2 min read
Monarch Butterfly resting on flower

Butterflies are an important part of the natural environment. They provide pollination services for your garden, as well as adding color and movement to your landscape. Additionally, they are a part of the food web, providing a food source for birds and other native animals. Monarch butterflies, in particular, are a species that are in need of conservation practices.

Habitat Elements

The best way to attract monarch butterflies to your garden is to provide all their necessary habitat elements. Habitat elements include:

Nectar sources for butterflies: Choose bunch-type flower, with large heads of individual flowers. In general, old-fashioned, heirloom plants will provide more nectar than hybridized plants.

Food sources for caterpillars: Each species of caterpillar has specific food sources it will eat. For monarchs, they only eat leaves from milkweed (Asclepias sp.). Some milkweed species that work well in Alabama include swamp milkweed, common milkweed, and butterfly weed.

Shelter: Add a shrub layer to provide a safe space for chrysalis formation and a space for butterflies to rest when not in flight.

Water: All insects need a water source. Ornamental ponds, bird baths, or puddling sites placed near nectar plants will draw butterflies to your landscape. Occasionally adding a small amount of liquid fertilizer or rock salt to the puddling area will provide nutrients they need to survive.

Full Sun: Insects are cold-blooded and function best in a full sun situation. By putting your butterfly garden in a location with 8 or more hours of sunlight, the butterflies will use it more often.

Low pesticide zone: Read labels carefully before spraying plants in your landscape to determine how the chemical will impact butterflies and other pollinators. Pesticides should be the last resort after other cultural practices have failed.



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  • Monarch butterflies are good garden pollinators.
  • Provide both nectar sources and caterpillar food sources in your landscape.
  • Plant milkweed for the caterpillars to eat.
  • Choose butterfly nectar sources with large bunch type flowers.
  • Add shrubbery for butterflies to shelter in while resting.
  • Add a puddling area in your garden for butterflies
  • Try to minimize pesticide usage in your garden when possible.
  • Enjoy the nature in your own backyard.