a great groundcover that can be used to cover large areas of soil and prevent erosion. You would also be creating a large nourishing habitat for monarchs, and other nectar-seeking insects, by planting milkweed.

“Wild pets learn after just one bite that milkweed shouldn’t be eaten,” says Ellen Jacquart (botanist, president of the Indiana Native Plant Society).

However, you need to protect the area from milkweed ingestion. You should make sure that the fence or protection you put up is high enough to keep your pets away. A 24-inch barrier will generally dissuade most dogs from leaping into a patch of milkweed.

Choose native milkweed

Native varieties are best if you plan to plant large quantities of milkweed. Jacquart says that this is the best goal because native milkweed will provide the greatest benefits to monarch butterflies.

“Native species offer exponentially greater value than non-native plants,” says Lenhart. He explains that native species evolved alongside local animals and became best friends with them over time.

Variety is also an advantage, Jacquart says, because different types of milkweed attract more pollinators. You can plant as many species as you like, as long as they are all native to your area.

” It is important to recognize that there are many types of milkweed. Jacquart states that all species can be used as host plants for monarch butterflies.

Plant now to enjoy a garden full of butterflies and other beneficial pollinators by spring. You’ll not only get a beautiful landscape, but also help nature thrive.

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