By Hallie Kutch, Parks & Recreation Marketing Assistant
After enduring the summer heat, fall is always a welcome relief in Texas. It’s also an ideal time to sow nectar plants for the monarch butterfly migration and to prepare your gardens for the spring.
Texas is an important stop in the journey since it’s situated between the butterflies’ main breeding grounds in the north and their wintering areas in the south. The monarchs funnel through the Lone Star State in both fall and spring.
Monarch Garden Tips
The butterflies are expected to pass through the Brazos Valley in early October, according to Jane Cohen, the A&M Garden Club’s butterfly chair. She recommends growing nectar-producing plants to benefit the monarchs. The blooming flowers provide a sweet liquid that provides energy for the insects as they travel.
Here are 14 nectar plants to consider for your garden:
- Black-Eyes Susan
- Purple Mist
- Passion Vine
- Purple coneflower
- Joe-Pye Weed
Cohen says it’s best to plant in locations with plenty of sunshine since adult butterflies typically prefer to feed in the sun.
Vibrant colors such as red, yellow, orange, pink and purple tend to attract adult butterflies the most, and they also are drawn to patches of the same plant or color of flowers. It’s a good idea to incorporate continuous-blooming annuals in islands of color, or clusters of nectar plants and is beneficial to include milkweed either nearby or mixed.
You should also be mindful of the flower’s orientation. It’s important that flower blossoms are flat-topped or clustered to make a platform for the butterfly to land and walk. Butterflies need nectar throughout the adult phase of their life span, so plant for a continuous bloom so that when one plant stops blooming, another begins.
More About Milkweed
Milkweed is the only plant the caterpillar eats and is where butterflies lay their eggs. That makes an abundance of milkweed vital, especially in the spring. Milkweed can be planted in early fall, but the seeds are best planted in November when it’s too warm for the ground to be frozen, but too cool for the seeds to sprout until spring.
Tropical milkweed is a primary monarch food source, but it should be cut back to the ground in late fall to encourage the butterflies to continue their journey to Mexico.
An excellent way to start your garden is to pick up two free Butterfly Retreat seed packets from our Central Park office at 1000 Krenek Tap Rd. Each pack covers more than 20 square feet and contains a wildflower mix that’s perfect for creating a butterfly habitat.
- Butterflies in the Brazos Community Meeting: Share your ideas and plans to promote monarch butterflies and other pollinator habitats on Wed., Sept. 27 from 9 a.m.-noon at the Brazos Center. The free gathering includes education about local groups and their efforts to increase awareness about butterfly preservation, native plants for butterflies, and other pollinators. We will also explore ways to involve residents and identify community partners for networking along with an overview of basic gardening tips. The program will feature speakers from the A&M Gardening Club, Texas Master Naturalist, Keep Brazos Beautiful, Native Plant Society, Master Gardeners, Monarch Gateway, the USDA/TAMU Future Scientist Program, and the College Station Parks & Recreation Department.
- Landscaping and Plants for Butterflies: Ann Boehm of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Master Gardeners and Butterflies in the Brazos will give an overview on landscaping and plants for butterflies. The free class will be Oct. 14 at 11 a.m. at Producers Ag Center (1800 N. Texas Ave.) in Bryan. You don’t need to RSVP.
We also invite you to visit our community demonstration gardens that were created by local community organizations:
- Gabbard Park, 1201 Dexter Dr. (Texas Master Naturalist – Brazos Valley)
- Richard Carter Park, 1800 Brazoswood Dr. (A&M Garden Club)
- Bee Creek Park, 1900 Anderson St. (Butterflies in the Brazos)
For more information, go to cstx.gov/monarchs.
About the Blogger
Hallie Kutch is in her third year as marketing staff assistant in the Parks & Recreation Department after graduating from Texas A&M in 2014 with a degree in sports management and a minor in tourism research management. She has previously worked with the Dallas Sidekicks professional soccer team and Texas Team Junior Golf. Originally from White Oak, Hallie also attended Kilgore College and was a member of the famed Kilgore Rangerettes dance team.
Photo Copyright: xkardoc/123RF Stock Photo
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