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Want to grow milkweed to help monarch butterflies? Make sure you grow the best type of milkweed for your location. Learn more now at Gardener’s Path. Discover a wide variety of milkweed plants to attract adult butterflies, monarch caterpillars bees, hummingbirds, moths. Milkweed plants and seed vendors list. Butterfly Milkweed is a brilliant orange butterfly magnet. A must-have in every butterfly garden – Monarch butterflies cannot survive without milkweed.

Give Them the Royal Treatment: 15 of the Best Types of Milkweed for Monarch Butterflies

If you have decided to grow milkweed to help monarch butterflies on their migratory routes, let me join our fluttery orange friends in thanking you!

Since milkweeds are larval host plants for monarchs, increased plantings of these wildflowers will help populations of these regal butterflies in their efforts to make their grand migrations, a phenomenon which is in peril.

Now you just need to pick the best species for your area, since all milkweeds are not equal in the eyes (or tastebuds) of our black and orange buddies.

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) depend on regionally available native milkweed species for food as they make their long trek.

So, if you don’t plant native species, the monarchs’ migratory pattern might be interrupted, causing harm to these winsome creatures. I’ll explain more about this just a little later.

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In this article, I’m going to give you an overview of 15 types of milkweed that are important to monarch butterflies, so that you can find the best species for your region.

You’ll find at least one species that will work for you no matter where you are in the continental US, as well as some options for Canadian gardeners.

I’ll also mention one species that is well-suited for Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of South America.

In addition to the plants’ native regions, I’ll provide information on USDA Hardiness Zones, soil, light, and water needs, to help you pick the best one not just for your region, but for your specific growing conditions as well.

You’ll learn what to expect from these plants in terms of height, foliage, and flower color – as well as tips on where to find seeds when they are commercially available – and ideas on how to use these native plants in the landscape.

Here’s a sneak peek of the recommended Asclepias species list:

15 of the Best Types of Milkweed for Monarchs

But first, let’s look at one species you should avoid if you live in the US or Canada.

Native to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America, A. curassavica can also be found growing wild in Florida, Texas, California, and Louisiana, where it is a non-native, introduced species.

Also known as “bloodflower,” “sunset flower,” or “tropical milkweed,” this plant has very brightly colored, striking flowers that are red and yellow.

There are a couple of reasons you’ll want to avoid this plant when growing milkweeds for monarchs in the United States or Canada.

Here’s what the research says:

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Dara Satterfield and colleagues explain that this plant discourages migration in monarchs, and puts these butterflies at a higher risk of being infected by parasites.

These two consequences of planting bloodflower outside of its native regions make the plant a potential detriment to the overall health of monarch butterfly populations.

If you already have bloodflower in your yard, Satterfield and her co-researchers recommend cutting back these plants to about six inches every fall (unless they die back on their own), and eventually replacing them with species native to your region.

In regions where this plant is native (such as Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America), bloodflower does not cause a problem for monarchs and can be grown safely.

In the US and Canada, however, it’s best to look for suitable alternatives – you’re about to discover fifteen of them!

1. A. asperula

Our first selection goes by the common name “antelope horns.”

A. asperula is also known as “antelopehorn milkweed,” “spider antelopehorns,” “green-flowered milkweed,” and “spider milkweed.”

This species is native to the southwestern and south-central US, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, California, and Nevada.

Antelope horns is hardy in Zones 7 to 9.

This plant can have a sprawling or upright growth habit, with stems reaching one to two feet in length. Leaves are narrow and often folded in half lengthwise.

If you’re a fan of green flowers, you’ll want to have a good look at this selection. The ball-shaped inflorescences of this species are greenish yellow tinged with maroon, and they bloom from April through June.

A. asperula has very low water requirements once established, and in the wild it is typically found growing in desert areas.

It requires full sun and thrives in well-drained soils, including sand, clay, caliche, and loam.

This species would make a fascinating specimen in a xeriscaped garden.

In addition to monarchs, A. asperula is also a larval host for queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus).

If antelope horns seems like the right species for your region and growing conditions, you’ll find packs of 10 seeds from Buy Rare Seeds via Amazon.

2. A. cordifolia

Our next suggestion is one that might be considered particularly heartfelt.

A. cordifolia is commonly known as “heartleaf milkweed” – like its common name, its species name “cordifolia” also refers to its heart-shaped leaves.

This species is native to the West Coast of the US, including California, Nevada, and Oregon, and is hardy in Zones 7 to 10.

A. cordifolia is sometimes also called “purple milkweed” but is not to be confused with A. purpurascens, which is also referred to by that same common name.

Blooming in spring and summer, A. cordifolia produces clusters of reddish-purple flowers that are held in a loose panicle.

Upright plants reach one to two feet tall, and their heart-shaped leaves are blue-green in color, and tinged with purple.

Requiring very little water, this plant can grow in full sun to part shade. It grows well in rocky soils or those containing decomposed granite.

This species is a larval host for monarch and queen butterflies, as well as Isabella tiger moths (Pyrrharctia isabella) and Clio tiger moths (Ectypia clio).

If you have a rocky slope in need of planting, A. cordifolia would be an excellent plant to consider.

Is your heart set on bringing this plant into your very own native plant landscape?

If so, you can find A. cordifolia available for purchase in packs of five seeds from PAPCOOL via Amazon.

3. A. eriocarpa

Our next selection may make you want to reach out and touch it.

A. eriocarpa is known for its wooly seed pods, which give it its common name, “woolypod milkweed,” as well as its species name, “eriocarpa.”

Hardy in Zones 7 to 10 and native to California, Nevada, and Baja Mexico, this species is also known as “kotolo” or “Indian milkweed.”

This plant was used for fiber and medicine by native Americans such as the Ohlone and Luiseno peoples.

Increasing the tactile interest of this plant, the wavy foliage of A. eriocarpa is often coated in white hairs, giving it a silvery appearance. Leaves are oval or lance-shaped, and arranged in pairs or whorls.

Blooming from May through October, this plant holds pink and white or cream flowers aloft on upright stalks that reach one and a half to three feet tall.

Woolypod milkweed requires full sun and tends to grow in dry areas. It is very adaptable regarding soil, growing in many different types of soil, including clay.

This species is drought tolerant and has very low water needs once established.

In addition to being a larval host to both monarch and queen butterflies, it is also a host to Isabella tiger moths and Clio tiger moths.

In the landscape, this species can be used as a specimen or for mass plantings.

Ready to get your tactile appreciation on? You’ll find A. eriocarpa seeds available for purchase in packs of 10 seeds from Buy Rare Seeds via Amazon.

4. A. erosa

Our fourth selection is a true desert dweller.

Another western native, A. erosa also goes by the common name “desert milkweed.”

This species is hardy in Zones 4 to 10. Its native habitat is the desert southwest, specifically southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and northern Baja California.

This plant has an upright growth habit and grows to be one to three feet in height, with pale silvery green to dark green leaves.

Ball-shaped flower clusters are greenish yellow, pale yellow, or cream colored, and appear in spring, summer, and fall.

As its common name suggests, this is a desert plant. It has very low water requirements and thrives in dry locations with little organic matter.

Desert milkweed requires full sun and grows best in soils consisting of granite, sand, or lean clay.

A. erosa can be used in xeriscapes, on mountain slopes, and in disturbed soils. It serves as a host to monarch and queen butterflies as well as Clio tiger moths.

5. A. exaltata

With this next selection, we are leaving arid lands behind for now and heading east to more clement conditions.

Known as “tall milkweed,” A. exaltata is native to eastern North America.

In the US, it ranges from Maine south to Georgia and Alabama, and west to Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota. In Canada, it is native to Ontario and Quebec.

A. exaltata is hardy in Zones 4 to 7.

It has an upright growth habit and can grow to be up to five feet tall. Its green leaves are elliptical and pointed, with a smooth top side and a hairy underside.

With its leaves and its tall stature, it bears some resemblance to pokeweed, giving this species another common name, “poke milkweed.”

Rather than holding its flowers in dense, upright spheres like some Asclepias species, A. exaltata has open clusters of white and lavender flowers that hang delicately from the inflorescence, blooming from May through August.

A. exaltata has moderate moisture requirements and grows best in part shade. This species needs soil that is rich in organic matter and does well when grown at forest edges, so it would be well placed at the edge of a natural area.

In addition to its importance for monarchs, A. exaltata is also beneficial for dogbane tiger moths or delicate cycnia (Cycnia tenera) and the unexpected cycnia (Cycnia inopinatus).

Does this plant make you feel exalted? You’ll find A. exaltata available for purchase in packs of ten seeds from Buy Rare Seeds via Amazon.

6. A. fascicularis

Our sixth selection takes a departure from the most well-known appearance of the Asclepias genus with its stout stems and large, well-spaced leaves – this one is quite delicate looking.

A. fascicularis, otherwise known as “narrowleaf milkweed,” is native to parts of the western US, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in particular.

Also known as “Mexican whorled milkweed,” this species is hardy in Zones 6 to 10.

The plant reaches 20 to 40 inches tall with an upright growth habit, and a wispy appearance due to its narrow leaves. The long, narrow leaves are pointed, and green to grayish-green in color.

The flower heads are soft pink, with individual flowers that are pink and white, blooming from June to September.

The seed pods are smooth, narrow, and tapered. These can be removed before they split to prevent the growth of unwanted volunteers.

A. fascicularis is extremely drought tolerant and can grow without additional irrigation in xeric gardens after it’s established, though it will also tolerate moist soils.

This species requires full sun, and grows well in clay soils and on slopes.

In addition to its importance to monarch butterflies, A. fascicularis is also a host to queen butterflies, Isabella tiger moths, Clio tiger moths, and hitched arches moths (Melanchra adjuncta).

Native bees and honeybees also forage from this species.

Due to its tendency to spread, A. fascicularis would be best used where its expansiveness will be a boon rather than a burden, such as in a naturalized planting.

Fancy some delicacy in your West Coast native garden? You’ll find narrowleaf milkweed seeds available for purchase in packs of 150 milligrams at Botanical Interests.

7. A. humistrata

It seems there is a milkweed for every different ecological niche, and this next one evolved in sandhill habitats dominated by longleaf pines.

Sandhill milkweed, or A. humistrata, is native to the southeastern United States, in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana in particular.

This species is hardy in Zones 8a through 9b.

Also called “pinewoods milkweed,” this plant can have either an upright or a sprawling growth habit. Its broad leaves are green with a purple tinge and lavender veins. Stems grow to a length of one to three feet.

The flower clusters are a soft shade of creamy pink or purple, blooming from March through June.

A. humistrata does best in full sun but can tolerate some light shade as well.

In its native habitat it grows in dry, sandy soils, and is tolerant of very hot and dry conditions.

It is a larval host for monarch and queen butterflies, and is also attractive to native bees.

Ranger Scott Davis at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida says this species may be the most important variety for monarchs in the southeast because its bloom time syncs up well with the arrival of monarchs to the region.

A. humistrata can be used in naturalized plantings and will do well in hot, dry roadside conditions if soil conditions are met.

8. A. incarnata

As I was saying, there’s an Asclepias adapted to seemingly every habitat type, even swamps.

Meet A. incarnata, more commonly known as “swamp milkweed.”

This species is very widespread, native to most of eastern Canada as well as most of the US, with the exception of Oregon, Washington, California, and Mississippi. This plant is hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

Also known as “rose milkweed,” “swamp butterflyweed,” and “pink milkweed,” A. incarnata can reach up to five feet tall.

This plant’s foliage is light green with narrow, lance-shaped leaves. These plants can take on a bushy appearance, as they are able to grow multiple stems from the same root crown.

A. incarnata blooms from mid-spring until early fall. Its showy flower clusters are pink, varying in hue from dusty rose to deep pink or reddish purple. White varieties are also available.

Swamp milkweed has smooth, narrow, tapered seed pods.

Unlike many other Asclepias species, this one is not tolerant of hot or dry conditions.

As its common name suggests, A. incarnata grows best in soils that are wet to moist. It also requires soil with lots of organic matter.

In the wild, it often grows in sunny openings in wet habitats, so give this plant full sun or part shade.

This plant is a larval host to both monarch and queen butterflies, and is an excellent source of forage for honeybees and native bees.

Moisture-loving A. incarnata can be used near ponds or in wetland gardens.

Ready to grow your own swamp thing? You’ll find pink swamp milkweed seeds available for purchase in your choice of package sizes at Eden Brothers.

Or if you prefer the white variety – or some of each – seeds for these are also available at Eden Brothers.

9. A. perennis

Moving from wet to wetter, we come to our next selection, A. perennis, commonly called “aquatic milkweed.”

This short-lived perennial is native to coastal areas of the southeastern US and into the Ohio valley, including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri.

Hardy in Zones 8a to 10b, this species is also sometimes called “white swamp milkweed,” but it is not to be confused with the white variety of A. incarnata discussed above.

