University of Minnesota

Planting and Maintaining a Garden

Monarch Joint Venture provides great information about gardening for monarchs. Their Schoolyard Gardens flyer is especially helpful for those developing a butterfly garden with students or a youth group, and the Gardening for Monarchs has great information about planting and maintaining a garden for monarchs and other butterflies and pollinators. Here is a brief summary of the document: 

  1. Choose a sunny location.
  2. Include windbreaks, such as a fence, shrub, or wall.
  3. Test your soil to make sure it is adequate for planting.
  4. Prepare soil by removing lawn or other plant cover and raking.
  5. If space is limited, consider planting in pots or containers.
  6. Milkweed is a necessity for monarchs, so plant milkweed! 
  7. Include a variety of different blooming species so that nectar is available throughout the growing season.
  8. Use native plants whenever possible.
  9. Water plants initially, until they are well established. You may also want to water in drought conditions. 
  10. Avoid using herbicides or insecticides to get rid of unwanted plants or insects. Weed by hand as needed. 

Minnesota Specific Recommendations


Plant SpeciesUses
Cornus sericea 'Isanti' Red-osier DogwoodLarval food source: spring azure, polyphemus moth
Salix purpurea 'Nana' Arctic Blue WillowLarval food source: mourning cloak, viceroy, red-spotted purple, Sylvan hairstreak
Vaccinium 'Northblue' BlueberryAdult nectar source


Plant SpeciesUses
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)Adult nectar source
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Adult nectar source, larval food source: monarchs
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) Adult nectar source, larval food source: monarchs
Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) Adult nectar source, larval food source: monarchs
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)Adult nectar source, larval food source: monarchs
Bachelor's button (Centaurea montana)Adult nectar source
Turtle head (Chelone glabra)Adult nectar source, larval food source: Baltimore checkerspot
Thread leaf (Coreopsis verticillata)Adult nectar source
Globe thistle (Echnops spp.)Adult nectar source
Purple coneflower (Echinacea)Adult nectar source
Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium spp.)Adult nectar source
Blanket flower (Gaillardia grandiflora)Adult nectar source
Karl Foerster grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora)Larval food source: blazing star skipper
False sunflower (Heliopsis)Adult nectar source
Meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylus)Adult nectar source
Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)Adult nectar source
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)Adult nectar source
Fall phlox (Phlox paniculata)Adult nectar source
Aster (Aster spp.)Adult nectar source
Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)Adult nectar source
Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)Adult nectar source, larval food source: Baltimore checkerspot
Hollyhock (Mallow spp.)Adult nectar source, larval food source: common hairstreak, painted lady, gray hairstreak
Heliotrope (Heliotropum arborescens)Adult nectar source, larval food source: common buckeye


Plant SpeciesUses
ParsleyLarval food source: black swallowtail
FennelLarval food source: black swallowtail
VioletsAdult nectar source, larval food source: great spangled and Idalia fritillary
SnapdragonsAdult nectar source, larval food source: buckeye
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