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Plant a Native Pollinator Garden

Interested in learning more about how to design and attract butterflies/pollinators to your garden? In this article, we have provided the following checklist to assist you in helping to explore the habitat requirements needed to create the perfect butterfly/pollinator habitat for Kentucky.


¨ Research butterfly field guides, to determine which types  of butterfly species are needed. Also, take notes on which types of plants they are visiting. This will help in deciding which plants to purchase.

¨ Evaluate your site and choose a location with at least six hours of sunlight. Select native plants (check light, soil,   pH and moisture conditions) and add to an existing garden or remove a section of the lawn.

¨ Select native plant species of varied heights that bloom at different times throughout the year such as Spring, Summer, and Fall. These will provide nectar for adult butterflies throughout the season. Enhance your garden with at least two different types of milkweed for monarchs and possibly a puddling spot.

¨ After planting, water regularly, remove weeds and keep mulched until the garden is established. Be pesticide free. Milkweed can be cut back in late June or July to force new leaves for monarch caterpillars. Later in the Fall Season (August-September), leave some dead leaves and stalks to provide overwintering sites for pollinators.

¨ Keep records of monarchs and pollinators observed. Each week or two, keep track of your observation such as which plants are preferred butterflies and other pollinators as host plants and nectar or pollen sources. Take photos of the garden throughout the season.

¨ Share seeds or plant divisions to help start another butterfly garden in the area. Invite others to visit your garden or come visit the Waystation to enjoy the beauty of the butterflies in the natural landscape you have created.

Why Native Plants…

Butterflies and pollinators depend predominantly on native plants as their larval host plants. In the case of Monarchs, milkweed species are critical for their survival.

Whenever possible, grow local genotype native plants that have co-evolved in their native habitats with other plants and wildlife. Local genotype native plants are vigorous and hardy. These plants have adapted to their region and can survive winter cold and summer heat. The deep roots of native plants, especially those of prairie plants, trees and shrubs, old soil, control erosion and withstand droughts.

Once established, native plants require little watering and tolerate native pests.

Make sure to purchase native plants from a reputable nursery. For more information on native plant nurseries in the area, make sure to contact your local extension office.

Host plants for Monarchs…

Monarch larvae feed exclusively on milkweeds. Plant at least ten individual milkweed plants in your butterfly garden. If possible, choose at least two different species.

Nectar Plants for Monarchs

Nectar plants provide food for adult Monarchs and other   pollinators through-out the season. Pick from early, mid-and late-flowering species and have at least three different kinds of plants in bloom at any time. You will have visual interest all year long.

Early Nectar Plants


Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea, A. laevis, A. interior)

Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

Pussy willow (Salix discolor)

Wild blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum, V. angustifolium)

Perennial Wildflowers:

Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Wild strawberry (Fragraria virginiana)

Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

Wild phlox (Phlox divaracata)

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

Common blue violet (Viola sororia, Viola spp

Mid-Season Nectar Plants

Shrubs and Vines:

Leadplant (Amorpha canescens)

New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus)

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa)

Sumac (Rhus typhina, Rhus glabra, Rhus spp.)

White meadowsweet (Spirea alba)

Perennial Wildflowers:

Nodding wild onion (Allium cernuum)

Dogbane (Apocynum cannabium, A. androsaemifolium)

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Wild blue indigo (Baptisia australis)

Partridge pea (Cassia fasciculta)

Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum)

Swamp thistle (Cirsium altissimum)

Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolate, C. tripteris, C. spp.)

Pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida)

Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum. E. purpureum)

False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)

Roundheaded bushclover (Lespedeza capitata)

Blazingstar (Liatris spicata, Liatris spp.)

Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Dotted horsemint (Monarda punctata)

Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum)

Yellow prairie coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

Late Season Nectar Plants

Shrub: Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Perennial Wildflowers:

False Aster (Boltonia asteroides)

Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)

Calico aster (Symphiotrychum laterifolius)

Stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida)

Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciose)

Heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides)

Smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laevis)

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea, V. missurica)

For More Information

Contact the Warren County Extension Master Gardener Page on Facebook or visit the Warren County Extension office website at to view our photo journal for the Certified Monarch Waystation area.

Pollinator Photo Contest

To celebrate National Pollinator Week during June 19-25, the Extension Office and Master Gardeners are partnering with the Warren County Soil Conservation District to host a Pollinator Photo Contest. It is a great way to photograph and celebrate our native pollinators in our certified Monarch Waystation and Pollinator Patch habitats!

