Attracting monarch butterflies to your garden


I have encouraged this plant to attract Monarch butterflies, but I believe I’m mistaken about the variety? Please advise. Thanks!


Thank you for asking this question of the Toronto Master Gardeners. We always love questions about butterflies.

To answer your direct question, I am sorry but I cannot identify which variety of milkweed (Asclepias) you are growing from the photograph. But from the seeds, it certainly looks like a milkweed, and the monarch butterfly caterpillars seem to eat all varieties (I cannot find any note to say there is one they do not like).

However, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of having a butterfly visit your garden.

  1. Plant more milkweed and encourage your neighbours to do likewise. The more plants the better — the greater the attraction from the butterfly’s point of view.
  2. Plant your milkweed in a sunny spot protected from the wind. This will make it easier for the butterflies to land.
  3. Plant other flowering native plants (such as asters, black-eyed Susans, goldenrod) so that the adults have something delicious and nutritious to eat. Plant these with the milkweed so there is a strong, colourful landing strip for the butterflies.

Canadian Geographic has a really good article with more terrific ideas of what you can do to make your garden a favourite butterfly destination.

The City of Toronto has a booklet that you can download on the 79 butterflies that you can find in Toronto.

The Royal Botanical Gardens has a nice article on the 14 species of milkweed found in Ontario. And the Ontario Wild Flower site has even more photographs of different varieties of milkweed. Maybe you can recognize your plant’s variety from these photographs.