Tips for Busy Monarch Lovers

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  • #51731


    These tips have been on our Facebook page and in Instagram but listing them here as well. Please feel free to add your own thoughts and comments and I’ll post more in due course.

    TIP: It’s LOVE YOUR SWAN PLANT DAY… they’re under attack!

    We LOVE our monarch butterflies and we treat our swan plants like they’re JUST a tool for raising monarchs. So let’s give some thought to THEM too because they’re under attack!

    Have you made sure the soil around the base is damp? If not, give them a good drink of water in the evening or early morning, and then add a mulch – if you can’t afford anything else a mix of wet newspaper or torn up cardboard and grass clippings will be beneficial in holding moisture in the soil.

    Have you fed them lately? What have you got? You don’t need to rush off to the garden centre and buy the latest thing… Drag home some seaweed from the beach and add that to the mulch. Coffee grinds from your favourite coffee shop, or compost or sheep manure is great too.

    Where the caterpillars have left “rough edges” give the plant a prune. Cut off any gnawed edges, down to the leaf node (where the next leaves are sprouting) and any dead wood. Make sure that drips of water won’t “sit” on the top – make the cut at an angle so water will drip right off.

    Your swan plant is trying to reproduce – that is its aim in life – first it flowers, then those flowers get pollinated and produce fruit. The monarchs will (if they’re hungry enough) eat the flowers and the fruit too.

    Yes, our beautiful monarchs are PREDATORS, intent on killing off your milkweed, so it’s time that someone stood up and campaigned for the plants! Aphids, snails, slugs and other pests are there also to keep the milkweed population in balance. It’s a warzone out there!

    TIP: Don’t PLANT your new swan plant – leave it in its pot… for now.

    When you get new plants, DON’T PLANT them. Planting anything puts the plant under stress… and your swan plant will be under stress from the caterpillars attacking the leaves.

    Our recommendation is to buy TWICE as many plants and keep SOME damp and well fed in dappled shade and out of the wind. You will use these for food in a few weeks’ time.

    Put the other plants (food) next to the existing plants, but leave them in their pot(s). When the caterpillars have defoliated them, in the cool of the evening, plant them out, feed and water them well and you’ll have fresh growth on them in a few weeks.

    When plants are planted in the garden they go through a very stressful time (for them) much as we would when we’re uprooted/transplanted! So let them survive defoliation, and when you do plant them they will put all their energy into growing good roots and new foliage.

    TIP: Don’t throw the ‘stumps’ away. Feed and water them in the shade and they will be feeding caterpillars next month.

    Yes, we heard that some people, when the leaves had gone, were throwing the “stumps” – pot and all – into their rubbish. NO!!!! They will surprise you and quickly grow again. Take them out of the hottest sun, water them well, and give them a mulch of compost or whatever you’ve got, and they will quickly regrow. Remember these caterpillars now are going to become butterflies in a few weeks… and what do butterflies do? They mate and the females lay eggs, of course. So you’re going to need MORE plants in 4-5 weeks.

    TIP: Put prunings in water, add a few willow leaves and in a few weeks you’ll have more plants.

    You can create NEW plants by placing the ends of cuttings (prunings) in water. Add some new willow growth as it will act as a rooting hormone. The prunings will start to grow and the part under water will grow roots. Plant it out… but keep it covered from the monarchs until it’s bigger.

    Don’t ever throw away a heavily munched swan plant either. It’s amazing how many “lives” it can have.

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  • #51750

    rob cooper

    many thanx jaqui other than that we doing great let number 60 go today got at least another 50 pillers 2 j boys and 12 pupas happy new years



    The “stuff like sugar” is nectar, Rob. If the plant wasn’t in the enclosure then it would be attracting butterflies and bees, which would – in taking in the nectar – also pollinate the plant. Seedpods (fruit) would develop in due course.

    If the plant is flowering and there are no pollinators flying around in the enclosure then you’d best remove the flowers as the nectar will be attracting ants which are not a good thing in a butterfly house.

    Hope that helps!


    rob cooper

    bloody hell jaqui lol just give me a tip our plants are fine but our big plant in the big enclouser is full of flowers they drip this stuff like suger of it its real sticky im no bees in cage so think thats the prob i give it a fine mist of water every second nite to get rid of the sticky stuff yes no to do this your reply could be helpful thanx rob

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