Nectar-rich, fall blooming plants are the most important gift we can offer these vibrant voyagers on their journey. Waking up to temperatures in the 60s is a refreshing reminder that fall is finally here. And right on cue, monarch butterflies are arriving in San Antonio as part of their fall migration to Mexico.
Monarchs were listed as an endangered species, so selecting plants that support this iconic species is more important than ever. By now, many have gotten the memo that milkweed is necessary as a host plant for monarch caterpillars, but tropical milkweed may be problematic. It keeps monarchs from continuing their migration and hosts parasites.
San Antonio actually has quite a bit of milkweed growing along roadsides, especially zizotes. However, monarch butterflies aren’t typically laying eggs in the fall. They’re simply passing through. Nectar-rich, fall blooming plants are the most important gift we can offer them on their journey.
Here are some of the many plants you can add to your landscape to attract monarchs and satisfy their food needs.
White mistflower is a small shrub that occurs locally in the wild and can also be found in nurseries.
Gregg’s mistflower is not only beautiful but irresistible to monarch and queen butterflies.
Shrubby blue mistflower, aka Crucita, is the Rio Grande Valley mistflower, but it will reach into southern Bexar County and it’s irresistible to all butterflies.
Scarlet sage thrives in virtually all conditions, especially partial shade. Its cheerful red blooms feed butterflies and are also a favorite of hummingbirds.
Mealy blue sage is one the most common Salvias in our area and therefore a favorite butterfly food.
Autumn sage is a very common perennial in San Antonio landscapes and it comes in red, purple, pink, and white varieties.
Frostweed is one of their favorite plant species. Found growing under the shade of live oaks, this plant’s blooms are timed perfectly for the fall migration. Gather seeds later this year and toss them in a shady spot in your yard
Plateau goldeneye puts on a show every autumn with an abundance of yellow blooms. After they finish blooming consider leaving them (their seeds) as a food source for songbirds in the winter. This plant is great for large areas as it will sprout readily from seed and form colonies.
Turk’s cap is a native perennial that adapts to sun and shade. Many varieties exist, including pink flower ones to large flower tropical species.
Other nectar options include:
In 2015, San Antonio was declared the first Monarch Champion City by the National Wildlife Federation. Many San Antonio organizations have committed to restoring habitat for the state insect of Texas.
By Kevin Pride, Garden Style SA