Planting for Monarchs in Phoenix | Desert Botanical Garden

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Planting for Monarchs in Phoenix

The City of Phoenix Mayor, Kate Gallego, recently signed a new Proclamation declaring September Planting for Monarchs Month! Phoenix is a recent signatory of the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge and has committed to taking steps over the next 3-5 years to help conserve monarch butterflies. The Garden has been happy to support these efforts with monarch expertise and planting advice from our own monarch and pollinator conservation initiative, Great Milkweed Grow Out.

You don’t have to live in Phoenix to plant habitat for monarchs and pollinators. Habitat can be anywhere and in a variety of locations. Don’t have a yard? Put a milkweed plant in a pot on your patio. Have a small yard? It is easy to add a few plants that will attract butterflies and provide the habitat they need to survive. When we plant habitat there are two kinds of plants we look to include.

Nectar plants provide nectar for adult butterflies. Nectar has the energy (sugar) needed for butterflies to be able to fly around to find mates, lay eggs or migrate. Nectar plants are an important resource needed for migrating monarchs in the fall. Generally, nectar plants are flowering plants, but some support monarchs and pollinators better than others. Here are a few plants native to our region that we recommend:

• Mistflower (Conoclinium or Ageratum spp.)
• Flattop buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)
• Goodding verbena (Verbena gooddingii)

Host plants provide food for the caterpillar stage of the butterfly life cycle. Butterflies can be specialized on the host plants their caterpillars are able to eat. For monarchs, their host plants are milkweeds, in the genus Asclepias. This is the only plant their caterpillars can eat and without milkweeds, they will not survive. There are several varieties of milkweed native to the region that you can plant:

• Arizona milkweed (Asclepias angustifolia)
• Desert milkweed (Asclepias subulata)
• Giant sand milkweed (Asclepias erosa)

Choosing native plants helps to conserve water and keep our natural spaces free from non-native plants. Native plants also require fewer resources and support our desert ecosystem better than non-native alternatives. You can find butterfly plants in the butterfly plant section at the Garden’s Plant Sale October 16-17.

Planting these plants doesn’t just help monarchs, but many other butterflies and pollinators! These insects have faced extreme population declines over the last few decades and we can help by creating essential habitat. Plant a mix of host and nectar plants and enjoy the beauty they bring to your urban space.

Learn more about the Phoenix initiative: phoenix.gov/oep/monarch

Learn more about plant recommendations in other regions: xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/pollinator-friendly-plant-lists

Learn more about Mayor’s Monarch Pledge: nwf.org/mayorsmonarchpledge

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