The stems of aquatic milkweed are purplish green with medium green leaves, and the plant grows from one to three feet tall.

Blooming from May through September, buds have a pink tint, opening to white. Flowers are held aloft in delicate umbels.

Unlike other species native to the US, aquatic milkweed seed pods lack the hairy “silk” that helps with seed dispersal, since its seeds are transported by water rather than wind.

A. perennis requires partial shade, and soils that are moist or wet.

This wetland species is a larval host to monarch, queen, and soldier or tropical queen butterflies (Danaus eresimus).

Aquatic milkweed can be used in bog gardens, near ponds, or in other wet areas.

You’ll find A. perennis seeds available for purchase in packs of five seeds from Jocadew via Amazon.

10. A. purpurascens

If the rock star Prince were still with us, this would be the milkweed he would choose – and as luck would have it, it is native to his home state of Minnesota.

Commonly called “purple milkweed,” in addition to Wisconsin, A. purpurascens is native to much of central and eastern North America, and is hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

These plants reach two to three feet tall. Their leaves are broadly oval shaped and pointed, and green with central leaf veins that are purple in color.

Blooming from May through July, this species has intensely colored rose pink to reddish-purple flowers held in a dense, rounded umbel.

A. purpurascens is drought tolerant and can grow in dry to medium moisture conditions. It grows best in part shade, but can grow in full sun if provided with more water.

This plant is adaptable to various soil types, as long as the soil is well-draining.

In addition to being a larval host for monarchs, this plant is also an important source of forage for other native pollinators and honeybees.

Purple milkweed can be put to good use in butterfly gardens, natural areas, meadows, or prairies.

This plant is endangered in some states. When procuring seeds, make sure to source them from an ethical seed source.

11. A. speciosa

Our next selection is a rare gem, a plant that thrives in the arid west while being graced with big, showy blooms.

Aptly named, showy milkweed, also known as A. speciosa, is a widespread species that is native to western and central North America and hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

Plants are upright with stout stems, and typically grow two to four feet tall, occasionally reaching six feet in height. Foliage is green to silvery green, and the leaves are oval shaped.

Blooming from June through July, showy milkweed has large pink and white, ball-shaped flower heads.

This species requires full sun but will adapt to different soil and water conditions, as long as the soil drains well. Showy milkweed is very drought tolerant once established.

A monarch caterpillar feeds on an A. speciosa leaf. Photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Wikimedia Commons, via CC BY-SA.

Seed pods are large and often have a spiny or warty texture.

A. speciosa will spread via rhizomes or seeds, but it doesn’t spread as aggressively as its relative, common milkweed.

In the wild, this species grows in savannahs and prairies; in the landscape, try using it in butterfly gardens, bird gardens, prairies, meadows, borders, and natural areas. Showy milkweed is striking when used in a mass planting.

This plant is an important larval host for monarchs, as well as being an important source of forage for honeybees, bumblebees, and other native bee species.

Make this plant part of your garden spectacle – you’ll find A. speciosa seeds available for purchase in 150-milligram packs at Botanical Interests.

12. A. syriaca

If you were smitten by the showy blooms of A. speciosa but live outside of its native range, don’t worry, our next selection is its eastern counterpart.

Common milkweed, or A. syriaca, is hardy in Zones 3 to 9, and is native to all parts of the eastern and central US with the exception of Florida.

Upright plants can reach up to six feet tall and have stout stems, with leaves that are light to dark green on top with lighter green undersides. Leaf shapes are variable for this species and can be lance-shaped, oval, oblong, or elliptical.

Blooming from June to August, fragrant clusters of pink or purple flowers are ball-shaped, and droop slightly on their stems.

The seed pods of this species are large and can be warty or spiny.

Common milkweed has a very deep taproot, which can make transplanting live specimens difficult. However, that same deep taproot makes this plant very drought tolerant and allows it to grow well in dry soil, though it also thrives with moderate moisture.

A. syriaca grows best in full sun but will tolerate some light shade. It requires good drainage, and can easily grow in poor soil, as evidenced by its tendency to grow in disturbed areas.

A historically widespread species in the eastern US, this species is an important larval host and source of forage for monarch butterflies.

It produces nectar 24 hours a day so it is also a tremendous source of forage for many other types of butterflies and moths, as well as honeybees, bumblebees, and other native bees.

Because of its tendency to spread, A. syriaca is best used in naturalized plantings, such as butterfly gardens, meadows, prairies, or natural areas. It can grow into colonies, creating a very large clump of flowers.

It may be called “common,” but even common things can be extraordinary.

To add this wonderful wildflower to your landscape, you’ll find both conventionally grown and organic common milkweed seeds for purchase in packs of 150 milligrams at Botanical Interests.

13. A. tuberosa

If you’re starting to think that all of these selections are very nice, but you were hoping for an option with a brighter color, you’re about to have your wishes come true.

This selection is very much a US native, but one that has a very tropical appearance.

Along with A. speciosa and A. syriaca, A. tuberosa is one of the most wide-ranging plants in the Asclepias genus, making it a significant plant for our monarch friends in a large part of the US.

Commonly called “butterflyweed” (or “butterfly weed” written as two words), A. tuberosa is hardy in Zones 3 through 9, and is native to most of the eastern two-thirds of the United States, with a range that stretches from the East Coast westward to Minnesota, the Dakotas, Utah, and Arizona.

This Asclepias is also known by many other common names, including “butterfly milkweed,” “orange milkweed,” “pleurisy root,” and “chigger flower.”

Blooming from May through September, this species’ showy, flat-topped clusters of flowers are a brilliant reddish orange. Naturally occurring yellow varieties also exist.

Butterflyweed grows to be one to three feet tall, and has dark green leaves that are narrow and tapered. These plants can produce multiple stems from the same root crown.

Happy to grow in full sun or part shade, A. speciosa is drought tolerant once established and has low water needs.

As long as the soil is well-drained, butterflyweed can grow in many soil types, including sand, loam, clay, or limestone. It can thrive in soil that is dry to moderately moist, as long as the drainage requirement is met.

These can be mass planted to create striking orange drifts of color in the landscape, or they can be scattered for an occasional burst of color. Butterflyweed is great for use in borders, on slopes, and in meadows, prairies, or natural areas.

Butterflyweed is a larval host to monarch, queen, and gray hairstreak butterflies (Strymon melinus).

This plant is also an important source of forage for other pollinators.

Unique among Asclepias, A. speciosa lacks the milky sap that gives this genus its common name.

No one ever said monarch-friendly plants couldn’t look like exotic tropicals, and this species is evidence of that.

If you’re on board with these bright blooms, you’ll find organic butterflyweed seeds available for purchase in packs of 150 milligrams at Botanical Interests.

And if you’d like to try a naturally occurring yellow variety of this species, ‘Hello Yellow’ is also available at Botanical Interests.

14. A. verticillata

If you were excited about the wispy selection mentioned above, the fascinating A. fascicularis, but were disappointed to discover its narrow native range, chances are this one will find a well-suited home in your habitat.

Commonly called “whorled milkweed,” “horsetail milkweed,” or “Eastern whorled milkweed,” A. verticillata is native to most of the Eastern two-thirds of the US, from Vermont south to Florida, and west to Arizona, Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana. In Canada, whorled milkweed is native to the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan.

A. verticillata is hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

This plant is very wispy, with medium-green, needle-like leaves that are whorled around the stems, giving this species its common name. Plants grow to be one to two and a half feet tall.

From April through September, white blooms appear in small, flat-topped clusters.

This woodland species grows well in soil that has a low to medium moisture content, and it can thrive in full sun or part shade.

A. verticillata requires well-drained soil and can tolerate the richer type of soil typically found in gardens, but it does best in sandy loam.

This larval host for monarchs also attracts other butterflies, such as swallowtails (species in the Papilionidae family), as well as honeybees, bumblebees, and other types of native bees.

A. verticillata has a delicate appearance with its small flowers and wispy foliage, and can work well as a filler in naturalized plantings.

You’ll find whorled milkweed available for purchase in packs of 100 seeds from Everwilde Farms via Amazon.

15. A. viridis

We come now to our last selection, a plant that may give you a feeling of déjà vu – or the notion of arriving at a bookend – since it shares some commonalities with our first selection, and the two even overlap in their native ranges.

Like antelope horns mentioned above, A. viridis is sometimes called “green-flowered milkweed.” And like that plant, its blooms have a greenish tint, giving it its most common name, “green milkweed.”

Also like antelope horns, A. viridis is sometimes called “spider milkweed,” since crab spiders (species in the Thomisidae family) like to hunt on its flowers.

And adding to the potential confusion when trying to ID and differentiate these two plants, green milkweed is also called “green antelope horn” for the shape of its seed pods. I assure you though, these are two separate species!

A. viridis is hardy in Zones 5 to 9, and is native to the central and eastern central US, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

Plants reach one and a half to two and a half feet tall and have a spreading, open growth habit, bearing medium-green, oval- to lance-shaped leaves. The margins of these leaves are sometimes wavy.

Blooming from May to July, flowers are pale green with rose or purple centers. The flowers are held in irregular clusters, and there is usually just one cluster per plant.

Green milkweed is drought tolerant and can thrive in soil that has a low to medium moisture content.

This plant requires full sun and well-drained soil. However, soil quality can range from rich to poor – either way, it will make itself at home.

A. viridis will self-seed, so plant it somewhere where you’ll be happy to see it spreading. Otherwise, seed pods can be removed before they have a chance to spread.

Is this green-flowered beauty the one you need? If so, you’ll find green milkweed seeds available for purchase in an array of pack sizes from Everwilde Farms via Amazon.

A Royal Choice Among Wildflowers

Now that we have covered the map of the US (and beyond!) with different milkweed species, all that remains is for you to note the best plants for your location and your growing conditions – and make your royal choice!

Which type of milkweed are you going to grow? Let us know in the comments section below.

Do you need help identifying a species of milkweed? If so, be sure to post a photo and let us know what region you are in.

If you’ve observed any monarchs on your milkweeds, we’d love to hear about this too. The more monarchs the merrier!

And for more information about growing milkweed in your garden, check out these guides next:

Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Botanical Interests, Buy Rare Seeds, Eden Brothers, Everwilde Farms, Jocadew, and PAPCOOL. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

30 Milkweed Plants: List to Attract Monarchs and More

Milkweed Plant Ideas for Monarch Caterpillars, Butterflies and Pollinators

One of the best ways to see monarch butterflies is by enticing expectant mothers to lay eggs on your milkweed plants. There are over 100 species of milkweed in North America and these are some of the best ones for your butterfly garden. Try planting several varieties to increase your odds of seeing (and supporting) magnificent monarchs…

For most in the US and Canada, the best time to find monarch eggs on milkweed leaves is June through August, while adult butterflies can be seen from April through October.

Here are 30 varieties of this herbaceous perennial to consider for your butterfly garden…

If your state is in a milkweed species’ native region, conditions are typically favorable for growing healthy plants. Research potential issues for your area before planting non-native milkweed.

Click on any of the underlined green links below to buy milkweed plants or seeds for your butterfly garden…or to share the gift of monarchs with friends and family. Look up your USDA plant hardiness zone by clicking here

Asclepias asperula (antelope horns)

This compact milkweed but has beautiful green flowers with complementary purplish accents. It has narrow leaves and is native to the western half of the US. Can be grown in full sun to partial shade and adapts to wet or dry soils.

native plant region: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma Texas

perennial region: USDA plant hardiness zones 7a-9a

Asclepias cordifolia (heartleaf milkweed)

The other purple milkweed is aptly named for it heart-shaped leaves. The deep-purple flower petals are contrasted beautifully by a light pink corona. This milkweed grows up to two feet and prefers a rockier soil.

native plant region: California, Nevada, Oregon

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 7a-10b

Asclepias cryptoceras (pallid milkweed)

There is not a lot of info available on this rare western native. It is a compact milkweed species growing 1-3′. It boasts showy green flowers with contrasting purple centers. It prefers dry, sandy soils. It actually survived one Minnesota winter and curious to see if it comes back this season. If you have experience growing this variety, please post a comment at the bottom of this page.

native plant region: Arizona, Idaho, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 6a-10b (‘Davis’ var. possibly hardy to zone 4)

Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed)

This beautiful, well-behaved asclepias is a favorite of both gardeners and monarchs alike. With an early start in northern regions (or if you buy plants) tropical milkweed can serve as a popular host plant and nectar flower for monarchs hummingbirds, and bees all season long. More Tropical Milkweed Info

There are currently studies taking place to assess the negative impact tropical milkweed could have on monarch health and their migratory behavior. Discover how to grow tropical milkweed safely for monarch butterflies.

perennial region: Can be grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 and up. Grow as an annual or overwinter in colder zones.

Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed ‘silky gold’)

perennial region: Can be grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 and up. Grow as an annual or overwinter in colder zones.

