Plants for a Monarch Waystation

Life stages of Monarch

Plants for a Monarch Waystation

We have all the plants you will need to establish a Monarch Waystation. Whether you are just starting or expanding your existing waystation, we have host milkweed plants and nectar plants that are vital to Monarch butterflies.

Waystation Requirements

A Monarch Waystation is a certified patch of host and nectar plants that provides the proper habitat for the Monarch butterfly’s full life cycle.  As natural habitats shrink, it is helpful to have a network of waystations along the Monarch’s migration route.

Setting up a waystation is a serious undertaking.  Even if you start small and work up to a full waystation over years, you will be a vital part of the beautiful Monarch’s life. (A bonus feature is finding all types of butterflies and pollinators in your area.)

The following guidelines are summarized from the Monarch watch website. If you plan to apply for waystation certification, please visit their website (https://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/) for more details.

Factors to Consider

Size:  There isn’t a minimum size for certification as long as all of the other requirements are met. An effective size is at least 100 sq ft.  If you think about it, that is only 10ft by 10ft. You may have several plots that add up to have enough plants to support the Monarch life cycle.

Exposure:  Sun exposure is vital for most butterflies, especially Monarchs.  This doesn’t mean the area needs sun from sunrise to sunset.  The area needs at least 6 hrs of sun in a day. For the soil moisture levels, check the requirements of the particular plants you are using.  Swamp milkweed will need more water than antelope milkweed. Most plants will need well draining soil, even if the plant needs more water than the average.

monarch chrysalis on stem
Monarch Chrysalis

Shelter:  For the protection of the butterflies and caterpillars, you need a healthy balance of the plants being close without being crowded.  Volume and variety create a sheltered habitat.  The caterpillars will travel around looking for a place to form a chrysalis.  Providing structures or plants with sturdy branches can help.

Milkweed Plants:  The requirement for a waystation is a minimum of 10 milkweed plants, with at least 2 different species.  If you only have 1 milkweed species, you will need more than 10 plants.   As most milkweed plants grow and flower at different rates, it is helpful to use several varieties. Native milkweed will grow well in your area, but it may take years to really establish.  Mixing varieties will ensure some milkweed is available.

Nectar Plants:  As nectar is vital for the Monarch butterfly, waystations require several nectar plants.  Use plants that flower at different times throughout the year.  Perennial, annual, and biennial nectar plants are all options.

Management:  As a certified waystation, you are stating you will maintain and care for the area. You will need to plan and put in the physical work.  Eliminating pesticides, pulling invasives, mulching, watering, thinning, and monitoring the soil are just a few actions to take.

Joyful Butterfly Plants and Seeds

Monarch caterpillar eating milkweed
Monarch butterfly caterpillar is nibbling on a milkweed leaf.

As our focus is butterflies, all of our plants and seeds are safe for caterpillars, butterflies, and other pollinators. We’ve studied what the butterflies need and work to offer the best plants. We have everything you need to fill your waystation with host and nectar plants.

Milkweeds:  We grow over 13 milkweed varieties and sell 17 milkweed seed varieties.  We offer this large variety so that we have at least one milkweed that is native to each area.  We have a feature where you can click on your state to find natives plants.  Each plant page describes the plant and the conditions needed.

Nectar Plants:  We offer over 30 plant and seed varieties that provide the proper nectar for butterflies.  While some flower early in the season, many flower throughout the summer and fall.  We carry a few of the “powerhouse” nectar plants like goldenrod and thistle.  Mix and match based on flower color and timing.  Enjoy the beauty all season long!

Beautiful and Useful

Monarchs on Goldenrod
Monarch Butterflies feed on Goldenrod flowers during Fall migration.

Not only are the plants and flowers beautiful, they are vital to the Monarch butterflies. Milkweed is the only host plant for the Monarch and the hungry caterpillars love to munch on the leaves (and all parts of the plant if really hungry).  The nectar plants provide flying fuel for the butterflies. A well-planned waystation provides both.

What if you don’t quite qualify for certification?  Don’t let certification stop you from starting!  If you need to start small, then start small.  Just start.  Over time, you may be able to fill out the space and work to fulfilling the requirements.  Maybe you will “just” have a beautiful butterfly garden and that is great. Whether it is a certified waystation or a little patch of flowers, some butterfly out there will thank you!