Kansans can help grow butterfly-friendly plants in pollination project


By Kelly Meyerhofer

The Wichita Eagle

The White House’s pollination project, which will cover 200 miles from northern Minnesota to Texas with native plants to help monarch butterflies, will include large parts of Kansas, said Orley “Chip” Taylor, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas.

Common Milkweed by Kevin Adams

Common Milkweed by Kevin Adams

Kansans can help by growing a variety of pollinator-friendly plants that bloom at different times of the year. Scott Vogt, executive director of Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston, recommended liatris and black-eyed susans for the summer and asters in the fall.

Milkweed plants are by far the best option for monarch conversation, though some gardeners shy away from the aggressive plant.

There are a few types, like butterfly milkweed, that do not form colonies and can be incorporated into a formal bed. This type of milkweed can serve as a food source for an adult monarch.

But the more aggressive varieties of milkweed – Common, Sullivan’s and Showy – grow wider leaves that caterpillars prefer to munch. Vogt advises people to plant these in an informal area of the yard where “they can do their own thing.”

Milkweed planting season is over right now, but begins again in early September. Fall planting actually gives milkweed a jump, Vogt said. Milkweed planted in the spring can struggle from a barely established root system, he said.

The plant is seasonally sold at some garden stores, including Dyck Arboretum, for $3 to $5 depending on the size of the pot.

Monarch Watch – a national conservation group headed by Taylor, the KU butterfly biologist – is offering free milkweed plants for people willing to cover the cost of shipping. Monsanto is funding the cost of 100,000 plants this summer and another 100,000 next summer.

“We are looking for people who are interested in restoring the habitat,” Taylor said. “Not for your garden, not for retail, but for restoration.”

A minimum order is a flat with 32 plugs. A shipment of 50 plugs is estimated to cost between $10 and $15.

To learn more, visit or call 785-864-4441.