Mostly native to the U.S. and Canada, Asclepias include over 100 species of evergreen or deciduous perennials adorned with clusters of small, interestingly shaped blooms that are irresistible to butterflies. Attractive and easy to grow, they shine in many perennial gardens and are a key component of butterfly gardens, cottage gardens, or prairies and meadows.
Often fragrant, the attractive flowers are a great source of nectar for butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other beneficial insects. Milkweed plants are critical to the monarch butterflies survival. Without Milkweed, monarchs cannot successfully reproduce and the species declines. In the last 20 years, the monarch butterfly population in North America has decreased by 90%. By planting milkweed in your own garden, you can help reverse the fortune of these beautiful insects!
1. Select The Right Site
- Best flowering usually occurs in full sun except for a few species such as Asclepias purpurascens (Purple Milkweed), which prefers partial shade.
- Soil conditions vary with the Milkweed variety. While light, well-drained soils are usually best, some species including Asclepia incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) and Asclepia sullivantii (Prairie Milkweed) thrive in moist conditions.
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2. Planting Milkweed
- Potted plants: plant them directly into the garden in spring after the danger of frost has passed.
- Seeds: plant your seeds directly into the soil in the fall. As an alternative, you can start your seeds indoors, 4-8 weeks before the average date of last frost. Use plastic flats or seedling trays. Fill them 3/4 with potting soil, scatter the seeds on the soil surface 1/2 in. apart (1 cm). Cover with 1/4 in. (0.5 cm) of soil mix. Water thoroughly and place them either in a sunny window or directly under the grow lights. Most seeds will germinate in 7-10 days if the flats are maintained at 75˚F (24˚C). After the seeds have germinated and are 3-6 in. tall, they are ready to be transplanted into your garden.
- Loosen the soil where you will be planting.
- Plant your seedlings 6-24 in. apart (15-60 cm) depending on the species. Water regularly. Add mulch around the seedlings to hold in the moisture and minimizes the growth of competing weeds.
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- Asclepia incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) needs evenly moist soils. Most other Milkweed species are suited to a dry environment.
- No fertilization needed.
- No division required.
- To avoid unwanted seedlings, remove all seed pods in early fall, before they split open and spread their seed.
- Click here to compare all Milkweed plants