Garden for Good: 7 Flowers to Help Monarch Butterflies

07/05/2024 | Ken Davis Butterflies, In the Garden

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Audio by Cast11

The iconic Monarch butterfly, known for its striking black and orange wings spanning up to four inches, is a beloved sight in gardens and meadows. However, its populations have faced alarming declines in recent years due to habitat destruction and the escalating effects of climate change. Fortunately, every gardener has the power to make a difference in the Monarch’s survival by planting specific flowers that nourish and shelter these fragile creatures throughout their annual life cycle.

Butterfly on a Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush transforms your garden into a Monarch butterfly sanctuary with the aptly named Butterfly Bush! Its abundant clusters of small, tubular flowers act as a nectar-rich buffet for Monarchs and other butterflies, providing essential energy for their epic migrations. The Butterfly Bush’s long blooming season ensures a steady supply of nourishment for these majestic pollinators from summer through fall, making it an invaluable addition to any butterfly-friendly garden.

Scabiosa, known as the ‘Pincushion Flower,’ is a Monarch magnet with abundant nectar-rich, pincushion-like blooms. These delightful flowers provide a perfect landing pad and feeding station for Monarchs, attracting them with their vibrant colors and sweet nectar. With a long summer and fall blooming season, Scabiosa ensures a continuous food source for these majestic butterflies, making it an essential addition to any pollinator-friendly garden. Not only will it attract Monarchs, but its unique charm and delicate beauty will add a touch of whimsy to your container gardens.

Butterfly feeding on a Goldenrod bush

Goldenrod is a fall-blooming superstar for Monarch butterflies, offering abundant nectar when other food sources are dwindling. Unlike its allergy-inducing lookalike, ragweed, goldenrod relies on pollinators like butterflies to spread its heavy pollen, not the wind. This makes it a perfect fuel stop for migrating Monarchs. The newer variety is well-behaved, providing the same vital nectar source without the unruly growth habit of older wild goldenrods.


Lantana is a Monarch butterfly magnet, even if your garden is just a tiny balcony. Sold in full bloom, it provides instant nectar for your fluttering friends. Its low-maintenance nature, thriving in full sun and well-drained soil, makes it a breeze to care for. Opt for sterile varieties for continuous blooms throughout the season, ensuring a reliable food source for Monarchs as they visit your vibrant oasis.


Lilacs aren’t just a nostalgic favorite; they are a modern-day butterfly buffet! Today’s lilacs are tougher than ever, resisting mildew and blooming longer. Compact varieties like ‘Miss Kim’ fit any garden. At the same time, ‘Bloomerang’ offers two rounds of fragrant flowers, keeping your garden a haven for Monarch butterflies throughout the migration season.

milkweed with many butterflies feeding on it

Milkweed is essential for monarch butterflies – it’s the only plant their caterpillars eat, making them poisonous to predators. The iconic black and orange pattern of the Monarch is a warning to birds and other animals, and it’s all thanks to the chemicals found in milkweed. If you want to attract Monarchs to your garden, planting milkweed is necessary. By adding milkweed to your landscape, you’re not just planting flowers; you’re ensuring the survival of this beloved butterfly species.

Penta in a container

Penta flowers are a non-stop nectar source for Monarch butterflies, blooming continuously from spring through fall. Their star-shaped clusters of pink, red, purple, or white flowers are like beacons for these majestic pollinators, providing a reliable energy boost throughout their active season. These low-maintenance plants thrive in the heat, making them a perfect addition to sunny gardens and a vibrant haven for Monarchs seeking nourishment.

Free Garden Class

Take a Free Garden Class and Learn More! Free Garden Classes every Saturday in July @ Watters Garden Center.

July 13 @ 9:30 am – Healing Sick Plants

You will gain insights into water, disease, and bugs that immediately improve your gardens. Plants will love your greener thumbs.

July 20 @ 9:30 am – Living Walls & Privacy Barriers

We share the fastest-growing plants for fast screening. Block unsightly neighbors, enhance your view, and cut noise and light pollution. Design experts are on hand for unique situations.

July 27 @ 9:30 am – Top 10 Trees for Fresh Fruit

This class shares the most vigorous fruit trees and insider tips for producing bushels of apples, pears, cherries, apricots, plums, peaches, and more. A particular focus is on planting cocktail trees for small-yard success.

Until next week, I’ll be helping gardeners attract more garden butterflies here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain Head Shot