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Attract Monarchs with Milkweed

Flowers aren’t the only beautiful things you can find in a garden. There are lots of beautiful insects too. Many of which are attracted by flowering plants.

This summer, Minnetrista gardeners and staff had the pleasure of seeing the life cycle of the monarch butterfly unfold before us in The Orchard Shop Courtyard. We got an in-depth view—from larva, to pupa, to adult.

The reason for this amazing show was a plant that was part of our summer annual display in The Orchard Shop Courtyard, called Silky Deep Red blood flower (Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Deep Red’). It is one of the many types of milkweed that is a larval foodsource for monarchs.


If you’d like to attract monarchs to your home, try growing this plant. Check online or at your local retail nursery for seeds or plants. Blood flower is an annual in our zone, so it won’t come back next year. However, you can collect seeds from your plant and store them indoors over the winter. Start the seeds indoors around the middle of March and plant them outdoors after the last frost. Another option is to grow your plant in a container. Before winter, cut it back and bring it indoors.


There are also other types of milkweed that you can grow. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a perennial milkweed that likes well-drained, dry to medium soils. We haven’t had much success with it in the heavy clay soil found in many of the Minnetrista gardens. However, it has done well on slopes in our prairie.

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), another perennial milkweed, can be found growing in the Minnetrista East Lawn Rain Garden. It grows in medium to wet soils. Ours has seeded prolifically. Unfortunately, this summer it was plagued by aphids, an insect that sucks plant sap. The result was much fewer blooms. On a smaller scale, aphids can be controlled by spraying them off with a hard stream from your hose.


If you are an insect lover, attracting monarchs is just the beginning. Visit Minnetrista’s Larval Garden, where we grow host plants for a variety of insect larvae, for more inspiration.