Asclepias eriocarpa (Indian or woolly pod milkweed)

This species has pink and white flowers with fuzzy leaves. Both a host plant and nectar flower for monarch butterflies on the West Coast. Drought tolerant.

native plant region: California

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 6a?-9b

Asclepias exaltata (poke milkweed)

This species can be grown in partial shade and exhibits vigorous growth in moist soils similar to swamp milkweed. It’s fragrant white flowers weep elegantly toward the ground. Discover the dirty details of this under-utilized garden milkweed by clicking here.

native plant region US: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

native region Canada: Ontario, Quebec

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 3a-7b

Asclepias fascicularis (narrowleaf milkweed)

An easy-to-grow Western milkweed with pink/white blooms and skinny leaves. Narrowleaf milkweed grows in a wide range of soil conditions from garden soil to clay. Very drought tolerant, but can also survive seasonal flooding.

native plant region: California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 6a-10b

Asclepias hirtella (tall green milkweed)

Tall green milkweed is not commonly grown in gardens, but can be found in prairies, meadows, and wildflower fields. It prefers full sun and can be grown in a wide range of soil conditions.

Its elongated blooms are white with a tinge of purple at the base. They attract butterflies and a variety of beneficial bees. This milkweed species grows up to 4 feet tall.

Hirtella is also a host plant for monarch caterpillars. Approach this variety with a sense of adventure for the garden…

native plant region US: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin

native region Canada: Ontario

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 4-9

Asclepias humistrata (pinewoods or sandhill milkweed)

A Southeastern milkweed with a somewhat serpentine growth habit. The leaves are distinctively purple-veined and the flowers are white with a hint of purple. Sandhill milkweed grows well in dry or sandy soils, and tops out around 3 feet tall. A. humistrata is a monarch host plant and the flowers are popular with pollinators.

native plant region: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 8a and Up

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

A favorite summer nectar source of the monarch and also a good host plant for caterpillars. The blooms are also popular with other butterfly species and beneficial pollinators. Click the following link for more swamp milkweed info.

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native plant region US: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

native region Canada: Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 3a-8b

Asclepias incarnata (‘ice ballet’ swamp milkweed)

A beautiful white-flowered cultivar of Asclepias incarnata. It’s slightly shorter than the original growing between 3-4 feet. It’s mildly fragrant and serves as a nectar plant for many butterflies and a host plant for monarchs. Grow as a companion plant with the traditional pink variety to attract more monarchs.

native plant region US: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

native region Canada: Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 3a-8b

Asclepias linaria (pineneedle milkweed)

This southwestern desert milkweed has narrow pine-like leaves. Amazingly, it’s still a host plant for both monarch caterpillars and their cousins, the queen caterpillars. It’s drought tolerant and grows wild on rocky slopes, deserts, and mesas. It is growing in popularity with western gardeners. The white blooms also provide nectar to honey bees and bumble bees from spring through late summer.

native plant region: Arizona, California, New Mexico

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 9-10

Asclepias ovalifolia (oval-leaf milkweed)

Oval-leaved milkweed is named for its oval-shaped leaves. It grows on a single stalk and blooms in late spring and early summer. This dwarf milkweed prefers sandy and/or well-drained soil. There isn’t much info about this milkweed species in a garden setting, so plant it as a supplemental milkweed to accompany more tried and true varieties.

native plant region US: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming

native region Canada: All

perennial region: ??

Asclepias perennis (aquatic milkweed)

Aquatic milkweed can be grown in sun to partial shade and prefers moist soils like swamp milkweed. It has white flowers and blooms repeatedly throughout the season. It’s a great pollinator plant for bees and a preferred native milkweed for monarch caterpillars because the leaves stay viable throughout the season.

This 2-3 ft. white milkweed adjusts well to container life.

native plant region US: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 6a-9b

Asclepias purpurascens (purple milkweed)

Purpurascens is similar in appearance to common milkweed, but the blooms are a deeper purple color and this species won’t take over your garden with aggressive rhizomes and seeding. Learn more about this rare milkweed variety on our purple milkweed page.

native plant region US: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

native region Canada: Ontario

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 3a-9b

Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed)

This species has flowers that resemble a cluster of brilliant pink stars. It does spread through underground rhizomes, but is not reported to be an aggressive spreader. It attracts both bees and butterflies. Click here for more info on speciosa

native plant region US: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming

native region Canada: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 3a-9b

Asclepias sullivantii (prairie milkweed)

Another common milkweed imitator with slightly smaller flowers, smooth leaves, and a less invasive growth habit. A milkweed variety for the midwest.

Click here for more photos and info about prairie milkweed

native plant region US: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin

native region Canada: Manitoba

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 4a-9b

Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)

This milkweed species is vital for early generations of monarchs. It’s provides a bounty of thick, green foliage for growing monarch caterpillars from spring through mid-summer. Though it can be invasive, there are ways to make it behave in your garden that are very effective. Visit the common milkweed page for more info.

native plant region US: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

native region Canada: Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 4a-9b

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed)

A hardy orange-flowered perennial that is reported to be a popular nectar plant with many butterfly species. Unlike other milkweed species, Asclepias tuberosa leaves don’t have milky sap.

It is also a less frequently used host plant for monarch caterpillars growing through the butterfly life cycle. Find out more on our butterfly weed plant page.

native plant region US: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

native region Canada: Ontario, Quebec

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 3a-9b

Asclepias tuberosa (‘hello yellow’ butterfly weed)

‘Hello yellow’ is a yellow-flowered native cultivar of Asclepias tuberosa. I’m still gathering reports from gardeners on this variety so try a patch or mix some in with your regular butterfly weed and monitor to see how this variety measures up in your butterfly garden.

native plant region US: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

native region Canada: Ontario, Quebec

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 3a-9b

Asclepias variegata (redring milkweed)

A rare beauty indeed. This milkweed earns it nickname from the reddish/purple contrasting rings that surround each white flower. Some gardeners have reported more success growing Asclepias variegata in dry areas with partial shade. Unfortunately, this variety is stingy with its seeds, so buy some if you get the opportunity!

native plant region US: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia

native region Canada: Ontario

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 3a-9b

Asclepias verticillata (whorled milkweed)

This is reported to be a host and white-flowered nectar plant. Don’t rely on it as your main milkweed source for caterpillars, or you may run out of milkweed by mid-season. Whorled blooms later in than season most other native milkweed, bursting forth with snow white blooms between July and September. Nectar source for bees and wasps.

native plant region US: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

native region Canada: Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 3a-9b

Asclepias viridis (spider milkweed)

An early season milkweed with compact growth that could be integrated as a border plant for taller milkweed species or nectar flowers.

native plant region: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 4b-9b

Calotropis gigantea (giant milkweed)

The crown flower can grow over 8 feet. It is only cold hard to USDA zone 10, but can be overwintered in colder zones. If you’re in zones 8-9 a good mulching might get your plants through the winter. Click here to learn more about giant milkweed.

perennial region: Can be grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 10 and up. Grow as an annual or overwinter in colder zones. Commonly grown in Hawaii and south Florida.

Calotropis procera (milkweed tree)

A rare exotic milkweed that is beginning to make a presence in North America. It is a host plant that can feed lots of caterpillars, and also a fragrant nectar flower. Learn more about Calotropis procera on its plant page.

perennial region: Can be grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 and up. Grow as an annual or overwinter in colder zones. Commonly grown in Hawaii.

Cynanchum laeve (honeyvine milkweed)

A fast-growing, licorice-scented climbing vine that supports monarch caterpillars and nectar-seeking pollinators. Many gardeners report this plant to be extremely invasive so consider growing it in a container to keep it from growing out of control with its underground roots.

native plant region US: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia

perennial region: USDA hardiness zones 4a-9b

Gomphocarpus fruticosus (swan plant milkweed)

Swan milkweed is similar to the goose plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) listed below but it has a shorter growth habit with thinner leaves. The seed pods are also pointed on the end (like a swan’s beak) while the balloon plant pods are completely circular. (The former botanical name for this milkweed is Asclepias fruticosa.)

See more photos and get more info about swan milkweed here.

perennial region: Can be grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 and up. Grow as an annual or overwinter in colder zones.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon plant)

Balloon plant’s surprisingly hardy milkweed leaves stay viable through the first frost. This unusual milkweed species has a couple of suggestive (but very fitting) nicknames. See the Gomphocarpus physocarpus page for more details. (The former botanical name for this milkweed is Asclepias physocarpa.)

perennial region: Can be grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 and up. Grow as an annual or overwinter in colder zones.

Tweedia caerulea (southern star)

Tweedia is a vining milkweed with pretty blue flowers, and skinny seed pods that resemble tropical milkweed. It has been reported to be a successful host plant for monarchs in New Zealand and California, but I would not depend on it as a monarch host. In our northern garden, it has served as a pollinator plant for other butterflies and bees. Tweedia is a good milkweed option for growing in containers with its long summer bloom period. (The former botanical name for this milkweed is Oxypetalum caeruleum.)

perennial region: Can be grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 and up. Grow as an annual or overwinter in colder zones.

Are you also looking for nectar flowers to support butterflies and other beneficial pollinators? Check out our butterfly plants page.

Top Milkweed Stores

If you weren’t able to find a particular milkweed from the links above, these are some of my favorite milkweed vendors that could have exactly what you’re looking for. Click the links below to see what they have to offer and to purchase milkweed plants or seeds.

Milkweed seeds are available for purchase year round, but you’ll find more plants for sale during the spring and summer months.

This nursery probably has the largest variety of milkweed species I’ve come across, including several species of milkweed vines! If you’re looking to try something “new”, they’re likely selling milkweed seeds that you don’t have.

This passionate butterfly gardener offers a variety of milkweed seeds and plants that will bring home a bounty of butterflies.

Chemical Free Milkweed Plants and Seeds from Wisconsin.

A good mix of native and non-native milkweed seeds and thousands of 5-star reviews by their happy customers.

Everwilde sells a wide variety of milkweeds and also sells in bulk if you’re looking to grow milkweed in a large area. The farm is family-owned and located in NW Wisconsin.

The source for beautiful, unusual, exotic, and native plants.

This Florida butterfly farm offers both native and tropical milkweed plants.

If you can’t find a specific type of milkweed through any of the vendors above, the links below will give you more opportunities to find the milkweed you want!

Make sure any seller you purchase from has a customer feedback rating above 95%. I also look for sellers that “specialize” in plants/seeds. These people should know how to care for and package your seeds/plants so they’re still viable when they reach your door.

More Info on Growing Milkweed Plants

I make it a rule to try at least one new species of milkweed each year. The monarchs seem to like our milkweed experiments as they continue to frequent our butterfly garden and our many milkweed plants.

I hope this milkweed plant list is a helpful tool in your quest to attract and support more butterflies and monarch larvae.


Tony, We have several fields (common area) in ou development that is left natural. It’s bush hogged once a year usually around December because we have several drain fields there. We currently have some milk weed in the fields, but I never see any Monarchs. How do I get more milkweed and attract more Butterflies in the fields and wetlands that are large? Is there an organization that I can contact that will pant the milkweed, or spread the seeds?

Hi Denise, there’s a link for field planting on this post that should give you some ideas/resources:

I have dozens of spider milkweed plants growing wild in my pasture and recently discovered some monarch caterpillars on them. I cut and brought them in to my small greenhouse using your cutting suggestions, but they have wilted terribly. I have raised caterpillars on common milkweed and butterflyweed, both of which we have planted in our gardens and have taken successful cuttings from them many times. This is the first time I’ve found so many caterpillars on the spider milkweed plants, and I’d rather cut those since they are so abundant. Have you had any success taking cuttings from spider milkweed?

Hi Kendra, I have not tried spider milkweed cuttings before…are you nicking the stem in several places so more water can enter the stem? That helps immensely with common milkweed…

My Monarchs have eaten my 5 milkweed plants completely bare and are now in the chrysalis stage with one maturing and flying away yesterday. Do I need to buy more milkweed for this next generation of Monarchs? I have found lots of info online about the Western Monarchs and how they have 4 generations with the last one migrating but I don’t know what they do in Florida.

Hi Denise, in continuous growing regions there can be a year round population of monarchs. It’s easier to keep up with demand if you focus on growing milkweed before supporting monarchs…otherwise you’ll constantly be in emergency mode running out of milkweed:

Yes, this is what happened to me last weekend when I realized how many caterpillars I had on the 3 milkweed plants in my garden and that there was no way that would be enough food for all of them so I made an emergency trip to my local nursery during our tropical depression to get some more. I could not get any seed pods as the winds blew them away. I cut the existing plants down to about 12 inches and I will get some more but if I plant more then I’m going to have more Monarch’s laying eggs. What do I do to stop this? Do I grow the milkweed on my screen in patio and constantly rotate the ones that are outside?

