Monarch Butterfly Flowers You Should Grow

A migration journey of a thousand miles (or more) starts with lots of monarch butterfly flowers. Grow these nectar plants for monarchs.

monarch butterfly on Mexican sunflowerCourtesy Hans Peskowits
A monarch butterfly feeding on a Mexican sunflower

The journey of a migrating monarch is one of the most amazing stories on the planet. These fragile creatures travel thousands of miles from the eastern and central U.S. to the mountains of Mexico. Most butterflies live only a few weeks, but this “super-generation” of monarchs will survive up to 9 months before returning north in the spring. In order to make this journey successfully, they need lots of fall blooming flowers to support them along the way. Now is the time to make sure your butterfly garden includes the best monarch butterfly flowers and nectar plants.

Discover fascinating monarch butterfly facts.

Fall Nectar PlantsCourtesy Charlene G.
Monarchs enjoying New York Aster ‘Magic Purple’ in the fall

Choose Native Monarch Butterfly Flowers

Native flowers are best, when possible. Seek out goldenrod, ironweed, or aster species that are native to your area. Many of these can be grown from seed, and there may even still be time to start some this year. Fall is the perfect time to plant perennials.

monarch butterfly on liatrisCourtesy Carol Shaffer
Monarch feeding on liatris flowers

Liatris, also known as blazing star, has many varieties native to various areas around the country. Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) is one of the best native fall nectar flowers, and can be grown throughout much of the migrating monarchs’ range. Native sedums and salvias are also excellent choices for monarch butterfly flowers.

Check out the ultimate guide to growing milkweed plants for monarchs.

monarch butterfly on zinniaCourtesy Rosemary Goussios
Monarch butterfly on a zinnia flower

More Nectar Plants for Monarch Butterflies

As long as they’re not invasive in your area, non-native fall nectar plants may also be a good fit. Mix in some colorful annuals. Zinnias are excellent nectar flowers, and bloom so quickly from seed that you can probably throw in a late crop now to help this year’s butterflies. Lantana will continue to bloom into fall, as will pentas if they’re well-watered. Sunflowers of almost any variety draw butterflies (and the seeds are a great bonus for birds in the winter). And don’t forget marigolds, Mexican sunflower, cosmos and petunias. Keep deadheading these to ensure they’ll continue to bloom into the fall.

monarch on marigold flowersCourtesy Bruce Fenster
Monarch butterfly on marigold flowers

A final tip—the fruit and berries that fall from trees in late summer and fall can actually attract butterflies. The juice from the fruit is full of the sugars butterflies need to prepare for the winter ahead. Delay your fall cleanup until early spring when possible to provide butterflies an extra boost.

Next, discover 3 butterflies that look like monarchs.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.