Thursday, July 31, 2014

Monarch Butterflies in your Garden

Asclepia physocarpus

If you are going to want Monarch butterflies in your garden you need asclepias. One variety which will have your neighbors stopping and asking questions is the asclepia physocarpus, aka Hairy Balls or Family Jewels.
The seed pod on this variety are 2" diameter balls covered in soft bristles. Other asclepia varieties have long slender seed pods.
Grow your plant in full sun with regular water, do not use any insecticides or synthetic fertilizers. You may see bright yellow aphids on the young leaves, do not worry, the hungry caterpillars will eat the leaves before the aphids.

March and April you will begin seeing generation one egg and young caterpillar stage. You may find these under the leaves of plants we sell, this is an extra bonus for no extra charge. It averages 4 days for the eggs to hatch. 
The second stage in a butterfly life is the larvae or caterpillar stage
this is when you will see your Asclepia eaten down to the stems.
They are like teenage boys at this stage, eating everything in the house.
They are fully grown in just 2 weeks. 

3rd stage is the pupa or chrysalis
if you get a chance to watch as this happens it is amazing
and a bit creepy at the same time. For 10 days you won't see 
much change but there is a lot going on inside.
Then the beauty comes.

Stage 4 is the butterfly. If you are lucky enough to see it emerge from the chrysalis you feel a sense of joy and pride. The butterfly will stay near it's chrysalis while drying it's wings. Slow flapping as it begins to stretch and dry. Then suddenly away it flies, I felt like a proud mommy the first time I watched.

There are four generations every year, as I mentioned before the first generation you begin seeing eggs in March and April. The second generation follows May and June, third July and August. The first 3 generations have a short life cycle 2-6 weeks. It is the last generation which emerges September and October that stays around 6-8 months. This is the generation which we see the rest of the year hanging in our gardens. In other parts of the country this generation leaves heading south, some coming to California others to Mexico. Then they head back to begin the generation cycle over and over. Amazing how Mother Nature works.

For more information on the Monarchs please click the link, I think you will enjoy the site.

And to get Monarchs in your garden come visit us and pick up a plant or two.