This all started with one milkweed bush that I planted about 2 months ago. I have about 16 chrysalis on the inside screened lanai and a few outside. I brought one new plant inside the lanai because of the storm. I felt like a proud momma when I woke up yesterday to see the first Monarch had emerged from its chrysalis. It stayed there for a few hours before flying away. (This was an outside chrysalis).

One more question – when they do emerge from their chrysalis inside the lanai how to I get them outside without touching them? Butterfly net? Leave the door open and they will figure it out? Sorry for all the questions but I’m new to this and some of these answers just aren’t on the internet.

I live in NE Indiana and have 15 Cats. on my milkweed (common). The milkweed have not yet bloomed. Is it to early to cut and put them into my cages .

Hi Ernie, I always take cuttings before the milkweed blooms. It will continue to grow…congrats and good luck.

Tony, now nearly 60, I remember when I was a teenager watching Monarchs do their lazy circles in the sky. It was truly amazing watching them in the early fall here in the Atlanta area. It’s a shame, but I rarely see them these days. Can you tell me which varieties of milkweed would work best here in the hot, humid summers of Georgia?

Oh, Home Depot has what is labeled as Butterfly Weed seeds. Is this something Monarchs would be attracted to, or should I leave it at the store?

Hi Gary, it’s getting late to plant seeds. I would only purchase milkweed plants from a big box store if you are sure that pesticides have not been used on the plants….unfortunately, this is still a big problem! If you can’t find pesticide-free plants locally, check out some of our suggested milkweed vendors that ship…you can also research milkweed species on this page. Asclepias incarnata and Asclepias Perennis are two that might work well for your region

Very well done site. I have a question. I have several blooming Asclepias variegata on my property in central Alabama, but in 12 years no seed. I have tried to hand pollinate a few flowers last 2 years but no luck yet. I can harvest pollen sacs but have not been able to deliver to the stigma properly. Does anyone have any experience or suggestions to offer?

Hi Larry, still trying to get more info on this species…we have two plants, but not sure if they made it through the winter. I will post more info on this species if/when there’s something to report…keep us posted!

I have a water trough (www.qcsupply.com/rubbermaid-70gal-stock-tank.html) that I’d like to plant milkweed in. This water trough will sit on the patio in the backyard. As it will be exposed to the elements in the winter (NW Indiana), I was thinking of planting 1 Asclepias syriaca and 1 Asclepias verticillata in it toward the center. Does this idea sound feasible? Thanks

Hi Susan, I haven’t planted A. syriaca in containers, but it sounds like you have a big enough container to accommodate sufficient root growth…I would give it a go and see what happens…good luck!

I have had Cynanchum laeve in my garden ( and yard, and bushes, etc) for 10 years and it had been my number 1 enemy! UNTIL I found out what it was (people had told me it was morning glory) this last July. I went out in the dark to check a 6 inch vine coming up in my grass, and sure enough, there was an egg and a 1st instar! I found several more eggs and cats all summer on the honeyvine in my yard and growing through my fence. As far as giving it to the cats in my enclosure, I offered them the honeyvine, butterfly weed, and common MW. They all chose the honeyvine the MOST of all 3 kinds. In fact, if there was plenty of HV, they wouldn’t even touch the common or butterfly weed. And they loved the seed pods too. This year, I’m starting some HV seeds indoors, so I can plant it EXCLUSIVELY in pots with a tomato cage. Then I won’t feel bad pulling it out of my other gardens, fences, yard, bushed….you get the idea. SO INVASIVE!

Hi Tony,
Is it too late (mid-April) to begin planting milkweed seeds indoors? I would like to start a new crop of common milkweed in NJ. I don’t know weather to just buy the plants or begin germinating the seeds myself. Any suggestions would be great.
Thank you!

Hi Cathy, if you have a good resource for spring plants (like a local spring plant sale)that’s a great way to get started. Otherwise you could still do a short cold moist stratification or just soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.

What plants would grow at zip 98237 – Washington State

Hi Alex, check out the western page for some helpul resources for your region:

Several years ago I bought 6 plants from a place in Pennsylvania, They were called Hairey Ball Milkweed. I planted them in May of that year and 4 out of the 7 produced seed balls but I never saw any worms or butterflys on them. I had other butterfly flowers growing and saw Monarchs on them from time to time. We moved and it was in November, I had two plants that were still growing so I transplanted them to the new ground. Prior to moving I did save some seeds in a zip lok bag. The ones I transplanted did not produce any pods. I plan on planting the seeds in my garden and wonder if I can start them now to plant after March 15, last day of freezing or heavy frost in this area. (Portsmouth, Virginia 23701). I have read almost all of the comments on this page and I love it. I dont mind my email being published.

Hi Robert, I have never seen monarchs nectar from Gomphocarpus physocarpus in Minnesota, but they do use it as a host plant:

Which species they use can vary from season to season so it’s good to have several species to choose from…yes, you can plant seeds in your region now…happy planting!

Just discovered this amazing site. I already have some asclepias tuberosa and plan to plant more. Is that variety as beneficial Monarchs as the syriaca variety? Is the syriaca really the best?

Hi Rachel, the best milkweed is the variety they use. We plant a few options and let them choose. It’s never good to depend on one species in case (for some reason) it doesn’t grow well or has issues with pests/disease. Syriaca will typically get more egg deposits than tuberosa

Hi Tony: I live in Orlando Florida and have only grown the Ascepias Curassavica in my butterfly garden. What would suggest as an alternative to mix in the bed?

Hi Diana, for info about growing native milkweed in Florida check this out:

I want to thank you for the information you provide on your site! It has very helpful to me. This will be my third season growing milkweed plants for Monarchs. I have been relatively successful but last year I had a lot of trouble with my tropical milkweed plants. I would really really like to try growing pinewoods milkweed but I am not having ANY luck finding any plants or seeds. I am in extreme S.E. Georgia just above Florida. Can you PLEASE help? Thank you so much! Darlene Dykes

Hi Darlene, I don’t see anything available currently from the vendors on the milkweed page, but it’s always a good idea to check back on a regular basis because you never know when something might become available…especially on a resource like ebay where there are nurseries as well as home growers.

Hi Tony, I’m planning to add a few new varieties to my milkweed garden. So far I have Tuberosa & Syriaca. I’ll be adding Redring & Purple. Glad to be a part of your community.

4 varieties is a good number to have…congrats on expanding your milkweed menu and welcome to the community!

Nice web site. Am gonna buy some seed and get them planted in the spring of 2018 in western Ky.

Hi Tony, I am going to be growing pallid milkweed in the spring. I was wondering how you germinated your pallid seeds? Last year I tried to grow these seeds and they never germinated. How did your pallid milkweed plants grow? What kind of soil did you plant them in? Thanks William

Hi William, I only had a few seeds and one germinated with winter sowing. The plant survived a couple Minnesota winter but it died when I moved it a sunnier spot a couple springs ago. I am not located in a good region for growing this. I hope you have better luck with yours!

Hi, Will a monarch caterpillar only eat the type of milkweed that it hatched on? I am trying to feed a monarch with a slightly different type of wild milkweed and he won’t eat it! I also have a different type that I bought at the greenhouse and planted in my yard and I have never been able to get any of my caterpillars to eat it. This poor little one I have now is eating a dried-up leaf instead of the fresh ones of a different variety that I put in with it. Wouldn’t think they would be so finicky with all the different varieties of milkweed there are! Thanks.

Hi Annette, they will switch between milkweed species pretty easily…the exception is being switched TO butterfly weed (A. tuberosa)

I Tony, I am in San Diego Zone 10b. I lwould like to grow Silk Red Milkweed, can I grow it beside Roses in the same bed?
What flowers is good companion for Milkweed? Thank you for your help!

Hi Thimy, I’ve never grown roses with silky red tropical, but it sounds like a nice combination. Check out this post for more ideas:

Recently i bought a heartleaf milkweed plant and the plant is leaning on the ground and the leaves are turning black. Should i tie it to a stick so it will grow up? Also i was growing pallid milkweed seeds outside in a container and a gust of wind blew the seeds somewhere in the yard. I was so upset because these seeds were very expensive.Do you think these seeds will germinate in my lawn? I live in North Carolina zone 7b. This website has been a lot of help to me and my nana who also is starting to help raise monarchs. P.s. you should add some more milkweed varieties to this website.

Hi William, I have not grown heartleaf milkweed in our northern region, but it doesn’t sound happy from what you’re describing. Keep in mind, this is a western native that you’re growing on the east coast. I’m not sure if your pallid seeds will come up or not. If you can’t find the seeds, all you can do is monitor the area to see if any strange succulents start to arise. good luck!

Hi Tony, What a labor of love! Thank you so very much for all you do. If there is a word for newer than new, that’s me regarding raising monarch caterpillars. As an aside, I do know how to fix a butterfly’s wing in order that it may fly again; there are several very helpful videos on You Tube; talk about rewarding! What I wanted to share, as you no doubt know already, is that sometimes the catties seem dead but really are not. I read about this somewhere in an above post. In my very small time with them, four of five catties were fine, then one day they were laying on the bottom of the plant (pot, not ground). They were still alive, but unmoving. Within two to five days, they were up on the plant and doing well. I’ve raised many types of caterpillars, and a lot of them go through what I’ve come to call a dormant or change phase (sometimes they cast off outer layers, a facial part, etc.), no eating, no moving, then viola! Back at it again. One of them did pass, unfortunately, but not the others. So you might want to tell folks about this; not to bury them or remove them if this happens, especially in a potted plant. I’ll be a nervous wreck when I plant them outside and can’t protect them from predators. I hope this may be of some help to you, Tony, and others. Have you had this happen? Thank you, J.J.

Hi JJ….seeing a motionless caterpillar prepare to molt (shed its skin) is definitely alarming to those who have not seen it before. Thanks for posting!

Wow. Nice list. You might want to add Asclepias linaria (Pineneedle). I have it growing in California and the pollinators love it for nectar. If you need pictures, let me know Tony

Hi Azucena, thanks for your suggestion. Is it also used as a host plant? Yes, if you have a large, high resolution that would be great. I will credit you with taking the photo. Email tony[at]monarchbutterflygarden.net…thanks!

Re: Asclepias cryptoceras (pallid milkweed)….I found this at my local neighborhood nursery in South Florida and put it in my butterfly garden last summer. I was positive it would NEVER attract Monarchs – the leaves seemed to be too thick and flat – but boy, was I wrong! They loved it. The flowers were beautiful, too.
My soil is mostly pure white sand (must have been beach front property a few millennia ago!) which I try to enrich. I also have a healthy layer of mulch to conserve water.
After the leaves were gone (in record time), I cut the plant back pretty severely. It regrew about 3 times which is about what I get from the milkweed plants. Your list of butterfly plants reminded me that I need to put this plant back in my garden. It was about triple the cost of an ordinary milkweed, but I think it was worth it.

BTW…Northern Minnesota girl here…now living way down in South Florida – the land of year-round butterfly gardens!
Thanks for all the great info you provide.

Thanks for the report Jill. I wasn’t sure if they would use it as a host plant. All the photos I’ve seen were taken in the wild and our Minnesota plant didn’t survive. I wasn’t aware this plant would thrive in your region…still much more to learn about milkweed!

Why do you have tropical milkweed on your site? Tropical milkweed is BAD for trying to help monarch survival. Please take this off your site & also warn those who are trying to help NOT to plant this variety.

Hi Mary, please take some time to learn more about the potential issues with tropical milkweed and learn why they don’t affect most regions:
Is Tropical Milkweed Killing Monarch Butterflies?

Hi Jill, I was wondering what the name of the nursery you bought you pallid milkweed plants from.
Thanks, William

I just found your website and it appears you live in MN. I live in Savage (southern suburb of Mpls). I have an area in the back of my yard (west side, full sun, clay soil) with arborvitaes along a fence. I would like to plant in front of these trees to fill in up to garden border edge (approx 2-4 ft deep by about 20 ft). I would love to attract butterflies (hopefully Monarchs, as well as others, plus bees). Milkweed seems like a great choice. I looked at all your options for this area and found about 10 that seem to be a good fit for MN (Poke, Tall Green, Swamp (pink and ice ballet), Purple, Showy, Prairie, Common, Butterfly Weed and Whorled). Does it make sense to try and plant all of them, or just pick a few (or plant some other perennials in addition to)? If so, do you have a recommendation for my area and exposure/soil (prefer plants that are less work for upkeep)? Also, do you recommend of any vendors in the twin cities area or am I better off ordering online? It’s almost the end of March so is it too late to start for this season (assuming I will need to do the cold stratification?)? Plus we obviously have bunnies all summer (last year was a banner year!). Are there any companion annuals/perennials you recommend to deter them? Also, since I don’t use chemical fertilizers, pest preventers or herbicides. What are your recommendations for both? I think that’s all I have for now. Being new to this, it’s a little overwhelming to figure this all out

I forgot to add that I have two small dogs. I saw on one of the vendors sites that the whorled is poisonous. Are they all poisonous and do I need to be concerned with any or all of the varieties with domestic animals? Thanks!

