There’s been a lot of discussion this week about the best native nectar plants for Monarchs as an alternative to the invasive Butterfly Bush (Buddleia or Buddleja, depending on who’s spelling it), so I thought it would be a great idea to gather together some suggestions for you.
Garden plants fall along a continuum for wildlife gardeners:
Best Plants for Wildlife Gardens
The best plants for Monarchs and other butterflies, as well as all other wildlife in your garden will be locally native to your area. These native plants have a relationship with wildlife that spans thousands of years, contribute to ecosystem services, and provide multiple functions for many species of wildlife. Many indigenous plants are also larval host plants for many species, and many other insects have a variety of uses for them.
Neutral Plants for Wildlife Gardens
Some exotic (non-native introduced plants) ornamental plants do provide some nectar for Monarchs and other butterflies, as well as native bees. But they are not larval host plants for any butterflies and provide no other ecosystem services.
Dangerous, or Caution Needed, Plants for Wildlife Gardens (and the surrounding environment)
Some plants have escaped from our gardens and are now running rampant through our natural ecosystems, destroying native habitat for many species of wildlife. These invasive plants block out the native plants upon which butterflies and other wildlife are dependent.
Butterfly Bush has been listed as an invasive plant in more than 20 states, and it’s only a matter of time until it becomes listed in other states as well.
As gardeners we are each responsible for the impact that invasive plants have beyond the borders of our own gardens. And there are much better native alternatives that do not cause harm to surrounding ecosystems, are larval host plants for other butterflies, and provide many ecosystem services.
Best Nectar Plants for Monarchs and Other Butterflies
The best nectar plants for Monarchs and other butterflies are going to depend on where you live. Each ecoregion has specific native plants that are well adapted to local conditions.