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 15 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.
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.)
Guidelines for Purchasing Milkweed Plants
Guidelines for Purchasing or Collecting Milkweed Seeds
Resources to Help You Find Milkweed Plants and Seeds to Purchase
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:
The Mission of the Contra Costa Resource Conservation District is to Facilitate Conservation and Stewardship of the Natural Resources in Contra Costa County.