Free Milkweeds for Restoration Projects

Free milkweeds are available for habitat restoration projects in the Eastern and Western breeding range of the monarch butterfly. Please keep reading to see if your project qualifies for free milkweeds.

Monarch Watch and our partner nurseries have distributed over 839,000 free milkweeds for monarch butterfly habitat restoration since the program began in 2015. Thank you to our funding sources and everyone who has worked so hard to plant and care for these milkweeds!

This program focuses on distributing free milkweed plugs for large-scale habitat restoration projects throughout the breeding range of the eastern monarch butterfly population (east of the Rocky Mountains) and the western population in California. The focus is on the main migration routes.

For California, we currently have milkweed seed ecotypes for Northern, Central Valley North, Central Valley South, Coastal, and Southwestern California. Only projects in these areas will be eligible for free milkweeds.

Areas east of the Rockies that are NOT included in the program at this time are: Canada, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, most of Arkansas and Alabama, portions of North Carolina, and extreme east and west edges of Texas. For the states that are only partially covered, eligibility will be determined in the application process.

Funding Sources

  • Non-Profit
  • Corporate
  • Private


Free milkweeds are for large-scale (two acres or more, ¼ acre or more in California) native habitat restoration only. Habitat restoration is defined as the practice of renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats. Gardens or landscaped areas do not qualify as restoration and are not included in this grant. The portion of property where milkweed will be planted must meet the minimum acreage requirement. Roadsides and Trails are acceptable areas. Our recommendation for ideal monarch habitat is planting milkweed in patches of 3-4 plants, 10-13 patches per acre. Applicants must demonstrate that they have a land management plan, and that other nectar sources are either pre-existing or are included in the project. We recommend against planting large quantities of milkweed in a small area. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide all species listed.

Monarch Watch reserves the right to determine whether an applicant qualifies for free milkweed, based on the restrictions placed by the funding sources.

Recipients will be notified by email mid-March to mid-April, depending on their location. Fall recipients will be notified in September. The award email will include an invoice for shipping and handling charges, planting instructions, and other helpful information. Shipping will begin when the plants are mature enough for shipping. Shipping dates are dependent upon many variables, but usually begin around the end of April or beginning of May (early April in Texas).

Plug Specifications

Milkweed plugs are propagated in three types of flats, either 32-cell, 50-cell, or 58-cell flats. The minimum award is four flats (one flat in California). The amount of the award is dependent on funding, supply and demand, and our goal to distribute milkweeds widely across the entire Monarch Milkweed Corridors. Recipients should consider the time and effort it takes to plant and provide initial care for large numbers of plugs, including watering. Requests for more than 2,000 plants will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Recipients will be responsible for shipping and handling costs, which are modest compared the value of the plants. For most shipments, four flats cost $40-$80 to ship via UPS or FedEx Ground, (20-40 cents per plant).

Freight charges for pallets vary by carrier and distance travelled, but are usually in line with the UPS rates.

Orders will be shipped UPS Ground on Monday or Tuesday, in order to arrive before the weekend.

Large quantities (2,000+ plants) will be palletized and shipped via freight or on racks in nursery trucks. A dock and pallet jack or forklift will need to be available at the delivery address.

Species Available

Recipients will receive plants grown without the use of chemicals that will harm caterpillars, from seed collected within their ecoregion. The species offered will depend on seed availability. The following is a generalized list of species typically available to Monarch Watch in various regions. Monarch Watch only distributes plants that are considered native to the recipient’s location. For example, we would not distribute Asclepias asperula to N.E. Oklahoma, because it is not found there naturally. A. viridis would be appropriate. (This is not a list of all of the native plants found in each of those regions.)

Midwest species:
Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed)
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed)
Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed)

Texas/Oklahoma species:
Asclepias asperula (Antelopehorn Milkweed, Spider Milkweed)
Asclepias viridis (Green Antelopehorn Milkweed)
Asclepias oenotheroides (Zizotes Milkweed)

Midgrass and short grass prairie species:
Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)
Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed)

California species:
Asclepias fascicularis (Narrowleaf Milkweed)
Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)

Milkweed Images

Images of most of these species can be found in our Milkweed Profiles


Please read the guidelines above before proceeding to the Free Milkweed for Restoration Projects Application.


If you wish to donate a monetary amount to Monarch Watch, please visit Donate to Monarch Watch.

Monarch Watch uses donated and purchased milkweed seed. If you wish to donate seed collected from wild populations of milkweed, see Seed Collecting and Donating.