Free milkweeds are available for habitat restoration projects in the Eastern and Western 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 650,000 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 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 the Central Valley and Southern 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, South Carolina, Georgia, 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.
- Non-ProfitNon-Profit FundingThrough a grant from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 100,000 free milkweeds for restoration projects were distributed 2016-2017 by Monarch Watch and our partner nurseries. Monarch Watch used 22.3% for administrative costs and 77.7% to pay the nurseries for the plants.
- CorporateCorporate FundingSince Fall 2015, over 500,000 free milkweeds have been distributed by Monarch Watch and our partner nurseries for habitat restoration projects, thanks to a grant from Bayer, formerly Monsanto. Bayer pays the nurseries directly for the plants and Monarch Watch receives a percentage of the grant for administrative costs. For more information on the company’s monarch program please see: "Reviving Habitats for North America’s Iconic Monarch Butterfly"
- PrivatePrivate FundingSeveral anonymous sources provide funding for free milkweeds for restoration.
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). Fall shipping will be September-October.
Milkweed plugs are propagated in two types of flats, either 32-cell flats with a shallow well or 50-cell flats with a deep well. 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.
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.)
Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed)
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed)
Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed)
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)
Asclepias fascicularis (Narrowleaf Milkweed)
Images of most of these species can be found in our Milkweed Profiles
Please read the guidelines above before proceeding to the 2022 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.