Hi Lynda, milkweed can be poisonous if eaten in large quantities. We have about 14 species of milkweed in our garden and neither of our dogs has ever touched them (the plants are supposed have a bitter taste) and I’ve never heard of this being an issue. Again, if you are worried, the rabbit fencing could also solve this issue.

While all the milkweeds are somewhat toxic to mammals by virtue of their cardiac glycosides (cardenolides), the milkweeds with needle-like leaves are considerably more toxic than the others (Asclepias verticillata, A. subverticillata, A. fascicularis, A. pumila. and even to some extent A. incarnata) possess a much more potent neurotoxic family of compounds (named verticenolides by their discoverers) that in the stock world make these some of the most important range toxins. As one of the comments above remarked, most milkweeds are not attractive to most pets, but if you keep these narrow-leafed ones, it will pay to keep a watchful eye on this situation.

Thank you for reading.

Peter Carrington, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator
W. J. Beal Botanical Garden
Toxic Plant specialist
Michigan State University

hi Peter, thanks for posting. the following chart lists milkweed toxicity levels…verticillata is listed as pretty low on this list, and so is incarnata. In addition to cardenolide levels, how much they consume would be an important factor. I have never heard of a child or pet dying from milkweed consumption, but I guess anything is possible:

Hi Lynda, congrats on starting your Minnesota butterfly garden. This post should answer a lot of your initial questions:

If you want plants, take advantage of the best plant sale in the country that has many milkweed varieties and butterfly plants:

Rabbits have been a huge nuisance in the past, but our entire garden now has rabbit fencing, and the difference has been nothing short of amazing:

This is excellent information and a great reference. thank you for compiling it and sharing. I plan to plant some new types native to my area that I was not aware of.

See also  Florida Weeds With Sticky Seeds

You’re welcome Barbara! By trying several milkweed varieties in your garden, you will discover which grow best and what the monarchs prefer…depending on weather patterns, these things can change from season to season. good luck!

I feel like native plants don’t know hardiness zones. Many that are found naturally in the eastern half of the U.S. don’t grow in the western half.
Seems it would be better to use the range distribution maps found on the usda native plants site: http://www.plants.usda.gov

Hi Mervin, the page also lists states for each milkweed species for those who want to stay within the native guidelines. Each of our individual plant pages is linked to the usda site:

If you live in a western state, try the narrowleaved native milkweed, Asclapias fascicularis. It supports our Monarchs life cycle better. They overwinter in San Luis Opisbo, unlike eastern states with migration to mountains in Mexico. If they eat other milkweeds, they do not enter winter dormant state at the right time — ordinary milkweeds keep their leaves too long in our mild climate.

I am so happy to see someone who understands the reasons behind planting “native” milkweed.

I am new to the experience of growing milkweed. My boys and I would like to put milkweed in different areas of the yard. We are new to St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana and are not sure which milkweeds would work best? We live across the street from a swamp, so during the rainy season we get a lot of standing water in the ditches and in the yard near the ditches. Other areas dry out faster. Also, when do we plant it here? Please help! Thanks and Merry Christmas!

Hi Gail, if you want to start a new garden check out this post. One milkweed that might work well for your situation is aquatic milkweed (Ascelpias perennis)

Hi Tony,
Which milkweed grows earlier in the spring. I’m ordering seeds for next year to expand my season for attracting butterflies because thus far I have plants that are doing great in fall. Also the monarch just left our Mexican sunflower this week to head South–what a delight to see them all over the flowers for so long after hatching.

Hi Nancy, two spring milkweed favored by monarchs:

hello again, its madison, i am thinking about buying either spider milkweed or redring milkweed, they both look gorgeous but i want them mainly for raising my monarchs, which one is better for raising the cats ( and eggs ) or which one attracts more monarch mothers to lay their eggs on? please and thank you, and as always, happy gardening!

Hi Madison, spider milkweed is a tried and true variety, while it’s virtually impossible to find redring seeds…should make your decision an easy one. good luck!

Why is it so hard to find seeds for the redring milkweed? It’s supposedly native in my region. I did find a vendor on eCrater (which I never heard of until a friend sent me the link) who was selling something like 10 seeds for $60.00, plus shipping and handling. Is there any source in this country that has seeds or plants to sell?

Hi Sue, these seeds are a rare find. This species doesn’t seed prolifically like the more common native varieties. If I come across a good source, I will be sure to update the page.

hello! im new to this website as well as new to raising monarchs, i want to start a monarch butterfly “nursery” garden where ( hopefully ) monarchs will want to lay their eggs. i live in indiana and i have been eyeing some tropical milkweed seeds, i would appreciate some advice on growing tropical milkweed and tips on starting a new monarch garden, thank you all and happy gardening!

actually, now that im looking at the comments, i am not sure if i really want to use tropical milkweed, what type of milkweed is recommended for southern indiana? and if there is a special type that monarchs like most around indiana please tell me some basic info on it, or give me the name of it . thank you all and happy gardening!

Hi! I am learning SO much through this website. Thank you for all the information. Currently I am raising monarch caterpillars for the first time this year after reading about it on this site. Last Sept. I had 5 cats on my milkweed and only saw one that made it to a butterfly. This year I am trying to help out! I have many cats on my milkweed this year and have collected 8 to grow indoors. (I keep bringing more in when I see predators!) I have a question about milkweed. I can not identify the kind I have as it has never bloomed. Any hints on what I might have?

Hi Jane, if you post a milkweed photo on my fb page, I will see if I can ID. Don’t forget to say where you’re located:

Hi Tony! Thanks for your prompt response. Unfortunately, I do not have a face book account. I live in the Macon Georgia area. Thanks for the resources. I just ordered some from Georgia vines and it arrived yesterday. Now I will have some varieties that I can name!

looking to buy live milkweed plants for northern area (michigan), not the common orange ones that I have. Differents colors and specices.

Hi Debbie, check out the suggested milkweed stores section and then scroll down further for more links to milkweed plants:

Hi Tony – Your website & knowledge is amazing. Thank-you for all that you are doing. Since I am brand new to this whole experience I have some specific questions due to my location. I live in the central, eastern coast of Florida (Ft. Pierce area). From all my reading on your website & elsewhere, that makes my situation unique from the rest of North America except perhaps southern California. Am I correct in understanding that our Florida Monarch butterflies never migrate & sort of have their own separate, isolated colonies? And therefor, our adult butterflies all live for about 2-6 weeks because the are non-migratory? I have so far raised one batch of cat’s to adult butterflies & was so thrilled (and, like many other folks sharing here on your website it kind of happened by accident). But I am confused about timing…..I saw tons of fat, happy cats on my garden mw about 6 weeks ago. The next day ALL had disappeared. That’s when I went on the internet & researched & was appalled at the low survival rate of eggs & cats. So, when I noticed more cats 2 weeks later, I brought them inside & raised most of them to gorgeous adult butterflies. MY SPECIFIC QUESTIONS ARE: #1- What is the timing of the female Monarch butterfly’s on when they are laying their eggs in my region? #2- Is it year-round in Florida since they don’t migrate & we never really have much of a winter? Obviously, I don’t want to chop down all my mw when butterflies are wanting to lay their eggs! I will stagger the cutting down of my mw as someone suggested above….. #3 – but is there a best time of the year to cut them down? And I have already started making cuttings of my mw in water & they ARE rooting….. #4 – but how do I know if they are full of this OE infection or not? # 5 – Should I discard them & wait for new growth? Any information will be greatly appreciated! Oh, also, I discovered a fence in my neighborhood that is lushly grown over with Passion vine & another vine with tiny clusters of pink flowers. This fence is swarming with Monarchs & many other butterflies…..especially in the morning. I was so amazed to discover this “butterfly hangout”. We are definitely growing butterflies in central, east Florida. I just hope they are healthy & will continue to propagate the species here in our very southeastern state of Florida! Replies from others in my area will also be most appreciated!

Hi Laurie, monarchs can lay eggs in your region at any time. Since you have a year-round population, there’s not a ‘right time’ to cut back. When the plants are used continuously by monarchs, disease spores can collect on them. You don’t need to cut them all back at once, but can stagger the cuttings so some milkweed will always be available to visiting monarchs.

The majority of Florida monarchs have OE, but by rinsing milkweed and keeping them in a clean raising environment you can keep OE levels manageable so they won’t be sickly and disfigured. Some in continuous-growing regions also bleach eggs to try and kill all the spores:

Outdoor plant succulent. Monarch in vertical position going into J formation. Flat on plant vertical position. Will chrysalis form correctly if it does not have free space around it?
Thanks, Debbie

Hi Debbie, if the monarch is able to hang vertically , it should be able to form its chrysalis…

Hello, I have started a butterfly garden with only native plants at our local nature preserve. I read your advice about stratification. I planted the milkweed seeds in October. None of them came up at home or at the nature preserve. Our local nursery, which grows only native plants, said maybe it wasn’t cold enough last winter. The other thought I had was can the seeds be sterile? I would be grateful for any advice you have. Thanks.

Hi Carolyn, if you want to insure a cold enough stratification, you can always stratify in your refrigerator. As for seeds, the germination rate is typically higher with fresh seeds. I would consider fall planting some plants and refrigerator stratification to insure cold enough temps…good luck!

My in laws in San Diego county have been growing some milkweed from seed to attract Monarchs. They also bought a larger one gallon milkweed plant and managed to get some caterpillars possibly from the plant. Unfortunately they all disappeared except one which they found chomping away on a Plumeria plant. I did not know Monarchs also fed on Plumerias. Do you know anything about this plant serving as a host plant?

Hi Marie, I have never heard of monarchs eating plumeria leaves…

Thank you so much for the work you put into this website. I got so much information out of it.
I recently took my daughters to Butterfly Wonderland in Arizona (http://butterflywonderland.com) and we learned about milkweed. I had no idea. Then my daughter’s kindergarten class “grew” butterflies and learned about the life cycle. Her teacher is so enthusiastic about saving the monarchs that my daughter wants a butterfly garden with milkweed. So here are. Thank you for taking the time to outline what plants are native to the state. I was taught in horticulture not to plant non-native plants and since I took the class in Washington state, I was taught that butterfly bushes are invasive and a big no-no. I’m so glad to see there are some options we can use and not feel like we’re contributing to the problem.
Thank you again!

Hi Carla, congrats on starting your new butterfly garden with your daughters and I hope it will flutter with excitement soon. While butterfly bush is an issue for growing in the pacific northwest, non-native milkweed is only a potential problem in continuous growing regions (like Florida and Southern California) if it’s not cut back to remove the build up of disease spores that happens over time. Thank you for helping to support the western monarchs. If you want more info specific to your region, check out these resources:

Hello! Around two or so weeks ago, I bought a tropical milkweed plant from a Halls Nursery not too far from my house. In a few days there were two caterpillars on it, but they disappeared shortly before I planted them into the ground. A week later, I bought two not-yet-blooming milkweed plants that had two caterpillars on it from a Home Depot near my house. In a few days, the number climbed up to 8. I put the plants in the ground this saturday along wjth a few impatiens from the front yard. The next day there were only two, then one the next morning, then none by that afternoon. I didn’t get a chance to ask the Halls, but they were using one of their plants to raide caterpillars in a caterpillar cage that reached a decent size and fully pupated, so I assumed they didn’t use pesticides on them. The Home Depot store wasn’t sure, but since it had the caterpillars I assumed it did. That pot was green with a oicture of the butterfly life cycle and said ‘butterfly plants for the florida butterfly garden’ or something along those lines. Do you think the caterpillars were poisoned by pesticides or simply picked off by predators? Have you heard of people having problems with the green butterfly bucket plants?
Thank you.

Hi Anissa, many big box stores sell milkweed that has been treated with monarch-killing pesticides or they’re not sure because they don’t grow their own plants. You’re better off starting milkweed from seed or buying plants from a trusted seller that doesn’t use pesticides:

I never knew there where so many milkweeds. I live in Puerto Rico, its a tropical island, so we have A. curassavica and Calotropis Procera growing wildly…..but id would like to try some of these varieties…..suggestions. ……. Also,I found a white variety locally years ago (which i consider my prized one since i haven’t seen it ever again) and i thought it was a white variety of A. curassavica but now im not sure (It looks like A. incarnata white ballet, but not quite :/

Hi Michael, you might want to see if anyone in your region has experience growing other milkweed species. The other warm weather species that should grow well in PR would be the Gomphocarpus varieties. I would research those to see if they could be a viable option:

Wonderful site! I live in very dry hot area within north central Florida – 25 miles west of Gainesville. Just planted six Silky Golds for my first butterfly garden. I am already havesting seed to plant a larger amount for next year – need time to prepare more area. Would like to consider other varieties but am concerned about rizones and ‘aggressive tendencies’ whatever that means. I am travelling for at least one week every month and can’t contend with special needs. What varieties would you suggest. Thank you.

