Milkweed for monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on any milkweed species, but narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) is their preferred host plant.  Learn how to provide food for monarch butterfly caterpillars by growing narrow-leaf milkweed in your garden.

Attracting butterflies to your garden is as easy as planting butterfly nectar plants. In order to survive, butterflies need more than nectar though. They also need plants to lay their eggs on and the resulting caterpillars need a good source of food.  Many butterflies are very particular about which plants they’ll lay their eggs on.  In fact, some butterflies will lay their eggs on just one plant species.  If this plant species becomes rare or even extinct, the butterfly that relies on it as a food source for its caterpillars will also become endangered or extinct.

Adult monarch butterflies will drink nectar from a wide variety of plants. The female, though, will only lay her eggs on milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.). There are several species of milkweed, but narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) is the preferred host plant for the monarch.

Narrow-leaf milkweed’s native habitat ranges from north east Washington east through Idaho, Nevada and south throughout California and Baja California.  It's becoming much less common in the wild though because of habitat destruction resulting from development.  Consequently, the survival of the monarch butterfly is threatened.  We can help compensate for the loss of habitat by planting milkweed in our gardens.

Narrow-leaf milkweed is easy to grow from seed. For the best results, start seeds in a seed tray containing a freely-draining potting mix.