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Consumer Q's: Butterfly sanctuaries
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Q: I am concerned about monarch butterflies. I hear their numbers are decreasing. Is there anything I can plant to help them?
    A: Plant milkweeds. They are a necessary part of the butterfly’s life cycle. Adult butterflies lay their eggs on the plants and caterpillars eat the leaves.
    Make your garden into a monarch waystation to help these unique migrating butterflies survive. Plant an entire patch of milkweed or just a few plants at your home, school, business or church.
    Three species of milkweed that are readily available from nurseries are butterflyweed, bloodflower and swamp milkweed. You can plant them now or in the spring or fall.
        Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a native perennial with stunning orange flowers. It is a durable and beautiful flower that deserves to be more widely planted.
    Butterflyweed is tolerant of drought and poor soil. It blends well with daylilies, bearded irises and many other perennials. It is a good choice for a large container, so even if you have only a balcony or a deck, you can plant something for monarchs.
    Bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica) is an annual that is planted in the spring or summer. It has a combination of red and orange (sometimes solid yellowish orange) flowers. It can also be grown in pots.
    Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is a native perennial that prefers damp soils but will tolerate drier conditions. Its flowers are rose or white.
    There are other milkweed species that are not as easy to find for sale or may be unsuitable for average gardens. The common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a perennial that, as its name implies, is common through much of the United States. Common milkweed is usually considered too aggressive for most gardens. However, it does have interesting, attractive flowers. There are numerous species of milkvine (Matelea – a milkweed relative) native to Georgia that also serve as host plants for monarchs. Milkvines aren’t commonly available from nurseries and are not very ornamental although they have interesting starfish flowers and attractive seedpods. They should be preserved in places where they grow naturally and have room to spread.
    You should also include nectar plants in your garden for adult butterflies to feed on. A few favorites are hardy ageratum or mistflower, ironweed, joe-pye weed, garden phlox, butterfly bush, abelia, liatris, native asters, goldenrod, sunflower, tithonia or Mexican sunflower, purple coneflower and zinnia.
    If you are going to have a butterfly garden, refrain from using insecticides or use them carefully. They won’t just kill insect pests; they kill the butterflies you want to attract, too.

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