This month we chose to feature two plants because they have a special relationship when it comes to Monarch Butterflies. Monarchs are the most well known butterfly as a result of all the work that has been done to combat their population decline. Thanks to these efforts most people know that Monarchs need milkweed (Asclepias var.) in order to survive. It is their host plant and must be present for the adult butterflies to lay eggs. Due to herbicides being used in the crop industry, as well as land clearing, milkweed is not as abundant as it use to be. Because of this it is very important for everybody to plant a patch or two of milkweed in their yards (Plant at least two different varieties).
Planting milkweed is well and good but it’s not enough. What many don’t think about is that the adult Monarchs need a nectar source to build up the energy to lay eggs as well as to migrate later in the season. If the only flowering native plants you have in your yard are milkweed than there is a good chance you won’t end up with monarch caterpillars. Adults will be looking for a combination of nectar sources as well as varieties of asclepias. So what’s the best perennial to serve this purpose? Joe Pye Weed!
Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium var.) just might be our favorite perennial here at Plant by Design. In early spring the leaves emerge and slowly grow until the summer heat hits. Once this happens the purple stems explode to a height of 5 to 8′ tall! Their purpleish pink clusters of flowers will often reach over a foot wide. It would be hard to find a plant during the months of July and August that pollinators like more. From dawn to dusk it is covered in different species of bees butterflies and moths. This is why it’s so important to plant it alongside milkweed. The Monarchs flock to the Joepye weed and then lay their eggs on nearby milkweed. After the caterpillar forms its chrysalis and emerges it will have an immediate high quality source of nectar available. This allows them to build up the energy needed to migrate back to Mexico and start the process all over.
COMMON TYPES OF MILKWEED:
- Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) – Pink blooms, medium to wet soil
- Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed) – Orange blooms, medium to dry soil
- Asclepias purpurascens (Purple Milkweed) – Purple blooms, medium to dry soil
COMMON TYPES OF JOE PYE WEED:
- Eutrochium maculatum – (Joe Pye Weed) Medium to wet soil – Cultivar: ‘Gateway’
- Eutrochium dubium (Dwarf Joe Pye) – Medium to wet soil – Cultivar: ‘Baby Joe’
Plant by Design LLC