Decades ago, wild grasses and flowers covered the country. These wild prairie lands were home to hundreds of different species. Local wildlife helped the land develop soil full of nutrients and perfect for growing crops.
As civilization expanded, wildflower prairies were downsized to make room for farmland and housing. This impacted every form of wildlife. Pollinators, like monarch butterflies, took the brunt of the impact.
So what can we do to help pollinators like the monarch butterfly recover?
Our solution is replanting the wildlife prairie to include significant amounts of Milkweed.
We can show you why planting milkweed and wildflower prairies will help your farm and gardens thrive. Its an easy to plant, easy to grow perennial native to the majority of the United States. Planting butterfly milkweed (native to your area) is an easy way to draw pollinators to your farms and gardens.
The positive impact of increasing the number of milkweed for monarch butterflies in America is immeasurable and it all begins with wildflower prairies.
What is the relationship between Monarch butterfly and Milkweed?
Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed as their exclusive host plant for egg-laying and as a food source for their caterpillars. Milkweed contains toxic compounds that protect the caterpillars from predators. The availability of milkweed directly affects the monarch butterfly population. Conservation efforts aim to preserve milkweed habitats to support their survival.
What Are Wildflower Prairies?
Wildflower prairies are large groups of wild plants native to your specific area. These prairies are part of a larger conservation effort in restoring native prairie ecosystems.
Wildflowers have long roots that help bring water into the soil. These plants help provide nutrients for creatures that can benefit both farmers and gardeners. It helps the soil regenerate year after year so the soil is always full of nutrients, rather than the soil becoming dead after one season.
Milkweed is one of the most important plants to include when creating a wildflower prairie.
Why Milkweed is So Important
Milkweed has many benefits as you will read below. It offers everything from food for monarch butterflies to some pretty amazing visuals.
When to plant Milkweeds (Fall or Spring)
Monarch Butterfly Food Is Scarce
In 2014, monarch butterflies became an endangered species. A large reason for their engagement is a reduction in milkweed patches due to human expansion. The main way to get monarch butterflies off of the endangered species list is by planting more milkweed.
Milkweed is a vital aspect of the monarch butterfly’s life cycle. It’s the only plant that monarchs can lay their eggs on because it’s the only plant their caterpillars can eat.
Milkweed also offers protection to monarch caterpillars. Milkweed is poisonous to many of the caterpillar’s predators. This poison also protects the caterpillars after it becomes a butterfly because the toxins stay in its body.
Monarch butterflies also migrate from Canada/Northern United States to Mexico/Southern United States. As they migrate, they need to consume nectar. The flowers of milkweed plants offer a delicious meal because the sugar content of the nectar is higher than other plants.
Monarchs can survive exclusively off of milkweed if needed. The more patches of milkweed plants, the more likely it is that monarchs will survive their migration. In the winter, when monarch butterflies reach the southern hemisphere, they need a place to stay. Patches of milkweed offer a safe area for monarchs to both get food and lay eggs.
Pollinator Attractors and More
Milkweed doesn’t just attract butterflies. It attracts other types of pollinators too. The bright color of the flowers and the easy access points are a big draw for pollinators. Bees and wasps are two other pollinator groups milkweed attracts. When these pollinators land on the plant, the pollen sticks do them. As the bugs go from plant to plant, they will pollinate any other flowers or plant life in the area.
Milkweed has a higher sugar content than other plants, which means many creatures who live off of nectar will want a taste. Hummingbirds are another pollinator that will be sure to give milkweed plats a visit.
Visual Benefits (All The Colors!)
We love the amazing visual benefits that milkweed plants offer. Having brightly colored monarchs and vibrant bees are just the tip of the iceberg. Milkweed comes in a variety of bright colors. Orange, pink, and yellow star-shaped flowers offer a strong pop of color to any garden or farm area. It’s a beautiful plant to look at.
The bright colors and high sugar nectar will attract other types of butterflies that might be native to your area. Different species of birds will come to feed on bugs. Some wildlife, like deer, will also visit these plants.