Hi Althea, I’m a northern gardener, but from what I hear, it’s hard to get some of the natives established in your region. You might try asclepias tuberosa and its “hello yellow” cultivar. I would talk to other gardeners or local nurseries that have first hand growing experience in your region to see what they recommend…good luck!

Hi Tony
I have a question am doing the water and seeds how long does the root have to be before you can put them in potting soil?

Hi Charlie, once they start germinating, they should continue once there are in soil. I probably wouldn’t let them grow more than an inch in water…they will start rotting at some point.

Can a butterfly bush attract monarch butterflies?

Yes Jude, butterfly bushes are a favorite nectar source for monarchs and many other pollinators. Here a few butterfly bush varieties we really like:

It would be great to mention if it can be grown in pots for on a terrace. Also height is always a concern. thanks

Hi Romy, here is more info about growing milkweed in containers. Swamp or tropical are good choices, but mature swamp could surpass 4-5 feet, unless you cut it back:

Please can you tell me if I can buy milk weed plants to attract the Monarch butterfly in UK ?Thankyou

Hi Kath, check out this link to find milkweed for your region…good luck!

Tony: Re: The “Pink” milkweed seeds postmarked from Indonesia that ended up in my mail. The seeds I ordered were received and are in the refrigerator waiting for spring to arrive in Charlotte, or soon after the Panthers win Super Bowl L. I will destroy the mysteriously delivered “Pink” milkweed seeds. Thanks, Fred

That sounds like a good move Fred. Whenever you buy milkweed, always search for the botanical names (asclepias, gomphocarpus, etc) so you can be sure what you’re ordering. The Panthers look good…enjoy the Superbowl!

I bought milkweed plants from Home depot yesterday. I washed the plants by soak into the water about 30 sec. I put about 12 monarch cats to the plants and bring them inside the house because it is cold outside. But today I saw 3-4 cats died. I don’t know why. Do you think because I didn’t wash the plants good enough or something else?

Hi KC, big box stores still sell milkweed plants often treated with systemic pesticides. If this is the case, washing the plants won’t help. Are there any native nurseries in your area? If so, I would call see if they have untreated plants you could purchase. good luck!

I live in Houston, TX. I’ve been seeing a few Monarch’s in my gardens continually for months. I have Tropical Milkweed in my garden (none of the other native seed varieties sprouted this year). Even though the milkweed is lankyl and not very bushy, the Monarchs are laying eggs there. I’ve brought in about 20 caterpillars over the last 2 weeks and put them in the butterfly castles. I usually have really good luck raising them, but this year something is very wrong. All but 2 of them have died.

The caterpillars look fine although they’ve been acting a bit lethargic. They get big and crawl up to the top of the “castle” to make chystallis’. They start making a chystallis but then stop when they get a little green on their heads. Then they die hanging there.

I can’t see anything wrong with them. I don’t see any other bugs or anything wrong with their bodies to make me think a predator laid eggs in them, but all but 2 of the cats have died this way.

I never spray anything in my yard, but I’m wondering if my neighbors might have sprayed something that disrupts the life cycle of insects? That is the only thing I can think of that would make them suddenly die right in the middle of making a chrystallis.

Have you ever seen anything like this?

Hi Bett, this is a symptom of pesticide exposure. Caterpillars also often die when hanging if they have been parasitized by tachinid flies. However, you would see tachinid maggots/pupae on the cage floor when they emerge from the caterpillar. Hopefully you are able to figure out if/how they are being exposed to pesticides…good luck!

Thank you for your response. That is what I suspected. I’m guessing one of my neighbors sprayed something and it drifted into my yard. There is also a bayou that runs on the other side of my back fence. I’m guessing the city mows it and may spray out there too. I don’t know. I’m trying to find tall, fast growing plants to plant along my fence lines to help block poisons from blowing into my yard. Perhaps a line of bamboo.

It is very disheartening to watch them die day after day after day…… I only have 1 that made it to a complete chrysalis. I’ll be curious to see if it makes it to the butterfly stage though.

Brett, by chance did some or all of these caterpillars turn black and literally liquify shortly after dying? If so, they may have had a disease called Nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV). If not, Tony is probably right about the pesticide, but up to the point you describe, the symptoms are the same – the caterpillars become lethargic, then crawl upward to the highest spot they can reach, hang upside down and die. The rapid blackening and liquifaction of the corpse is a key to NPV.

At any rate, whatever killed these particular ones, if you want to grow exotic, tropical milkweeds in Houston – and I’m not saying don’t do it, we’ve already had that discussion – you really should cut the plants back all the way to bare stems at least once and preferably twice a year. This removes older leaves and branches upon which NPV and the spores of a protozoan parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) can accumulate over the course of a season. All native Texas milkweeds die back to the root each fall, removing the disease vector, but the tropicals become evergreen perennials and the stuff just builds up. And since you wrote in January about seeing a few monarchs all winter, and with them laying eggs in the middle of winter, what you have is an artificially developed, resident, non-migratory population, and that situation is very apt to become a population thoroughly infected with both NPV and OE in a short time. In the South Florida non-migratory population, OE infects 70 percent of all monarchs by survey. In the Midwestern migratory population, it is less than 10 percent.

You don’t have to cut all the plants back at once. Stagger your pruning, and you’ll always have some milkweed. (Plus, you’ll have bushier plants with fresher leaves and more blossoms.) I know you don’t want your garden to be a disease vector for your beloved monarchs!

A question about identifying different Asclepias.
Many of the milkweed plants in my back 40 acres have dropped their leaves, or have been stripped by the cats by now, but the pods are ripe and seeds are flying. I recognize the common A. syriaca easily, the pods are spiny and rather fat.
A. tuberosa pods seem more narrow, and smooth, not spiny at all, correct?
I have recently found another type of pod, much narrower than the typical A. tuberosa pods that I have found, and also smooth. Would this likely be A. incarnata? I know its not dog bane, the pods are not as narrow as dog bane pods, and the dog bane seeds are much smaller and narrower, and the dog bane pods hang down, not pointing up like the milkweed pods. Besides, the dog bane still has its leaves.

By the way, everyone says that the Monarchs usually lay on the A. tuberosa only when there is not enough A. syriaca available. In this field, much of the A. syriaca still have is leaves, but every single A. tuberosa that I find is stripped. So is the A. incarnata, if that’s what it is.
Isn’t that interesting? Or do these two naturally drop their leaves earlier than the syriaca?

Hi Arthur, from your descriptions I think you have correctly identified all your milkweed species. Typically, swamp (incarnata) and common (syriaca) get more eggs than butterfly weed (tuberosa). However, there are always exceptions and a lot of it depends on the condition of the particular plants too. In our garden, all the common and swamp leaves have dropped, but the tuberosa still has lots of leaves. This is just what happens in fall and isn’t because hungry cats mowed them all down. Perhaps next season I will photograph all the different pods to help people identify them. Thanks for the idea!

Thanks Tony!
I think it would be a worthwhile project. When the pods are open and seeds are flying is the perfect time to spot milkweed in the wild.
Since the pods seem to be pretty distinctive it seemed to me a fair method of identification.

I live in the highlands of Panama. This climate Is like a temperate climate without a winter. I want to raise monarchs here. I hope the milkweeds seeds, and eggs or pupae will arrive safely and without red tape. Does anybody know about a site such as this site but for blue morpho butterflies?

Hi John, if you have problems getting seeds to your country, you could always try to collect seeds from the milkweed that grows in your region. good luck!

We are ready to start our butterfly garden next spring, we have some local variety seeds collected and ready for stratification when the time comes this winter. We live in southern Illinois, in zone 6a.
We would like to get a jump-start on the season by starting some tropical milkweed indoors to put outdoors this spring in pots. We grow other tropical plants indoors, so have space and lighting already available. How fast does it grow? Should we plant seed now, or wait until later?
A friend has some A. tuberosa from which we collected seed. Could we take some stem cuttings to grow indoors over the winter for another head-start, or would that even work?
Thanks for the great site!

Hi Arthur, you start tropical milkweed in fall, winter, or spring. I usually take tropical milkweed cuttings in late winter. You could start seeds 2-3 months before planting. Butterflies seem to prefer our native common/swamp earlier in the year (I’m in Minnesota) so I’m not concerned about having full grown flowering tropical milkweed in May or June. You can take tuberosa cuttings to start more plants too. Here’s more info:

Thanks Tony. I guess my main question was whether or not stem cuttings taken this late in the season would still root. From reading through the link you provided it looks like it’s worth a shot, though I’ll have to pot them before spring, assuming they take.

Hi Arthur, as long as the room temps are in the 70’s it should be fine. You could also put a plastic dome over them or put them in a 2-liter bottle to give them more heat/humidity

I just found your site as I was researching additional native milkweed species to place in the wildlife/butterfly/pollinator area of our property. Thank you for all the work you put into your site and raising Monarchs with such a high survival rate to time of release. Many very helpful hints!
A couple things seemed unclear – mostly they are geographic things, but since this is pretty crucial to the Monarchs, you may want to consider editing them:
Asclepias tuberosa is not native to California, or several other states mentioned.
It’s important to note that the western Monarch flyway is different than the central/eastern flyway, with pretty distinct butterfly populations. So planting Mexican and eastern varieties of milkweed is not recommended on the west coast, and vice versa. There are couple milkweed species that naturally cross these boundaries somewhat (Showy/A. speciosa is one example).
Unfortunately the tropical milkweed varieties are widely sold in the US, including on the west coast, where our Monarch population would not tend to “see” these species at any point in their life cycle. The trend amongst butterfly fans seems to be to just plant generic “milkweed”, which seems to invariably be a tropical species. You do recommend doing research before planting non natives. However, on your website this recommendation gets pretty lost, and you show almost exclusively non native, tropical species being cultivated and used for raising your (Eastern) Monarchs.
There are definitely multiple well researched causes to Monarch declines, such as spraying roadside “weeds,” Monsanto agriculture, etc. While raising non-native milkweed species (wherever you are located) has only been associated with Monarch population declines and not yet proven as another cause, why risk it when there is increasing evidence that it may be detrimental? We have historically tended to cause ecological disasters by introducing non native species, however well-intentioned. How about simply recommending planting milkweed species that are native to ones’ geographic area? Easy to research, safe for the butterflies and other local/native insects that use milkweed, good for native plant preservation and biodiversity, automatically more suitable to one’s local climate, no problem if one forgets to cut back plants at the right time, etc.

Again, thanks for the tips about raising Monarchs, increasing the egg hatch/cat survival rate, and all the helpful equipment recommendations!

Hi Katherine, than you for your comments. First off, A. tuberosa is native to California. Please check USDA website for native listing info. As for the native/non-native conversation, let’s just agree to disagree. I think the monarch population has far greater things to worry about including loss of habitat, climate change, and herbicide/pesticide use. I’m in Minnesota, by the way. I hope you are having a fantastic butterfly season!

Our gated community in Virginia just east of the Piedmont. It is over 700 acres, 18 home golf course, over 1700 homes, several ponds with swampy areas, two creeks and woods bordering the entire community. We doubt the HOA would “permit” butterfly gardens or patches (no bee raising allowed) and wonder what species might grow well in these areas if they were to be wind-born seeded on their own? Are there perennial species that would do well in these various areas without becoming overrunning pests?

Hi, swamp milkweed prefers moist soil and is a popular host plant and nectar flower for monarchs. Many other butterflies and pollinators use it as a nectar source too. In a garden setting, I appreciate it because it doesn’t spread through underground rhizomes. It’s also an aesthetically pleasing milkweed so maybe the HOA would consider it:

I am having a strange issue where the Monarch caterpillars go into premature cocooning stage, they attach themselves upside down but nothing else. They just die stranded upside down. This has happened 3 times so far. This is my 1st year of having a Monarch milkweed garden with plenty of caterpillars but have not seen any get to the chrysalis state, help!

Hi Greg, it sounds like you might have an issue with tachinid flies. They lay eggs inside the caterpillar and the larvae eat the monarch from the inside out. Often, this causes the monarch caterpillars to pupate prematurely. Here is more info:

I don’t have a garden but would like to try growing some type of milkweed in containers. I live near Houston Texas and wonder which ones would be the best to try to grow in my area and do well in containers…

check out this post for more info:

Hey Shirley. I live in Houston too. If you want to make sure you get plants that haven’t been sprayed, check out Joshua’s Native plants in the Heights. Buchanan’s native plants in the Heights is supposed to sell non-sprayed plants too but 2 years ago, I got a couple milweed plants from them that immediately poisoned and killed all my caterpillars. (It was devastating to watch). So, I don’t trust Buchanan’s anymore.

Thank you for your website and all the great information about Monarchs, milkweed varieties, etc. Your webpage is by far the best and most informative site I’ve come across on the Internet. Keep up the outstanding work!

