Fall is on our doorstep. In butterfly life, it means that the great Monarch Migration is underway and gardeners are anxiously waiting to see if they planted the right flowers to nurture these butterflies on their trip to and from Mexico. Just such a plant is Butterfly Weed.
What’s so special about Butterfly Weed?
It meets all the nutritional needs of the monarch butterfly in all its phases of life. Not only does it attract massive numbers of monarchs to its colorful and prolific blooms, but its leaves are also the larval food of the queen and monarch butterflies.
Butterfly Weed is a perennial that multiplies from the root system after you cut it back to ground level each winter. But it also self-propagates from seed pods which burst open at the end of summer and self-scatter all over your yard. I’ve successively and selectively transplanted these random seedlings into optimum growing conditions which are full sun and a spot at the back of a bed since they grow to 3-5 feet and have elegantly long stalks. However, larger plants tend to be a bit fussy when moved. So limit transplanting larger plants until after you’ve cut them back in late fall, giving them the cool Texas winters to get established.
My only problem with Butterfly Weed is early spring aphids. An onslaught of aphids is easily controlled by weekly sprayings of insecticidal soap. Nevertheless, I don’t like killing all the aphids because they are dinner to many other beneficial insects!
Planting Butterfly Weed has so entranced me with its prolific qualities that I’ve expanded my garden to include even more butterfly magnet plants. As a result, I’m now a certified Monarch Way Station (www.MonarchWatch.org)!
For whom or what is your home a waystation?
When it is sown, it grows up, becomes the greatest of all garden plants, and grows branches so that the wild birds can nest in its shade.