Spring is here and monarch butterflies are once again migrating north, through Texas and into the United States from their overwintering grounds in Mexico. They are in search of nectar sources and milkweed plants. Milkweed is the only host plant for monarch butterflies, they lay their eggs on milkweed and once the eggs hatch the caterpillars eat the plants. In addition to monarchs, other pollinators and wildlife are out and about feeding on the nectar from blooming flowers and pollinating plants in return. Pollination is a critical ecosystem service that helps to maintain the ecological integrity of native plant communities and ensures the production of U.S. agricultural crops valued in the billions of dollars annually (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department). Unfortunately, due to habitat loss, pollinator numbers have declined. One way to help provide butterflies and other pollinators with essential habitat is to create a native garden. These gardens can be as big as your backyard or as small as a few planters on a balcony.
At the Texan by Nature office, we have been working on our very own container garden full of native Texas plants and milkweeds, it provides monarchs and other pollinators with food, water, and shelter. Our garden is located on a south-facing third-floor balcony and receives full sunlight for the majority of the day. We selected native plants that grow well in hot, dry conditions. Additionally, we are propagating and have planted several species of milkweed that are native to Texas. During this process we used Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s (LBJWC) how-to guide for creating container gardens. This is a great place to start when thinking about creating your own container garden. Additionally, LBJWC’s supplier directory is very helpful when it comes to finding local nurseries, seed companies, landscape professionals, and environmental consultants.
Our goal was to create habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. We received five species of milkweed generously donated by the LBJWC: 4 antelope horn (Asclepias asperula), 3 green antelope horn (Asclepias viridis), 3 zizotes milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides), 1 butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and 1 swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).
In addition, we are attempting to propagate 3 species of milkweed ordered from Native American Seed. These include: butterfly weed, antelope horn, and green milkweed. For more information on milkweeds and propagation visit our milkweed resources.
We selected nectar plants native to the Edwards Plateau ecoregion for the Texan by Nature container garden. The following are the plants that were available at a local nursery and that are currently growing in our garden: Autumn sage (salvia greggii), blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum), damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana), flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus), gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii), Lindheimer’s beeblossum (Oenothera lindheimeri), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), shrubby boneset (Ageratina havanensis), and Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides).
We plan on adding more plants to our garden in the coming weeks and look forward to watching our milkweed plants grow. Hopefully there will be some monarch butterfly visitors. Stay tuned for updates.