I have a long history with Monarch butterflies (about 40 years). Growing up on a farm north of Visalia, CA (Central San Joaquin Valley) we were surrounded by farmland. When I was about 10 years old, I noticed a large group of plants out in the pasture across the road the cows would not eat. I went to investigate. After discovering striped caterpillars on these tall weeds (Asclepias fascicularis -narrowleaf milkweed) I took some home, put the caterpillars and some milkweed cuttings in some pickle jars and later when they came out of their chrysalis, discovered they were Monarchs. We already had large quantities of Monarch butterflies around our ranch house most of the summer. In college, I helped my girlfriend (now my wife of 30 years) with a butterfly lesson for her elementary school class. About 10 years later, with three young children in tow, my wife and I went driving through the countryside near Fresno, CA to look for milkweed and caterpillars. We wanted to share our past experiences with our children. We found some milkweed plants and better yet, some caterpillars! We shared the caterpillar raising experience with our three kids and their elementary school classes. From about 2000 to 2010 I noticed the milkweed population drop dramatically. Roadside mowing contributed to this decline. Another factor is development of land where milkweed plants grow. The only milkweeds I could find were in non-cultivated fields in town and grazing land out in the countryside. Year after year we would drive through the countryside searching the milkweed for caterpillars but found none. This was very discouraging.

Three years ago my family moved to Colorado Springs, CO. I looked online to see if Monarchs come through our area. It appears we are on the western edge of the Midwest/East migration route. According to one online source, only “stray” Monarchs come through eastern Colorado. I would still like to plant milkweed, as I believe I saw a Monarch here last summer. Swallowtail butterflies are fairly common. What varieties of milkweed would grow best here in Colorado Springs? We have sandy soil here on the east side of town. Also, do you have information about how far into eastern Colorado (from the main migratory route) the Monarchs travel? I would also welcome comments from other folks who call eastern Colorado home. I seriously would drive 3 hours to the Kansas border to find milkweed with caterpillars and bring some back to Colorado Springs.

Thanks again Tony for your wonderful work in helping preserve one of God’s created wonders and for allowing me to share my “story”.

Hi Mark, Thank you for sharing your monarch story…I look forward to hearing how the next chapter unfolds.

Until monarchs are monitored with digital tags, much of the monarch data depends on accurate sightings, which often times are not reliable. My best advice would be to start growing milkweed. Even if it’s not initially supporting monarchs, it still supports other pollinators throughout the season. If you scroll through this monarch resources page, you’ll see each variety has native and perennial regions listed to help you decide which species make the most sense to try first. Keep in mind, if soil conditions aren’t ideal for a particular species, you can amend the soil with compost or try growing milkweed in containers:

Good luck with your new garden!

Great, informative, post – thank you. We recently moved to coastal southeastern N.C. and have sandy loam soil, with a freshwater pond. Anyone out there have experience growing milkweeds under these conditions? Would love any pointers you can share.

Hi Carole, if you’re planting next to a pond and the soil stays relatively moist, swamp milkweed is a popular host and nectar plant for monarchs.

My best advice is to try a few options that are native/perennials for you region…this info is listed on the resource page. There are many variables that affect how a particular milkweed will grow in your garden so experimentation is key to success. Good luck with your new garden!

Hi again Tony,
The more I research, the more afraid I am that they may have NPV. I checked very carefully for predators before placing the milkweed in their cage. I spritzed them daily with water, I cleaned their frass each day. It doesn’t look like the tachinid fly either. I am so heartbroken. I had 40 beautiful cats and now most of them are lifeless, blackish, half eclosed, leaking, or “gooshy”. Is this the time where I need to euthanize? I think my mistake is that I brought in five cats from my garden (when all the others hatched from eggs in my Kritter Keeper set up). Do you think that was the main cause? I live in South Florida.

See also  Small Weed Plant Seeds

there are more disease issues in Florida, but typically with OE which this doesn’t sound like. It does sound like it could be a virus. However, is there a possibility that the milkweed was treated with pesticides? This is often the issue when they all die at the same time.

It’s a possibility. When I needed extra milkweed (they ate so much!) I bought from a local nursery and they said they didn’t treat with pesticides. Perhaps the plants were treated. Thank you for the information.

Hi Danielle, this issue has been reported by many over the past few years. Raisers buy milkweed and are told it wasn’t treated with pesticides when it actually was. This issue is more common when purchasing from big box stores that purchase plants from a grower. If a nursery grows their own stock, they can tell you for sure whether it was treated or not.

Well this is a huge lesson for me. I will just wait until my own supply (from my own pesticide free milkweed) is bulked up enough to provide for cats. A tough lesson to learn, but I will never buy from someone unless they grow it themselves and can guarantee. Is my best bet to throw away what I bought or is there some way to cleanse it of the suspected pesticides?

Hi Danielle, growing your own supply is definitely the best route to go, even if you have to wait a little bit. You can also look for plants from some of the milkweed stores on my resources page while you’re seeking out a better local source. Hope this helps:

You could always cut back your current plants to let new growth emerge, but it’s hard to know if that will be enough since you don’t know which pesticide was applied and how much was used…

I think I’lll just play it safe. I just tossed them in the garbage. Thank you SO much for the information. The milkweed that I keep in my garden is pesticide free, it came from a butterfly-loving garden center. Time to start over! Thank you.

i decided i have tropical milkweed, seedlings didn’t take (2 weeks and nothing shallow like you said) but the cutting seem to be taking so i try to transplant some this weekend. they have nice long roots

Hi Kim, seeds usually work well if you soak them for 24 hours before planting. A heated seed mat also speeds up germination. However, cuttings are a much easier way to start sturdy new plants, and they’ll mature much faster than seedlings so it sounds like things are working out…congrats!

The showy milkweed grows in the irrigation run off ditch that runs in front of my house. There’s not a ton of it but this last year my grandson found a monarch caterpillar on one. When he brought it in to show me I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but I looked it up to be sure.

After reading that the Monarch caterpillar does better if its raised than it does in the wild. We put him in a insect container, I read a lot, then made sure I replaced the leaves. After about a month I noticed he had hooked himself to the lid, then went into the cocoon and it was so exciting when I found him out of the cocoon. I shared this experience with my grandkids. We learned by trial to keep him inside until his wings dried and how to figure out the sex. We enjoyed this so much we kept looking for more, but never found any.

I would really love to learn what else I can plant to not only attract the Monarchs but to be able to sustain them too. I live outside Rexburg Idaho I belive in zone 5a. Any tips and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I know I may not be able to get allot of plants before they start arriving this year, but I’m hoping to see some anyway and to plant a better place for them in the future. Can you buy eggs or caterpillars anywhere?

I’m not familiar with growing in Idaho, but we do live in the same USDA hardiness zone. Two varieties of milkweed that attract a lot of monarch activity are swamp milkweed (asclepias incarnata) and tropical milkweed (asclepias curassavica) because they are used as both host plants for caterpillars and a nectar source for butterflies. They also don’t have rhizomes that spread in the garden and both can be potted, and are fairly easy to grow. The tropical would be an annual in your region so you would have to purchase yearly or overwinter plants indoors. It’s easy to find seeds/plants online for both. You may be able to find some locally, but you would need to talk to someone in your region to find that info.

You can check out my butterfly plants page for other nectar plant ideas and links to purchase:

Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any vendors that sell eggs/caterpillars to the western US. The eastern vendors aren’t allowed to ship due to federal regulations.

I live in Fairfax Va. and would like to know exactly what milkweeds and butterfly plants to plant.

Hi Pat, all of the listings on this page have both native and perennial regions listed so you would have to look over the info and decide what will work best for your situation.

Native swamp milkweed and non-native tropical are both popular host plants with long bloom periods. Both are pretty easy to grow too….

I don’t really know what kind of milkweed I have, but with the 80 degrees weather here in California the plants have all gone nuts. I have 4 chrysalises in my cage and hubby found 1 on the outside of his greenhouse today, 4 caterpillars in the cage and a couple of eggs and caterpillars around the garden. Hopefully off to a long season…

Congrats Kim, you’re off to a very promising start on the season….enjoy that warm California weather for the rest of us!

Just started getting into this Butterfly deal. I live in Corona, California, and was wondering if anyone knows of a low growing california native that’ll grow in my front yard. Id like to make sure they dont decimate my fruit/veggies int he back, so i’ll be test growing these with a few edible plants. Im looking for a low growing variety that wont heavily compete with my foods. thx !

Hi Richard, if you’re looking for California natives, check out this guide for your region:

Please take tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) off your list of plants to help Monarchs! This plant should not be sold in the USA. Instead of helping the population of Monarchs, it harms them greatly all through the Southern states by keeping them breading all fall and winter until they die of starvation because we have a hard freeze and the flowers butterflies fee on and the milkweed the caterpillars eat die off finally – as it should have back in October if it was an indigenous plant. This disrupts their natural pattern of going to Mexico to winter. I’ve watched it happen all winter in New Orleans, and I’m sure it’s all through the South. Tropical milkweed is not butterfly weed – please don’t sell it or promote it! It also makes them more prone to the virus eo, which I have seen so much of this year. It’s very, very sad.

Please help to get the word out, and stop selling and promoting tropical milkweed!

Hi Shawn, for most of us, your situation doesn’t apply and for those in southern regions there are precautions that can be taken so that monarch health (and the migration) isn’t negatively affected. People need to stop spreading fear and start getting educated.

I agree with Shawn. Tony, you are making money (as your disclaimer tab admits) by making referrals on two blind assumptions.

First, when you blithely say growers of non-natives can take certain precautions (like cutting back tropical milkweed in the fall) you are assuming that NO seeds have or will escape into the wild to start or expand non-native colonization.

Second, putting all your eggs into the teensy little basket of KNOWN controls for KNOWN problems, you are assuming that we already know everything there is to know about how non-natives will behave when they escape your backyard. That’s hubris in the extreme, and if you doubt this, please take

The Reader Think Test …..

1. Look up your state in the USDA’s list of noxious weeds at http://plants.usda.gov/java/noxiousDriver
2. Read up on the noxious weeds in your state.
3. For each example, ask yourself if you had been the one who was going to lose control so that it became introduced, would you still do that if you knew at the time all the damage it would later cause?

If you answer #3 “no, I’m a responsible gardener” then you have no business making money by referring people to purchase non-native species, and readers really aren’t doing the natural systems to which monarchs belong any favors by taking that advice.

Good words. If discretion is the better part of valor, caution is the better part of wisdom. FIRST… do no harm.

Hi Tony, I found some Purple Milkweed and thought you might like to share with your followers. I’m pretty sure this seller is on ebay also! I already got mine yesterday and is going to be winter sown by tomorrow. http://www.everwilde.com/store/Asclepias-purpurascens-WildFlower-Seed.html

According to http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/282/1801/20141734 Asclepias curassavica is actually harmful. Please read up and perhaps drop this plant.

Hi Patrick, tropical milkweed has potential issues in regions where it doesn’t die back over winter. These issues can be avoided by cutting back plants. Tropical milkweed is a favorite host and nectar plant for monarch butterflies and deserves serious consideration when choosing butterfly garden plants.

Tropical milkweed does not have “potential issues” where it does not die back, it is harmful. Please read the article.

It’s an issue if you choose to grow in those regions without cutting back your milkweed plants. The solution is simple. If you’re not willing to cut back, then don’t grow it.

Very excited to grow my 1st Milkweed and bring back the Monarchs to my yard and beyond. Have good size area that gets good sun I’m going to convert. Also shaded are between house I’d like to utilize. Any suggestions for 1st year showy bloomers? Live in Vancouver, WA (Portland suburb) Thanks!!

Hi Kelly, most milkweed takes a year before it starts blooming except for tropical milkweed. If you can find swamp milkweed plugs or plants those would probably bloom first year and you can usually find swamp milkweed plants online…it’s more difficult to find plants of other varieties. Good luck with your garden!

I’m interested in planting milkweed in the garden at our Boise ID home to see whether we can lure Monarchs. I’d like to know which species may be appropriate and where I might be able to purchase seeds or plants. The Monarch is Idaho’s “state insect,” but in my limited time in southern Idaho, a decidedly infrequent visitor to the area.

Thanks in advance for any guidance you can provide.

Hi Tom, if you look at each milkweed listed on the page it lists native regions, along with perennial zones as guidelines for helping you choose the best plants for your region.

For non-native plants tropical milkweed can be grown as an annual in most regions and will flower/seed in year 1. However, you need to start seeds indoors two months before your avg last frost or buy plants locally or online. Otherwise, they won’t grow large enough to support monarchs. For natives, swamp milkweed is a popular host/nectar plant that prefers moist conditions. (i.e. not drought tolerant)

Good luck with your new garden!

Thank you for this site! Love it! Shared with family and friends

Susan, thank you for your kind words and sharing the site. Welcome to the MBG Community!

I would like to start growing a few more milkweed plants for the monarchs, and a friend of mine has a nursery that is close to him that said that they will be growing Asclepias sullivantii (prairie milkweed) next year. I went out online to research the plant, and I have a few questions for you if you don’t mind.

