There’s simply no overstating the importance of the Asclepias (aka Milkweed) in every stage of the Monarch butterfly’s life. For caterpillars, it’s their single source of food. Once grown and evolved into beautiful butterflies, the adults rely upon nectar from the plant’s flowers for sustenance. When it comes time to lay eggs and prolong the Monarchs’ multi-generational and international migration, only a Milkweed will serve as a suitable nesting spot.

As the Milkweed goes, the Monarch goes. And when the Milkweed dies off…the Monarch dies off, too.

That is the alarming situation we now face. As pesticide use, climate change, human development and other factors have reduced the health and prevalence of Milkweed, the dazzling butterfly’s population has also declined — dramatically and dangerously.

Establishing New Habitats

By establishing new habitats – even small ones – we can provide a waystation for eating, egg-laying, and resting during their long migrations. New habitat development can happen in places like public parks, schools, golf courses, corporate land, private parcels, and backyards! Native Monarchs is all about helping any person or entity create a pollinator and butterfly garden – with drought-tolerant plants (and milkweed, of course!) that will not only be beautiful, but potentially abundant with life.

We are seeking partnerships with nearly any and all entities interested in butterfly habitat conservation – from public to private to individual property owners. Native Monarchs not only guide you toward the right mix of plants to ensure success, but may also be able to design and install the habitats. Please take a look at our Butterfly & Pollinator Garden Planting Guide or contact us to discuss the area or parcel you’re considering for habitat and determine the next steps.

Even a 10’ x 10’ space, when properly panted, can serve as a safe place for a Monarch to land… and for conservation to take flight!



To help the Western Monarch’s migratory journey, one plant needs to be available to support their entire life cycle: milkweed. Asclepias spp. (milkweeds) are host plants where Monarchs will lay their eggs, and it provides the only food their caterpillars will eat. Nectar sources, particularly winter-blooming varieties, play an important part to provide fuel for adult Monarchs along their migratory path. Monarch butterflies are known as an “indicator” species, and what happens to them could be signs of trouble for other important pollinators, including migratory birds.

Butterflies are reliant on native milkweed and nectar plants for their survival. These aren’t always plants that can be found at every nursery or garden supply. But they sustain monarchs and other important pollinators like bees, birds, bats, beetles, and ants.

Native Monarch and partners like Fujii Growers and other local nurseries work diligently to source, cultivate and research solutions to expanding access to seeds and starters for native milkweed and other important nectar plants.


It’s important to cultivate milkweed that’s specific to your area, and to locate Monarch habitat away from areas that might be sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals. Non-native milkweeds flower at times that can disrupt Monarch migration and can also provide habitat for parasites (like OE, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) harmful to Monarch butterflies. Neonicotinoids (a common type of pesticide) can also harm Monarchs, even at very low levels, and remain present in plant tissues for a very long time.

To learn more about milkweed varieties in your area visit:

Help us track Monarchs and Milkweed across the west:

California Milkweed Species

Close up of Narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) blooming in summer; honey bee visible pollinating one of the flowers; San Francisco bay area, California

Mexican Whorled Milkweed

Asclepias fascicularis
Dry climates and plains.

Showy milkweed flowers and buds

Showy Milkweed

Asclepias speciosa
Savannahs and prairies.

Climbing Milkweed, Funastrum cynanchoides var. hartwegii,  Sarcostemma cynanchoides ssp. hartwegii, Joshua Tree National Park, California, Mojave Desert. Apocynaceae.

Desert Milkweed

Asclepias erosa
Desert regions.

california milkweed

California Milkweed

Asclepias californica
Grassy areas.

MIlkweed Plant

Heartleaf Milkweed

Asclepias cordifolia
Rocky slopes.

White Milkweed Flower

Woolly Milkweed

Asclepias vestita
Dry deserts and plains.

woolly pod

Woolly Pod Milkweed

Asclepias eriocarpa
Clay soils and dry areas.

Caterpillar on Narrowleaf Milkweed cropped

CA Narrowleaf Milkweed

Asclepias fascicularis
Grassy areas.

If you’re planting for monarch conservation you want to:

  • Ensure you have nectar-producing plants blooming during the spring, summer and fall
  • Ensure tropical milkweed is cut back before October 31st

Use the map to the right to help determine what’s best in your region.

Regional Resources:

For plants and growing requirements (both from seed or seedlings) best suited to your region:

Where to Buy Native Milkweed

The following Southern California nurseries specialize in native plants and expect to have at least narrow-leaf milkweed available by mid-April. This is not a complete list; to check for more native plant growers in your area, visit the California Native Plant Society’s CalScape website or their Where to Buy page and be sure to check in with your local retail nurseries to see whether and when they will be selling native milkweed and/or other flowering native plants.

Matilija Nursery

8225 Waters Road in Moorpark

Artemisia Nursery

5068 Valley Blvd. in El Sereno

Roger’s Gardens

2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar

Hahamongna Native Plant Nursery

4550 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena

Moosa Creek Nursery

Valley Center, near San Diego

Wholesale grower not open to the public but does take special orders online delivered to a partner retailer.

California Botanic Garden Grow Native Nursery

1500 N. College Ave. in Claremont

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Nursery

1212 Mission Canyon Road in Santa Barbara

Tree of Life Nursery

33201 Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano

Theodore Payne Foundation Nursery

10459 Tuxford St. in Sun Valley



If you have tropical milkweed, cut it back from October-February to within 6” of the ground (unless it dies back naturally on its own). Also remove any new plant growth at the base of the plant. If you live in a warm coastal area in the southern U.S. or California, cutting the milkweed back is especially important and it will be necessary to prune frequently (every 3 weeks) as it quickly re-grows.

Helpful Resources:

Texas Butterfly Ranch:  2013  |  2015  |  2020        Monarch Joint Venture:  BLOG

Plant native milkweeds whenever possible.
Consider replacing your tropical milkweed with native species.