The milkweed plant can help create a feast for the eyes that is great for the environment.
Very Easy to Grow
- Milkweed is an easy-to-grow , low maintenance plant.
They are perennial, which means they will come back year after year. You won’t have to replant them year after year, which takes a lot of stress out of the process.
- Milkweed requires full sun, which is easy to get in open areas, like farmland.
Different types of milkweed will require different soil conditions. Common milkweed, for example, grows in average garden soil.
- Milkweed grows best if planted in either the spring or fall.
In the late spring and summer, milkweed can take longer than other perennials to regenerate. This process allows the plant to gather as much energy as possible before it awakens.
- Common milkweed and butterfly milkweed can grow in dry environments, so you don’t have to give them extra water.
The strong stems means you don’t have to worry about support stakes.
- There are no serious pests that attack / defile milkweed plants.
Between this and the amount of life that is feeding off of them, you do not want to spray the plant with pesticides.
- Milkweed can also last for up to 20 years.
Every fall, new seed pods will develop, and you can use these seed pods to plant more milkweed.
- Milkweed seed pods are easy to get the seeds from. You just have to scoop them out.
Natural Pest Control
Milkweed, like other plants, can attract aphids. Since so many different creatures need milkweed for food, you cannot spray it with pesticides as you might with other plants.
Not to worry If you have aphids! A variety of aphid eaters won’t be far behind. Ladybugs, damsel bugs, and lacewings are all examples of the type of aphid eaters that will show up to protect the plants.
If these bugs are already feeding off of aphids on milkweed, they will also feed on other aphids that might be infesting other plants or crops. This natural form of pest control is a great solution, especially if you grow organic crops.
How Monarch Butterflies Benefit Your Farm or Garden
We’ve shown you how beneficial milkweed is for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Monarch butterflies will also benefit your farm or garden.
- Planting milkweed can lead to the survival of monarch butterflies. As they migrate, if monarchs know you have a food source, they will visit again and again. This can elongate how long they are alive.
- They will also lay eggs on your milkweed. When these caterpillars turn into butterflies, they will feed on the nectar.
- The more monarchs you attract and raise with your milkweed, the more they will pollinate plants around it. Monarchs will go to other flowers, trees, and crops to collect nectar. When they do this, they will pollinate these plants.
- Increased levels of pollination will lead to a larger yield. This is vital for fruit and vegetable farmers since much of their stock comes from flowering plants. The more plants you have pollinated, the more those plants will thrive.
Everything works in harmony. The more milkweed there is, the more monarch butterflies will grow and develop. More monarch butterflies mean more pollinators, which means more growth for the surrounding plants.
Monarch butterflies are all a food source for birds, insects, and small animals. These birds, animals, and other insects can also eat bugs that might infest and damage your crops. By eating pests, it can help your crops thrive.
Plant Butterfly Milkweed Today
Purchasing the right kind of milkweed for your location can be difficult. There are so many different kinds, how do you know which one to choose?
Want help choosing the right Milkweed seeds for your land?
Contact Pure Air Natives Today
At Pure Air Natives, we believe that every plant we put in the ground is an improvement to our environment. Having a good plan for annual seeding is an important part of your prairie and farmland planning.
Recommendation for buying Milkweed:
- We recommend purchasing a milkweed plant that is native to your area. Plants native to your area have been around for centuries and are a vital part of a balanced ecosystem. Each region is going to have milkweed specific to its area. Butterfly milkweed, swamp milkweed, and common milkweed are native to many different regions and are widely available.
- Tropical milkweed, however, can cause damage to monarch butterflies. We do not recommend planting this type of milkweed if you want to support monarchs.
If you need help trying to figure out which type of milkweed is best for your area, or you have any questions about starting a wildflower prairie, we’re here to help. We at Pure Air Natives are dedicated to restoring the prairie lands in Midwest America.
We can help you find the perfect milkweed plant for you. We are also capable of helping you plant your milkweed, so they grow strong and healthy from the beginning.