Love monarch butterflies? Get Milkweed! | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation
(Video: Greg Francis)

By Jode Roberts, Homegrown National Park Project

Canadians have had a wacky, never-ending winter. It's been even worse for monarch butterflies. Their numbers overwintering in Mexico hit an all-time low. Severe weather and the virtual eradication of milkweed (the plant monarch mothers and caterpillars depend on) throughout much of their migratory path has put the monarchs' epic migration back to Canada at risk.

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That's why the David Suzuki Foundation launched #GotMilkweed in April 2014, as part of our Toronto-based Homegrown National Park Project

On April 1, 2014, we began selling milkweed plants to residents as part of our effort to crowdsource a butterfly corridor right through the heart of the city, along the downtown west end's former Garrison Creek

The demand for milkweed plants was overwhelming and we sold out of plants within the first two weeks of the campaign. For the lucky folks that ordered milkweed, they can pick them up at our Homegrown Native Plant Sale on Sunday, May 25th at Christie Pits Park between 12 and 5 p.m. The sale is organized by the North American Native Plant Society and will include great selection of native plants and shrubs.

How can you help? 

If you didn't get your milkweed, we encourage you to head to your local nursery or garden centre. If they don't have milkweed in stock, ask them to order it. 

When you get your milkweed, plant it in your garden or yard or on your balcony. Become a butterfly "block captain" and inspire your neighbours to get planting, too. And be sure to encourage schools, churches, stores and other institutions in your neighbourhood to do the same.

You can also still help by contributing $25 to the #GotMilkweed campaign. Our awesome team of Homegrown Park Rangers will plant milkweed on your behalf in schoolyards and parks throughout the Homegrown National Park.

Please join us. Help create a butterfly corridor through the city. Bring back the monarch butterflies, one milkweed plant at a time!

March 31, 2014

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Nov 24, 2015
6:04 PM

One of the aggregate sites I am involved with in Eastern Ontario is destined to become a Monarch Butterfly sanctuary. The aggregate is nearing depletion and the site is naturally regenerating. We need volunteers to plant milkweed there.

Better still this site should be a candidate for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Want to go and see this site? Give me a call or email. I used some of the pictures of the monarchs on my website go to:

David Willis President

Sep 23, 2015
12:40 PM

Hi, know maybe late in the season and to respond. But can I still get some Milkweed. I would like to plant them up north, where we have a place. Can’t afford much. But will do my best to help the Monarch Butterflies

Jul 09, 2015
8:28 PM

In searching for a reply to As It Happens story on Science Magazine’s feature on climate impact on bumblebees, I came across an article from 1981 that claims that milkweed pollinia slows down bumblebees pollination speed . Has this article’s thesis been accepted, and if so, is it good for us to plant extra milkweed to save butterflies if bumblebees are laden down by pollinia? I have no idea of the size

Apr 11, 2015
8:38 AM

Am dying to get involved in this milkweed program ! Where do I start ?

Ellis Marche

May 26, 2014
4:42 AM

Hi: I missed yesterday to come and pick up the milkweed I ordered. How do I get the 4(?) plants I ordered. Thank you.

Carl Lyons 416-543-1354

May 25, 2014
5:46 PM

Is there really no milkweed left?

My street would love it! What sort of milkweed?

Where can we get it?

How many plants are require per square feet?

Would like to do this soon!

Many Thanks, Valérie Kaelin

May 20, 2014
8:55 AM

I sent my $ for milkweed plant. When and where do I pick it up?

May 14, 2014
4:15 PM

Hi there — I ordered six milkweed plans via your website. Am I still expected to come to Christie Park in Toronto (time?) at the end of May to pick them up?

May 12, 2014
2:25 PM

I purchased 2 milkweeds from you in April with the understanding that I would be notified when and where to pick them up in June. Is this correct?

May 09, 2014
5:28 AM

Could you tell me if I cover a area of 400 sq ft of Milk weed if rabit our will feast on it. Thanks Guy

May 08, 2014
9:52 AM

I am looking forward to plant my milkweeds. When and where should I pick the them from?

Thanks for this amazing idea!

Apr 29, 2014
12:52 PM

Hey there, i personally just think 5 dollars is to much, when you find them growning in the park, if you really want the average person to get up and do this. And if the price was cheaper or if you sold seeds we could get alot more planted.

Apr 28, 2014
3:31 PM

Any advice for growing milkweed in planters? (Unfortunately, as an apartment dweller in downtown Toronto, that is the only option for me.)

