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Attracting Monarch Butterflies – Start Seeing Monarchs Day – First Saturday

Would you like tips for attracting monarch butterflies to your yard this year?  I’ve been seeing them in my garden for a few weeks now.

The first Saturday in May is marked National Start Seeing Monarchs Day. What an appropriate national day for this time of the year! 

This day was chosen to raise people’s awareness of the butterfly so that it does not end up on the endangered species list.

The monarch butterfly’s breeding season starts in spring. Many plants that flower — especially native plants — are wonderful sources of nectar for monarch butterflies. 

Monarch butterflies on yellow flowers.

Even though monarchs love all flowers, but milkweed leaves are the only food that monarch caterpillars actually eat. 

Facts about the Monarch ButterflyThe colors of a monarch butterfly are very striking

This beautiful yellow and black butterfly is a milkweed butterfly.

The butterflies range somewhere around 3-4 inches in size.

Monarch butterflies migrate to warmer climates in the fall and return again in the spring. They can travel up to 250 miles in one day.swarm of monarch butterflies
The population of monarch butterflies is on a sharp decline in the last 20 years. Some sites say that it could be as much as 90%!

Milkweed is necessary for the survival of the monarch butterfly. Milkweed is a perennial flowering plant that is crucial to the butterflies’ survival.

It provides nectar and is the only plant where a monarch will lay their eggs.Monarch caterpillars need milkweed to live

Adult Monarchs like many nectar plants, but their caterpillars will only eat milkweed.

Monarch caterpillars have a big appetite. They can consume and entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes. Monarch caterpillar eating a milkweed leaf

Eggs laid by monarchs become baby caterpillars in about four days. They spend the next few weeks eating and growing until they attach to branches and form into a chrysalis.

About 10 days later a butterfly emerges and takes off looking for more milkweed spots to feed.Adult monarchs like all flower nectar

Tips for Attracting Monarch Butterflies to your yard

Monarch butterflies on a milkweed plant and caterpillar on a leaf with words How to Attract Monarch Butterflies to your Yard.

Monarch butterflies have lots of yards to choose from, so presenting them with some of their favorite things are key to attracting them to your outdoor space.

Here are some things that you can do to attract these fluttery friends.

Use Nectar Plants that are attractive to Adult Monarch Butterflies

While monarch caterpillars need milkweed to survive, adult Monarchs are attracted to several nectar plants: Plant some of these in your yard to attract them.Adult monarch butterflies love all sorts of flowers.

The list of plants is long, but here are a few flowering plants that monarchs seem to really love.

Monarch Butterfly Way Stations

Way stations are areas of your yard that are intentionally designed to provide both food and a habitat for the Monarch butterfly population,A lush garden can hide a fence and attract butterflies at the same time.

Most experts thinks that having at least two types of milkweed is a key factor, since this is the host plant for monarchs.

A Monarch butterfly way station should be at least 100 feet, but you can help even if you do it in a smaller way.  

Your focal plants for attracting monarchs, should receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

There are lots of things that you can do in an existing garden to turn part of it into a monarch way station.

If you have a herb or vegetable garden add some of the above plants nearby.  Got an ugly fence line that needs covering?  Plant milkweed seeds right along the line. It will cover the fence and attract butterflies at the same time.  

Along the side of a garden shed is also a good place for a way station.

Be sure to have a Water source for monarch butterflies

Add rocks in a bird bath to give monarchs a place to land

In addition to nectar, Monarch butterflies also need other forms of moisture. A large area of water is risky for them, but a birdbath, if it is not too deep is a great place to allow them some extra water.  

Adding some rocks in the birdbath will let them land safely.

Does Color Matter to Monarchs?

Not only is the plant type important for attracting monarch butterflies, the color is, as well.  Adult monarchs are attracted to flowers with orange, red, yellow, pink and purple blossoms.Monarchs like bright colors

They also like blooms that have a flat top or are clustered with short flower tubes to protect the pollen.

Plant type and color is important – Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orangepink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered and have short flower tubes. 

When do you start seeing Monarch butterflies?

Monarch butterflies are so popular with homeowners, that there is even a National Day devoted to seeing them.  The first Saturday in May is set aside each year ad National Start Seeing Monarchs Day.

How to observe National Start Seeing Monarchs Day.

There are lots of things that you can do to observe this day.  Planting a variety of milkweed plants in your yard is one good way, since Monarchs love these plants and seek them out.  

Keep pesticides away from these plants so that they will be a safe haven for the butterflies.Monarch butterfly feeding on milkweed

And while you are at it, think about using less pesticides in general.

There are loads of alternatives that are more organic and natural to keep pests and weeds out of a garden without resorting to something that damages our environment in such a big way.

Share the word about National Monarch Day on social media brings awareness to the butterfly. Here is a tweet to get you started:

Share this post about attracting monarch butterflies on Twitter

How to slow down the Monarch Butterfly Decline 🦋🌞🌻🌸 #startseeingmonarchsday  is the first Saturday in May#♥monarchs Click To Tweet

Would you like a reminder of this post for attracting Monarch butterflies?

Just pin this image to one of your nature boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.Tips for attracting monarch butterflies

Admin note: This post for National Start Seeing Monarch Day first appeared on the blog in May of 2917. I have updated the post to add new photos, more tips for attracting Monarch Butterflies, a project card to print out for your gardening journal, and ideas for how to set up a butterfly way station.

Yield: Make your Yard a butterfly magnet!

How to Attract Monarchs to your Yard

How to Attract Monarchs to your Yard

Attracting monarch butterflies to your yard means that you have encourage the butterflies by having their favorite food and habitat in place

Active Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour
Difficulty moderate
Estimated Cost $50


  • Milkweed Plants
  • Bird Bath or water source
  • Nectar plants
  • Brightly colored plants
  • Area of your yard with sunlight


  • Hose or water source
  • Garden spade or shovel


  1. Choose an area of your yard that gets sunlight from mid morning to mid afternoon.
  2. Try to have a water source nearby. A birdbath or small pond is ideal.
  3. Place a large rock in the water source for the butterflies to land.
  4. Choose an area about 100 square feet if you can, but smaller areas will still work.
  5. Plant at least two types of milkweed, the host plant for butterflies.
  6. Monarchs like bright colors such as pink, red, yellow, orange and purple flowers.
  7. Select plants with tubular flowers to protect the nectar.
  8. These Nectar plants will also attract Monarchs: chives, salvia, zinnia, butterfly bush and cosmos.

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Wednesday 1st of December 2021

Altho I have great success in my gardening endeavors the one vegetable I cannot seem to grow are pumpkins! I try every year & I grow beautiful vines and plenty of blooms but that's it. No fruit or they shrivel or rot while still in infancy. Sometimes the leaves develop a white powdery fungal type disease and then die altogether. Any suggestions are appreciated. Btw, I grow great gourds and squashes of all kinds. Not so much luck w melons but don't really try or care about growing melons lol just have a passion for pumpkins!

Wilma Enns

Friday 12th of June 2020

Thank you for your article. We have wild milkwed here on the prairies of Alberta, which is very invasive. I don't want to bring it into my yard, but you mentioned other milk weeds. Are they a cultivated plant, and are they hard to control like the native milk weed is? What are some

Carol Speake

Sunday 14th of June 2020

Hi Wilma. I can't provide specific plants for all regions of the country, since each region is different. A local garden center in your area might be able to help you choose plants for your region.

Cordless Garden Tools

Saturday 2nd of May 2020

A very good read Carol. Have you found that there is a strange lack of butterflies and bees so far this year? I live in Portugal and normally with the weather being so kind out here we are blessed with an array of year round wildlife, however this year so far I am still waiting for them to arrive, It seems so strange that we have seen very few bees and butterflies so far. With everyone indoors, except for this weekend as the lock in has been lifted, I had expected to see much more wildlife. The weather has been great and very sunny but am missing the colourful invasion that normally occurs in the garden. Hopefully it they will arrive soon and bring everything in the garden back to life.

Carol Speake

Sunday 3rd of May 2020

I was saying the same thing to my husband this morning. It's been years since we saw the amount of butterflies and bees in our garden that we used to. I assume it is the abundance of pesticides that everyone uses on lawns and weeds, but it is distressing, for sure.

Kathy J

Friday 26th of January 2018

Thank you for your wonderful article. I have had a soft spot for Monarchs ever since I was around 5 years old in Milwaukee, Wi. That was when I saw a huge ribbon of monarchs fly through our courtyard on their migration. The ribbon was as tall as my dad (6' 5") and lasted at least ten minutes. As my sister stood watching, my dad said,"Remember this. You will probably never meet another person that has ever seen this.' And, I haven't. People I have met that have seen migrations have not ever seen what we saw. I feel very blessed to have seen it.


Wednesday 27th of January 2021

Kathy J, You are truly blessed for the migration you saw. Please know I am not trying to one-up-you. I just want you to try and vision the miracle I witnessed in Costa Rica about 30 years ago. I was building and remodeling cabinas on the west coast of Costa - near Jaco on a little costal coconut plantation. A migration started one morning. The ribbon was at least 20 feet wide - started about 6 feet from the ground and extended to the top of the mature coconut palms. The ribbon passed thru the plantation for about 3 days and nights. -- A monarch visited outside my Colorado home office window for a few years. I started leaving sugar water. I brought him in from the window ledge where he died 2 years ago. Another has taken his place.


Friday 26th of January 2018

Hi Kathy. I am glad you enjoyed my article. Your experience sounds fabulous. I wish I could have been there!

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