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Plants to Attract Monarchs

Monarch on flower

Photo by Susan Siersma

Many gardeners are focused on attracting monarchs to the garden. Some years the gardens succeed in attracting the butterflies, and other years they do not. A reader shares her experience in attracting the, at times, elusive monarch. Read about her experience and learn about eight plants that attract monarchs to the garden.

Susan Siersma writes, “For the past two summers, I could count on one hand the number of monarch butterflies that have visited our backyard milkweed patch. Though milkweed is the monarch’s sole host plant, the patch in our yard seemed only to serve as a restaurant for beetles, spiders and assorted bees. Previous years found lots of hungry monarch caterpillars nibbling away on the sturdy plants. Last May, my neighbor gave me several packets of flower seeds as a birthday present. Among them was Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia 'Torch'). I planted seeds from the different packages together in a raised bed, planning to use the flowers for bouquets. The ‘Torch’ tithonia plants grew and the buds opened to fiery orange-red blossoms with bright butter-colored centers. They were gorgeous! The milkweed plants started to yellow and pods were forming, hastening my disappointment of another summer without monarchs. August came, and August went and still no monarchs.

One warm September afternoon, I caught a glimpse of something flitting about near the Mexican sunflowers, it was a monarch. For the next several weeks an increasing number of migrating monarchs spent their days on the Mexican sunflower. The amazing thing was the Monarchs completely ignored the butterfly bushes in the raised bed right next to the Tithonia plants. Mexican sunflowers are one of the monarchs’ favorite nectar sources; they feast on these brilliant colored flowers on their way to and from Mexico. Without realizing it, my neighbor had presented me with the perfect monarch attractant. Words cannot adequately describe the beauty of the butterflies alighting on the Mexican sunflowers.”

Plants for Attracting Monarchs:

Whorled Milkweed Asclepias verticillata


Height: 2 feet
Bloom color: White
Blooms: July-September
Image: Wiki - Joshua Mayer

Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea

Purple Coneflower

Height: 2-5 feet
Bloom color: Purplish-Pink
Blooms: June-August

Goldenrod Solidago drummondii

Shorts Golden Rod

Height: 18 inches
Bloom color: Golden Yellow
Blooms: September

Black-Eyed Susan Rudbeckie fulgida

Black eyed Susan

Height: 24-30 inches
Bloom color: Golden Yellow
Blooms: July-October

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Weed

Height: 18-24 inches
Bloom color: Orange
Blooms: Late Summer
Image: Hughes

Bee Balm also known as Bergamot Monarda

Bee Balm

Height: varies on selection
Bloom color: Pale pink to purple to dark red
Blooms: Late summer/Autumn
Image: Abrahamyan

Swamp/Marsh Milkweed Asclepias incarnate

Swamp Milkweed

Height: 4-5 feet
Bloom color: Pink, mauve, white
Blooms: July-August
Image: Herreid

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca

Height: 2-3 feet
Bloom color: Pink, mauve, white
Blooms: June-August
Image: Schulze