Friday, October 15, 2010

Gardening for Wildlife - Monarch Migration

There are several great plants including milkweed and butterfly weed that can attract Monarch butterflies to your garden. I would like to share two Texas natives, that you might not be as familiar with, that Monarchs flock to in my garden. They feed on the nectar of these plants to help fuel their 2500 mile fall migration to Mexico, where they hibernate for the winter. These two Texas natives, late flowering boneset and blue mistflower, supply much needed food for this epic journey.

Late flowering boneset naturally grows near streams, lakes or other low lying areas. I have found that it is adaptable to being included in my xeric garden. This plant does spread by underground roots and if it is in an area where it is very happy (damp or frequent watering), it will spread and form a large colony. It is also a vigorous reseeder, so it is best to clip and dispose of the seed heads so that you won’t be constantly pulling seedlings the next year. (Natural seed propagation is how it found its way to my garden in the first place.) So much for it’s vices, there is still a lot to recommend this plant for the right spot on your property. Late flowering boneset will attain a height of 3 to 6 feet. In my garden, it tends to get 4 to 5 feet. It usually blooms, from late September into early October. It is covered with an umbrella of white, fuzzy blooms for a few weeks and attracts a large variety of insects to feed on its flower’s nectar, including Monarch butterflies. This is a plant for the back of a large bed or for holding the soil along banks near low lying areas on your property. It is a perennial that dies to the ground during the winter.

Blue mistflower is also good for stabilizing sloping ground near low lying areas. It also spreads by underground roots but I have not found it to be an aggressive reseeder. It too, will happily fill an area that stays damp or is watered regularly. I have found it to be very useful in my xeric garden. I got my start as a division (with permission) from a local xeriscape. It also dies back in the winter but only gets a foot or so high in my garden, so it can be planted closer to the front of a bed. It usually blooms at a similar time as late flowering boneset but often for a little longer. It has similar flowers that are lavender in color.

If you have the space for either of both of these plants on your property, I would like to encourage you to plant them to help support the Monarchs on their long journey. You will be rewarded by getting to watch Monarch butterflies flitting around your garden during their fall migration, in addition to the other nectar sippers that will visit.


  1. The Monarch's migration can be followed on observation maps @