(Editor’s Note: Of all garden pollinators (and butterflies) the Monarch butterfly may be the most popular. We asked Florida gardener April Chobert to be a guest blogger and tell how she attracts them. April lives near Jacksonville, FL. An account manager for Office Max, she spends an hour per day caring for her herb and vegetable gardens and berry plants. She has three grown children and is engaged to a master gardener who curates some of Florida’s top gardens. Take it away, April!)

I love butterflies, so as a gardener I have typical butterfly garden essentials: Lantana, Butterfly Bush, nectar-rich plants, a water source, shelter, and sunshine. Over the years I was disappointed because although butterflies would flutter through, none would stay and call my backyard “home”.

Early this spring, I researched on professional butterfly gardening. I found there are plants to choose based on what I want to attract. Parsley, dill and fennel attract Black Swallowtail butterflies. Thistles, daisies and hollyhock attract the Painted Lady. Sunflowers invite Silvery Checkerspot butterflies.

Gardening for the Monarch Butterfly

I set my sights on the Monarch butterfly. Research showed if I planted Milkweed in my yard, they’d come. And boy did they!

I created a “state of the art” maternity ward that any Monarch Butterfly would want to visit. Milkweed is nature’s perfect food for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. It gives them all the nutrients they need to grow.

The folks at my local ACE Hardware were aware of this. They told me that gardeners plant milkweed but then come back to the store with dead plants requesting a refund, because they feel their plants died of a disease. In reality, their plants were eaten by Monarch caterpillars!

Fast forward! We now have hundreds of Monarch butterfly caterpillars and another hundred or so eggs. The caterpillars literally cover the milkweed, some even lounging on one another! Anyone not understanding might call it a backyard infestation.

I saw hundreds of orange eggs moving with life, just about ready to begin their time as a caterpillar. I sat watching for the transformation from egg to caterpillar. Sadly, I never saw it. I believe Monarch eggs hatch at night, in the privacy of the beautiful, quiet, spring moon.

More Milkweed Please

A few weeks into the project, we noticed the milkweed was eaten bare to the stem. One son said, “Let’s go get some more milkweed so they won’t run out of food.” Off to ACE we went so we wouldn’t have starving caterpillars.

My other son said, “You should do some more research on how to keep them in your yard since you raised them. Otherwise you just fed them, took care of them, and they’ll fly off and leave you.”

I thought to myself, “It sounds a lot like raising kids.”

A Mother’s Reflection

I feel so blessed that my now grown “butterflies” never fly too far from home and always fly back for many visits with their mom, the new Monarch Butterfly Master.

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