Gardening in Florida with Monarch Butterflies
Just because we’re home inspectors that do a bunch of grunt work (climbing in attics, going through crawl spaces, etc.) doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the gardening in Florida. We live here too!
The bottom line is: Whether you’re buying or selling a home, the outside of the house can be just as important as the features we inspect on the inside. That’s a big reason why we decided to start our new “Gardening Series!”
Because we see so many houses, we’ve seen our fair share of homes with fabulous, smart landscaping and curb appeal, and others that definitely need some TLC. This isn’t always just cosmetic stuff either. No, we don’t inspect the landscape entirely, so we won’t tell you that a shrub is diseased or that the flowers need trimming or watering, as that’s beyond our scope.
But we do know that landscape, specifically site drainage or trees/vegetation too close to the home, can sometimes negatively affect the structure. This is pertinent to home inspections and if we observe an issue, we will tell you! On top of this, there are some downright bad practices used in Florida over the years that aren’t good for our environment, and we wanted to do our part and write about them. Maybe it will help influence others. After all, we’re in this together.
There are some tips and tricks to gardening here. We’re not landscape professionals, arborists or botanists, but we inspect houses all day and want to do our part. Plus, it’s interesting to us.
With tremendous and seemingly endless human population growth in Florida, there have been legions of non-native plants introduced here over the years that have proliferated across our state. Some of these are downright invasive and can be harmful to native plants and animals. So above all, we always encourage what has become known as “Florida Friendly Landscaping,” and encourage you to read up on it and let it be a guide to your landscape decisions.
Today’s focus is actually going to be on the monarch butterfly and why we think that every homeowner in Florida should invite these bright, beneficial creatures into their yards.
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Gardening in Florida to Boost Curbside Appeal
In real estate, you always hear about having curbside appeal. Realtors® suggest it to their home sellers because improving the façade of your home can increase buyer interest.
In fact, Michigan State University did a study with 1,300 participants who all perceived that home value “increased from 5% to 11% for homes with a good landscape.”
Who said there’s no value in having a green thumb?
Now, curbside appeal isn’t all about landscaping. A few other ways you can boost buyer interest are:
- A fresh outside paint job
- Pressure washing driveways, sidewalks and pavers
- Paint the front door a different color
- Update your mailbox and front doorknob
- Upgrade exterior lighting
However, the most visually appealing draw to any home is a front garden.
When it comes to gardening in Florida, you have plenty of options at your disposal. With a dependable rainy season and an abundance of sunshine, many beautiful plants will thrive in your garden!
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Gardening in Florida: The Basics
Living in the subtropics does have its setbacks. Instead of protecting your garden from the harsh winters up north, you’re going to have to be overly cautious with your gardening during Florida’s hot summer months (primarily June-August).
Picking a somewhat shady area for your garden is going to be imperative to its survival. Most Florida gardeners find that their plants thrive when they’re in sunlight for 6-8 hours only.
You’ll notice that container gardens are preferred in some parts of Florida because, sometimes, the soil is too sandy and won’t contain enough nutrients to feed your plants. Because of this, it’s smart to stock up on fertilizer and compost.
After all, you want to make sure you don’t worsen your home’s aesthetic by having a bed of brown plants at your front door.
If your gardening in Florida for the sake of selling, look for the best flowers for Florida gardens. Make sure you pick the best ones that bloom during the season you plan on selling your home.
Don’t forget to consider the solar tolerance and hardiness zones of the plant, as well. If they like partial shade, reconsider planting them in full sunlight or vice-versa. In most of Central Florida, we live somewhere between USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10, so a plant that thrives in zone 6 may not be the ideal choice. Just something to keep in mind.
If you plan to stay awhile, you’ll be happy to know that most vegetable gardens are easily manageable in Florida. Here’s a great guide to starting your own vegetable plot based on where you live in the Sunshine State.
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How the Monarch Butterfly Can Help Your Garden
Gardening in Florida is all about knowing the tricks of the trade. And one that doesn’t get talked about much is the Monarch Chrysalis butterfly.
They’re beautiful and majestic migratory creatures. Not to mention, they are very important pollinators. We saw a video recently about a precipitous drop in their numbers, and it broke our hearts. Monarch butterfly gardens are actually a thing all on their own that you can install in your own yard. If you want to be a part of helping to save monarch butterflies (and impressing your neighbors), then this might not be such a bad plan.
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Are monarch butterflies endangered?
No— not yet anyway. As of December 15, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced “listing the monarch as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act is warranted, but precluded by higher priority listing actions.”
Instead, what they’re hoping to do is work with planters to help provide better environments to help the monarch butterfly remain abundant in our environment. It’s important to keep in mind that the process to list a species as endangered can be a slow-moving one, filled with bureaucracy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue and that we shouldn’t make changes today.
What can we do? As homeowners, we can help in saving monarch butterflies by merely adding certain resources to our gardens. More on that below.
How To Save Monarch Butterflies— And Keep Your Garden Looking Fresh
A butterfly garden on its own is going to set your home apart from the rest. Not only does it make your landscaping looking alive and healthy, but it gives the impression that the rest of your house is suitable for any living creature!
Plus, butterflies in your garden keep your plants vibrant since butterflies act as pollinators. Pollination is essential to our world’s ecosystem and is an indicator of a healthy environment. On top of that, having plentiful butterflies means less use of pesticides, which means less work for you.
If you’re ready to help protect the monarch butterflies and keep your curbside appeal going strong, here’s what you can do:
1. Plant Native Milkweed
This beautiful plant is to butterflies what candy is to kids. This is actually the only thing that their caterpillars eat, and it’s where the butterflies will lay their eggs. It’s critical for their life-cycle.
Milkweed has many varieties, many of which are native to Florida, which means it’s usually easier to grow. They are great for bright flower options that are sure to attract monarch butterflies— and your home buyers. Many do best with part or full sun exposure, although some can be adapted to shady locations.
Most will also do fine in our drier, sandy soils, although some prefer moist to wet soil conditions so be sure to read up on where you plant them. Varieties such as Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) may be your best best, although other native varieties can also be found. If you have dogs or cats just be cautious, as eating milkweed (or the caterpillars who eat it) can be toxic to them.
When shopping for milkweed locally, you will probably find plenty of Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) with it’s showy red, yellow and orange flowers. It’s readily available at most big stores and nurseries because it’s pretty and easy to grow here. However, this variety is non-native to Florida and can be considered harmful due to parasites, insecticides and it’s potential to disrupt natural migration patterns of the Monarch since it blooms here year round, so it’s advised to avoid it.
Locate a native nursery or butterfly garden store for the best options in our area.
2. Plant a Variety of Flowers
Saving monarch butterflies means making sure you have plenty for them to eat. Sure, the eggs and caterpillars need the milkweed, but the butterflies themselves enjoy nectar-rich flowers such as Joe Pye weed, lantana, liatris, echinacea, flowering sages, verbena, buddleja, monarda, rudbeckia, and yarrow.
3. Stay Away From Chemicals
This is actually why monarch butterflies are nearly endangered in the first place.
When your gardening in Florida, it’s easy to want to grab insecticides and pesticides to take care of your garden passively. Please don’t. On top of hurting the monarch butterfly’s natural habitat, these chemicals can be dangerous to your kids and your pets. Native plants simply do a better job without them, and is another great reason to implement Florida Friendly landscaping into your plan.
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Thanks for taking a moment to read our article! Maybe next time you’re in your Florida garden and you see a monarch butterfly, you will think of us. It may also mean you’re doing something right!
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