And if anyone knows where to buy milkweed in Toronto, please let me know! :)


Apr 26, 2014
10:12 AM

Where and when do I pick up the milkweed that I ordered earlier this month? Thanks.

Apr 24, 2014
2:29 PM

It’s so amazing that you sold out! Just curious when did you sell out? Our school is still looking forward to planting the bunch that we were able to buy!

Apr 23, 2014
5:57 PM

@Judy Osburn: The native milkweed species for BC’s Lower Mainland is showy milkweed. You should be able to get it at local nurseries — or you can ask them to start stocking it.

Apr 23, 2014
11:26 AM

This is great. Thanks for the link to for local nurseries. I’ll be getting some milkweed for my garden in Whitby!

Apr 23, 2014
5:20 AM

I want to plant milkweed in my own garden (I live in BC), where can I get some?

Apr 16, 2014
5:20 PM

Wondering if we can grow Milkweed in the Lower Mainland or is it too damp? What else can we plant?

Apr 16, 2014
5:14 PM

We have a beautiful nature reserve on Manitoulin Island and it is filled with milkweed. We did not however see many Monarchs last summer. Hopefully the milkweed corridor will bring them north of Toronto to us this year.

Apr 15, 2014
2:54 PM

Hi I am organizing a clean up day in our local lovely small park and would happily donate $25.00 to have rangers help plant milkweed or perhaps buy some seeds.
We are a “friends of Cassel’s Park group and plan on a morning of guerilla gardening -clean up -pulling invasive species garlic mustard -putting out a bird house, mason bee house -and hopefully planting some milkweed seeds..

Apr 04, 2014
8:33 PM

Hello all. Here are answers to questions on this chain. Thanks for your comments!

Country person: That might be about to change, as the Ontario government has plans to remove milkweed from the Noxious Weeds Act.

Jenny Dean: Evergreen Brickworks nursery has native plants like milkweed for sale. And you should check with Fiesta Gardens, as they’ve indicated milkweed might be on their shelves this spring.

Barbara: NANPS has a great list of local nurseries across the country. Check for one near you. And if there isn’t one, ask your local nursery to start carrying milkweed and other native species!

Chris: We would love to reach province wide. We’ve started with planting milkweed through the Homegrown National Park Project in Toronto, but would love to spread the love/milkweed.

Darcy: My understanding is that showy milkweed is the species best for southern BC. But best to check in with local horticulture or gardening groups in Whistler to be sure.

And JG: The #gotmilkweed campaign is based in Toronto because we had already started a project to grow a butterfly corridor through the city last year — the Homegrown National Park Project. Given the great response we’ve had, in future we would love to reach further and adapt the project for other communities.

Thanks all! And feel free to send me queries directly at

Truly, Jode

Apr 02, 2014
2:06 PM

Well this is all fine and dandy, but the City of Kawartha Lakes has a kill order out on the Milkweed. Every year, on our Interim Tax notice, the kill Destroy Noxious Weeds list lists the Milkweed as one of the weeds to destroy as a land owner. Here is the letter we receive yearly:

You can clearly see that the city is out to kill the butterflies.

Concerned Citizen

Apr 02, 2014
1:03 PM

I would like to purchase some milkweed plants but will not be in Toronto on May 25th to pick them up. Is there somewhere else you can recommend to obtain some milkweed plants? I live in Garrison Corridor and really would like to fill my garden with more pollinator and butterfly friendly plants, Thank you.

Apr 01, 2014
11:43 AM

We are concerned about the decline in the Monarch butterflies. We have scheduled at trip to see the Monarchs in 2015 with our grandson. This summer we would like to take some steps with him to protect the butterfly and make him aware of the butterflies’ condition. We live in Central Alberta and Monarchs have been spotted in this area and north. Do you have a milkweed program for the rest of Canada besides Toronto? Where can we get milkweed plants and learn how to care for them? What other ways can we help the Monarch?

Apr 01, 2014
5:40 AM

I was thinking this would be a wonderful school project for elementary and secondary schools (I would hope all post secondary school have a full butterfly garden on their property) Even the schools without any garden space could put a planting box on the roof Why not try and engage the whole province in this We don’t have many years of monarchs left I think we should try to mobilize the children — they are the ones who will only get to show their children pictures of Monarchs at the rate we are going

Mar 28, 2014
6:23 PM

Does anyone know if milkweed is native to Whistler BC?

Mar 27, 2014
11:00 PM

Why just Toronto?

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