The National Wildlife Federation wants you to save the monarch butterfly, and they’re going to give you the stuff that you need to do it.
Well, part of the stuff.
People-made butterfly gardens typically contain water, food for both caterpillars and butterflies, and inviting spots for butterflies to lay their eggs. When you become a Butterfly Hero (to sign up, you’ll have to submit a photo of someone doing the American Sign Language sign for butterfly, as above; you can even do it over your face if you’re camera-shy), the National Wildlife Foundation will send you a Butterfly Garden Starter Kit that contains either native milkweed or flowering nectar seeds, and information about what other native plants will suit–you can take that list to your local nursery to fill in the gaps of your own butterfly garden.
Frankly, even though we all want milkweed for monarchs, you should hope that you receive the flowering nectar seeds. Milkweed is notoriously difficult to start from seed, and you’ll be better off finding a local nursery that has native milkweed plants for you to buy–not every nursery stocks these, so look for the extra-crunchy ones. The benefit to this is that not only will you have an easier time with a milkweed plant than with a bunch of seeds that don’t want to germinate for you, but you’ll also likely be buying the exact type of native milkweed that flourishes in your exact area.
Admittedly, the kit does include a little bit of crap: my colloquial term for stickers/posters and other freebie swag. There’s really no redeeming quality to the stickers, other than just letting your kids stick them to stuff (please, for the love of all things good, NOT THE BACK PASSENGER WINDOWS OF YOUR MINIVAN!!! Why do you let your kids do that?!?), but in our family, when you get a free poster, you turn it over to the back, and like magic you all of a sudden have a free BLANK poster just for you to color on! Yay!!!
If you start your butterfly garden with milkweed this year, you’re probably not going to have plants that are big enough for monarch caterpillars this summer, but next year–you’ll be a butterfly hero for sure!