Extension Master Gardeners Make a Difference with a Certified Monarch Waystation

In 2017, the Monarch Joint Venture organization reported that the iconic monarch butterfly has steadily declined by approximately 90% over the last 20 years. Warren County Extension Master Gardeners wanted to make a difference so they designed and installed a certified Monarch Waystation to provide habitat and to help increase the population of monarch butterflies.  A monarch waystation is a garden that includes milkweed plants which serve as the host plant for the monarch butterfly and a variety of nectar plants that the adult butterfly can use as a nectar source. This garden was situated on the Warren County Extension Office grounds to serve as an educational demonstration plot  so the general public would be encouraged to plant more native and pollinator friendly plants in their home garden and landscape.

A Monarch Waystation committee was formed to assist with the installation and timeline for the project. Committee      members worked closely with the agent throughout the 2020 – 2021 year to plan the certified Monarch Waystation. The committee secured a $1500.00 grant from the Warren County Soil Conservation District as well as other community donations. Other committee members contributed by checking and securing material costs and marketing for the project.

Extension Master Gardeners Interns from the virtual 2020  Master Gardener class were given the task of submitting      garden proposals for the future design of the Monarch Waystation. Completed proposals were reviewed by the     committee at the end of January 2021 and the final design was selected. The final design consisted of a combination of multiple designs submitted from the Master Gardener Interns with several native plants arranged in seven 4×8 feet raised beds. 

Warren County Extension Master Gardeners and Interns worked diligently together throughout the spring 2021 season to construct the Monarch Waystation gardens. Volunteers worked on different parts of the project to build the raised bed garden frames, add soil media components to the beds, plant hundreds of pollinator friendly plants, install the water feature and small bubblers for water sources, mulch plants, and water throughout the week. Visit the Warren County Extension Office website at to see the entire process from start to finish. 

To highlight their efforts, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners received recognition through local media outlets. Their story was featured on WBKO-TV Channel 13, Spectrum News, and in the Bowling Green Daily Times newspaper.    Another TV segment appeared on the Extension Farm and Home Show during National Pollinator Week.

Warren County Extension Master Gardeners have also registered and certified their waystation through Monarch Watch which is the non-profit organization that manages the waystation. By registering their waystation, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners are supporting monarch conservation efforts and the preservation of the monarch      butterfly.

Master Gardeners have donated a total of 218 volunteer hours to the certified Monarch Waystation. According to the National Independent Sector, the value of volunteer time for the state of Kentucky is $23.10 per hour for 2020. If you multiply the hours donated by the hourly rate, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners have given a total of $5,035.80 to the Warren County community.  Plans are currently being made to install other features for the Monarch Waystation in the fall 2021 season.

2021 Annual Flower Garden Trial

The Warren County Extension Master Gardeners planted 20 new cultivars of annual flowers in May for the University of Kentucky Flower Trial Program. The University of Kentucky (UK) flower trial is a state-wide cooperative effort with the Master Gardener program to help evaluate performance of new flowering bedding plant cultivars in Kentucky. The main trial garden is located at the UK Arboretum in Lexington which contains 35 bedding plant cultivars.

Angelonia “Aria Purple”

Warren County is a trial site along with other counties including  Barren, Boyle, Breckinridge, Christian, Daviess, Hardin, Hopkins, Marshall, Mason, Mercer, Pulaski, and Washington.

The goal of the trial garden is to provide a fair evaluation of the garden performance for each flowering plant species and cultivar included.  To achieve this goal, it is necessary to use uniform cultural practices across the garden and to minimize environmental effects.

Pentas “Butterfly Red”

Extension Master Gardeners maintain the demonstration plots by watering and weeding the beds each week. Twice each month from mid-May until October, they rank the flowers on a scale of 0 to 5 with “5” being the best and “0” being the poorest.  

Lantana “Havana Sunset”

Here are some of the annual flower varieties that you will find in the 2021 growing season.

Bidens “Bidy Gonzales Top”
Canna “Cannaova Yellow”
Canna “Cannaova Red”
Lantana “Havana Harvest Moon”
Pentas “Butterly Light Lavender”
Catharanthus “Tattoo Papaya”
Catharanthus “Tattoo Cherry”

If interested in  viewing the annual flower garden trials, please feel free to stop by the Warren County Extension Office located at 5162 Russellville Road in Bowling Green, KY.