Residential Gardeners

Information for Residential Gardeners

What Can We Do to Help Insect Pollinators?

Milkweeds to Plant in Contra Costa County

Milkweed is the monarch butterfly’s host plant, and it’s the only plant that monarchs lay their eggs on. Monarch caterpillars eat the latex-sap-containing milkweed leaves, which make the caterpillars unpalatable to predators. Milkweed is also an important nectar source for honey bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators.

There are 17 species of milkweed that are native to California. Of those milkweeds, the 3 species that are ideal to plant in Contra Costa County are featured below. You can help monarchs by planting these drought-tolerant native milkweed plants in your yard! Click on the photos below to see our Contra Costa County Milkweed Planting Guide. To learn more about these special plants, check out The Xerces Society’s guide to California’s native milkweeds.

Purchasing Milkweed to Plant in Contra Costa County

The Bay Area is fortunate to have dozens of nurseries that sell California native milkweed plants and seeds. That said, If you are looking to purchase milkweed with the intent to establish monarch habitat, there are several important factors to consider before selecting a nursery. You can help monarchs by doing your part to ensure that the milkweeds you buy are California natives; were not treated with Bt, neonicotinoids, or other pesticides; and were grown in a facility with phytosanitary practices in place. Taking these precautions will help ensure that the milkweed you plant has the best chance to thrive, will not harm monarchs or other pollinators, and will not spread diseases to plants or pollinators.

Currently, there are only a select few local nurseries that grow milkweeds that are appropriate for planting in our area, employ exemplary phytosanitary practices, and do not use pesticides. The combination of these factors means that the following nurseries can be considered “gold standard” vendors for milkweed plants that are ideal for establishing monarch habitat in Contra Costa County. (Just because a nursery is listed below does not guarantee the availability of milkweed—please contact the nursery to inquire about their current inventory.)

The Watershed Nursery
601 A Canal Blvd.
Richmond, CA 94804

You can read about the best management practices used at The Watershed Nursery here!

Native Here Nursery
101 Golf Course Drive
Tilden Regional Park
Berkeley, CA 94708

You can read about the best management practices used at Native Here Nursery here!

Guidelines for Purchasing Milkweed Plants

  • YES! Purchase California native milkweed species that are appropriate for your location and ideally, were locally sourced.
  • YES! Ask the nursery about their milkweed sourcing and growing practices to ensure their milkweed plants are pesticide and pathogen free. Below are some questions you can ask to gather information about a nursery’s milkweed plants.
  • ~ Where were the seeds of your milkweed plants collected? or, if the nursery did not grow the plants from seed, Where are your milkweed plants from? (If the latter question provides you with the name of another nursery/grower, be sure to ask that vendor the remainder of the questions in this list.)
  • ~ Have your milkweed plants been treated with Bt?
  • ~ Have your milkweed plants been treated with neonicotinoids (also known as “neo-nics”)?
  • ~ Have your milkweed plants been treated with pesticides of any kind?
  • ~ Do you use phytosanitary practices?

Guidelines for Purchasing or Collecting Milkweed Seeds

  • YES! Before purchasing milkweed seeds, ask the nursery or seed bank about their milkweed seed sourcing and production practices to ensure the seeds were collected responsibly and are pesticide free. Below are some questions you can ask to gather important information about a vendor’s milkweed seeds.
  • ~ Where were your milkweed seeds collected?
  • ~ Were the seeds collected responsibly?
  • ~ Were the seeds treated with neonicotinoids or other pesticides?
  • YES! Before collecting seeds, make a plan for responsible seed collection and successful seed germination.
  • More information about successful milkweed establishment can be found here.
  • YES! Before collecting milkweed seeds, please take the following precautions.
  • ~ Ask for permission to collect seeds from the landowner or land manager, and acquire a seed collection permit, if necessary. If you are unsure about whether you have permission to collect seeds, err on the side of caution and do not collect seeds.
  • ~ Properly identify the plant from which you intend to collect seed as a California native milkweed species.
  • ~ Consider the conditions of the location where the milkweed plants from which you intend to collect seed are growing, and consider where the collected seeds will be planted. The seeds you collect are likely to grow best in similar conditions to those where the mother plants were growing.
  • ~ Ensure that the milkweed seed pods are ripe and ready to harvest.
  • No! Do not collect seeds without permission.
  • No! Do not deplete wild plant populations by overharvesting seed. A recommended guideline is to collect no more than 20% of the seeds within a population on a given day.

Resources to Help You Find Milkweed Plants and Seeds to Purchase

Lawn Conversion Programs

Have you ever considered replacing your lawn with native plants? Not only are most native plants drought tolerant, but many are excellent for pollinators! Check out these programs and tools: