The milky, bitter sap of Asclepias (Milkweed)is the essential ingredient that adult Monarch butterflies utilize to protect themselves from being eaten by birds and other insect predators. Planting Milkweed can contribute to the survival of the Monarch.
Beautify Your Garden and Landscape with Asclepias (Milkweed)
There is increasing interest within the gardening community regarding butterfly plants, particularly Milkweed, and the plight of the Monarch butterfly. Thank goodness for this. Replanting Milkweed and sowing Milkweed seeds in residential, farm, ranch, and community gardens will help to replenish populations of this plant genus lost to industrial agricultural practices. This is essential to creating a habitat for this beloved migratory butterfly species and to the Monarch's survival.
Like many butterfly and moth species, Monarch butterflies have very specific plant needs when it comes to feeding their caterpillars. Species of Asclepias (Milkweed) are the only plants on which Monarch caterpillars will feed. The milky, bitter sap of Asclepias is the essential ingredient that adult Monarch butterflies utilize to protect themselves from being eaten by birds and other insect predators.
Monarch butterflies have very specific plant needs when it comes to feeding their caterpillars, and Asclepiasspecies are the only plants on which Monarch caterpillars will feed.
Showy Pink Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is extremely cold hardy and tolerates wet and dry soil conditions.
Easy-to-Grow and Well-Adapted
Showy Pink Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is a widely distributed species in North America, with populations occurring over most of the western US and Canada. It is also one of the easiest Asclepias species to grow, especially for beginner gardeners.
Here are some advantages to planting Showy Pink Milkweed:
Well-adapted to most soil types (including clay)
Extremely cold hardy to USDA zone 3
Tolerates both dry and wet soil conditions
Naturalizes readily to provide even more caterpillar food and flower nectar
This plant is stoloniferous (spreads by underground roots) and, over time, will crowd out less vigorous perennials. I recommend that it be planted along fence lines, off to the side of vegetable beds, in rain gardens, along roadside ditches, and other semi-wild parts of your property rather than in the middle of your very best flower bed.
The Ideal Time for Planting Milkweed
Cold hardy Asclepias are great perennials to plant in the fall. Come spring, they are established and ready to host caterpillars on their leaves and feed adult butterflies with their flowers. Orange Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is an especially showy member of the genus. Fall is a wonderful time of the year to transplant this beauty and other Asclepias species. In addition to attracting butterflies, it will also attract other pollinators, such as beneficial native bees. That said, if you follow the planting tips below, Milkweed can also be successfully planted in spring.
Tips For Planting and Growing Milkweed
Carefully remove the Milkweed plant from its pot by loosening the pot from the rootball, placing your hand around the plant and turning it upside-down to slide the pot off the rootball. Don't tug at the stem, as you could damage it. Before planting, make sure to score the roots with a pocketknife, so they will spread out into the surrounding soil from the rootball. Asclepias need at least 6-8 hours of full sun to do their best. Pink-flowered Milkweed prefers more moisture and will do better in areas with higher rainfall, such as the eastern U.S. Orange-flowered Butterfly Weed does better in dryer areas, such as the western U.S. Water after planting and about three times a week until the plant gets established.
TIP: Asclepias (Milkweed) plants have a taproot. They cannot be divided and should not be transplanted once established, so pick a site in your garden where they can be enjoyed without being moved.
Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) is a gorgeous plant that produces purple/pink flower clusters that wildflower gardeners love and spreads quickly. This native perennial is a primary food source for the Monarch butterfly providing large leaves for caterpillars and big pink globe-like flowers that provide nectar for the adult butterflies. Planting it will help to support Monarch populations. Perennial.
‘Soulmate’ Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) lights up the mid-to-late summer garden with clusters of pink petals surrounding a white heart. This native star attracts and nourishes hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and pollinators of many shapes and sizes – especially Monarch butterflies. With a sweet vanilla scent, it’s deer and rabbit resistant. This easy-care plant brings as much pleasure to the gardener as it does to the pollinators in sunny borders and meadows with average-to-moist soil.
‘Ice Ballet’ Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) lights up the mid-summer garden with vanilla scented, pillowy clusters of snow-white flowers. Deep green foliage and white flowers that bloom from mid-summer to fall are the perfect backdrop for brightly colored butterflies that visit each summer. A pollinator-favorite, especially for Monarch butterflies, this easy-care milkweed is happy in a sunny spot with moist soil.
‘Hello Yellow’ Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a native, pollinator-friendly knock-out with cheerful butter-yellow flower clusters. Flowers will bloom in summer, and the rich green foliage is the perfect complement to the flowers. This low-maintenance perennial is drought tolerant once established, making it the perfect waterwise addition to a perennial garden border, meadow, or pollinator garden. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds all love butterfly weed, but deer stay away. Make your butterfly garden a destination with ‘Hello Yellow’!