After a quick look at a few websites I found that prairie milkweed is threatened in quite a few states including mine. The site said that the plant is likely to become endangered in the forseeable future throughout most or all of its range. This may sound like a dumb question but are you allowed to grow threatened or endangered flowers?

I also read in your description that prairie milkweed is a common milkweed imitator. Does that mean that by seasons end the plant will look like it got hit with an ugly stick just like common milkweed – sorry your description, not mine

My last question has to deal with a pest that all three of the websites that I visited warned about, the milkweed leaf-miner fly. The websites said that prairie milkweed is the plant of choice for the leaf-miner fly which likes to bore holes in the leaves? Have you found this pest to be a problem on your plants?

Sorry for all the questions, but we don’t have the blessing of size in our backyard. The description of the plant from the nursery sounds great, a very fragrant milkweed that is less aggressive, and only grows to roughly half the size of common milkweed. However, I would have to believe that the nursery would leave out the part about the leaf-miner fly if it really is a problem, and the plants appearance in late summer if it really does look like it got whacked a few times with an ugly stick.

Hi Brian, prairie milkweed is one variety that we actually haven’t grown. To me, it looks like a lessing filling version of common milkweed so it’s kind of slid down the priority list. I have spoke to a few people that have grown it and i think it is a later blooming milkweed than its common counterpart.

If a plant’s endangered I believe that just means it can’t be removed or relocated without permission. Growing your own plants from seed is welcomed and encouraged!

As far as prairie at the end of the season, I’m not sure….although since it’s a shorter milkweed it’s probably less of an eyesore

We’ve never had leaf miners here, but it’s my understanding they are best controlled by removing infested leaves…before they get out of control. I wouldn’t worry about any particular pest, until it shows itself in your garden. Most of the time milkweed diversification and having several patches spread throughout yard/garden are the best options to fight pests.

As for nursery descriptions, I tend to believe more what I hear from other gardeners. To this point, I just haven’t heard much of anything about prairie milkweed. I think this will be one of our new milkweeds trials for 2015.

Good luck with your new milkweed!

Tony, I’ve been growing all the native Wisconsin and Minnesota milkweeds for 20 years, and I am on a mission to promote prairie milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii) as the single best species for monarch recovery in the Midwest. It blooms late but also much longer than any other species, continuing to provide nectar even for the migratory generation in August and September. It does not desiccate late in the season as common milkweed does; if fact, mine continues to produce some new, tender growth until frost. As both nectar source and larval host, it is unrivaled. Last year, by my estimate, of the 16 varieties of milkweed in my yard, 50 percent of all monarch eggs were laid on prairie milkweed alone. When it is in bloom, nectaring monarchs ignore all other sources including butterfly milkweed (A. tuberosa). As far as appearance, it does not really resemble common milkweed all that much – it is way more attractive. The stalks and leaves always stay erect, the foliage is beautiful with a deep pink central vein, the flower heads are held erect above the leaf stalks instead of drooping beneath them. The blossoms are drop-dead blush pink, and they smell wonderful. What else? Prairie milkweed is higher in cardiac glycosides than the common varieties, which confers more protection on monarchs both against predators and the OE parasite. It spreads, providing more monarch food each year, but is nowhere near as aggressive as common milkweed and is easy to control. And finally, prairie milkweed really was THE dominant milkweed of our tallgrass prairies. It very likely was much more common in undisturbed native prairies than was common milkweed, a pioneer that thrives on disturbance but eventually evaporates from the climax prairie. I could go on, but you get the picture. This is the stuff that will eventually bring back the monarchs in the Midwest. Grow it and you, too, will want to promote it. Prairie Moon Nursery now has seed.

Hi Jim, I like your prairie passion! I’m actually picking up a few sullivantii plants at a plant sale this season so I’m officially on board in 2015. Like you, I have about 16 varieties of milkweed but ours are both native and non-native…the Minnesota monarchs use them all!

I like having a wide range because one (or more) varieties is always in prime condition for new eggs/caterillars or nectar seeking adults. It’s also interesting to see the other pollinators it attracts to our yard.

I will be sure to add some new photos to my prairie milkweed page this season:

Thank you for posting and have a fantastic season!

My neighbor found a milkweed near Colima Mexico that has very white umbels of flowers…that is a vine. Do you know it? I would love to discover what species of Asclepias it is. Thank you so much. Beverly

Hi Beverly, check out the top store on this link…it may have what you’re looking for.

Do you know what the difference is between swamp milkweed and ice ballet? I bought ice ballet and got confused because I had been looking for swamp milkweed, but they both have the same Latin name. (I know that the flowers are a different color, I was just confused about the name. )

Hi Seray, they are both called Asclepias incarnata. the ‘ice ballet’ cultivar has a smaller bushier growth habit with white flowers. It is a popular nectar plant but we didn’t get any eggs on it (while we got tons of eggs on regular swamp). I did feed some ‘ice ballet’ to caterpillars we raised this summer, and they didn’t have any issues eating it. I like growing both together with the ‘ice ballet’ in front. If I had to choose one, I would go with regular swamp.

Hi Tony, do you have any plants in stock that are rated for zone 6? Thank you, Jayna

if you check out each plant listing on this page, there is info about the hardiness zones and native regions. Then you can either click the links under a specific plant or go down to the store section and look for specific plants in each store to see if plants are available…Asclepias incarnata is a good garden variety where plants are often available:

Hello Tony:
I have milkweed seeds from pods given to me by a coworker. The outside green layer of pod has dried and opened to reveal beautiful jewel like seeds. What kind of soil should I plant them in? Sun? Shade? Deep, shallow?
Thanks, Kathryn

Hi Kathryn, here’s a post I wrote about fall planting milkweed that you may find useful:

I’ve had difficulties getting milkweed seeds/plants across the border to Canada so I was wondering if you have any suggestions on nurseries or garden centers that sell milkweed in Ontario, Canada? Thanks.

Hi Paul, I added a link that has Canadian milkweed listings at the bottom of the store listings. There are actually a couple listings from Canadian vendors. Otherwise, I would try to find native nurseries and plant sales in your region.

Ropalida montana, Trona species, Chalybion benghalense. ( identified by British Museum 1977-80) All these species of insects have been identified as pollinators of Asclepias curassavica

I have butterfly weed, tropical milkweed and giant. The giant is on the do not plant list for South Florida. I will try hard to contain all the seed. I will also try to find out why it is on the list ans could it thrive in some wild areas again. I will start to experimint with other milkweed plants but I am in zone 10+ – 11.

The two giants are still very small but have solved the problems here. My other two varieties I constantly have a tray of plugs started. Before i found the giant I was working with friends to see who had food for the monarchs and either bringing food here or taking cats there. . .whatever worked at the time. I saw a bunch of articles about using melon, pumpkin or cucumber for feeding. I had desperate cats in all stages and my friends were not avilable and none of the cats survived on these foods. . .They did eat, but got less vital everyday. It was Easter and my granddaughter decided to give them an egg. Surprisingly they loved the yolk. . . but still did not survive.

I will continue to add plants for other butterflies and continue learning what each type needs.

Hi Nancy, milkweed is usually easy to control in a garden setting if you cut off the pods prematurely. As for feeding caterpillars milkweed alternatives, they are only supposed to be used for large caterpillars (instar 5 or large instar 4). I love your granddaughter’s ingenuity. You never know if you don’t try.

Why do you think the do not plant list is for everyone but you? You will “try” to contain the seeds? That is not good enough. All the exotics in Florida should prove that to you. If you care about monarchs, why not extend your care to the natural environment and become a steward rather than a destroyer?

Sally, I choose to focus on solutions that can help to support the monarch population, and not get fixated on potential problems with simple solutions that some refuse to discuss. Tropical milkweed is a viable milkweed solution for many gardeners across the US and it can and does help to develop healthy monarch butterflies through their metamorphosis.

I grow giant Milkweed in South Florida. Since I get a lot of caterpillars, it’s the only food source I can constantly have on-hand. The leaves are larger. I have regular , native Milkweed however, they get eaten back so fast so in order for me to keep up food supply, I need to have the Giant as well. It never gets out of hand. Just like the regular Milkweed, as they eat a branch, I cut it back so the plant gets bushy and not so tall and out of control.

Please! Don’t plant milkweed vines. These are extremely invasive and can’t be controlled. They’ve taken over woods and destroyed native milkweed and other native plants. They’ve even poisoned the larvae of the monarchs who have laid their eggs on the plants. These shouldn’t be sold and certainly not planted.
On a much better note! I love your site! Very informative !

I think you are talking about a specific type of vine that is not in the milkweed family. There are other milkweed vines that people have planted successfully in their gardens and raised milkweed. Cynanchum laeve (honeyvine milkweed) is a native vine that can be invasive but is less so if grown in pots and seed pods are cut off. Monarchs caterpillars can feed on this vine too…

There are also other tropical milkweed vines that people have raised monarchs on, though there is not a lot of info on them.

Please give a link that shows location of the zones mentioned above. I am in Austin, Texas, ans would like to have plants that don’t freeze and die in the winter. thanks

Hi Ruth, thanks for your feedback. I added a link to look up your plant hardiness zone in the green box at the top of the page.

Hi Tony. Love all this. Very informative and interesting. I’m brand new at this and would love to plant a butterfly garden. I live in North Florida. What would you suggest?

Hi Donna, I am constantly trying out new milkweed varieties to see which grow best in our region (I’m in Minnesota) and also to see what the monarchs prefer. As for natives, swamp milkweed is a popular host and nectar plant. Tropical milkweed is a popular non-native grown across Florida. It should be cut back a couple times a year to avoid spreading monarch diseases. Start with a couple varieties, and then expand your selection after those are established. Good luck!

Hi Donna, I am in Central Florida but if you contact Edith, at Shady Oak Butterfly Farm, she sells seeds and is actually located here in Florida. I grow the Tropical Milkweed, the red, and I have a couple of yellow, and last year I started growing the Giant Milkweed. I’ve had a butterfly garden based around Monarchs for 12 years and am happy to say last year was one of the best ever. I know it gets cold up north but here in Central FL we are blessed to have Monarchs nearly year-round. Good luck!

Donna, I’m on facebook if you want to contact me. I live in the narrow zone of Jacksonville FL (north FL). I grow Asclepias Curassavica & lots of it. However it is short lived (1.5 yrs), & it never seems to be enough for all the Monarch caterpillars. Here you might want to tent when you have caterpillars, or the hornets & wasps will eat them, and they’ll go after the chrysalis too. This year I’m adding common Milkweed to the mix. Hopefully this will provide more food.

Janis, what do you mean by tenting? Do you mean plants grown in the ground? Could you give me the basics? Thanks.

I just moved to Dallas Texas and have a couple of acres.
I would like to find out what types of milkweed plants would best grow in north Texas.
Any information would be appreciated!
I do enjoy viewing your website – very informative!
Appreciate any help you can provide.
Evelyn Adams

Hi Evelyn, these are a couple resources that discuss growing milkweed in Texas:
Milkweed guide for central and south Texas
More milkweed options for Texas Hope this helps!

I know I am in a minority, but I am not so crazy about that “only use native plants” idea. I want lots of color and varieties in the garden so I grow as many different species as I can. HOWEVER, I also keep tight control of the garden and don’t let things spread or indiscriminately throw seeds around. I have seen where things did go wild in other states because people threw away plants or let the seeds blow into pastures and swamps. You are responsible for what you plant. If you have a liatris (which is wildly aggressive) you see that you have just two or three where you want a little purple and you watch it regularly. If it starts to seed, cut them away. Deadhead regularly. You can grow anything as long as you are responsible.

I am trying to start swamp and giant milkweed right now from seed. They are extremely tough. I have a few small plants but I would normally expect the pots to be full. Perhaps it is just not warm enough yet. I just added some new top dirt and put in more seeds today. I know they will be annuals here, but if I can get the seeds from a successful plant I can continue the seeding year after year.

I’m on board with the idea of responsible gardening. Depending on where you live, and how much time you put into gardening non-natives can be a great option. However, I understand they aren’t for everybody. Herb, if you mulch you might be able to grow giant milkweed perennially…I’d try it if I was in Florida.

Wild Ones recommends that you not plant non-native species of milkweed. Research is on-going to determine what harm, if any, planting non-natives will do to the monarchs. In the meantime, we recommend you err on the side of prudence and plant only milkweed native to your location.

Donna, there are precautions you can take to make potential issues with non-native milkweed a non-issue (I’ll be discussing them in an upcoming post and will link it to this page). For those that want a “throw and go” garden I agree that it’s best to stick with natives to avoid unforeseen issues. For gardeners who are willing to put more effort and care into their garden, adding non-native milkweeds to enhance the native pillars will attract more monarchs and other pollinators to their gardens. In a time when the monarchs need more milkweed support, limiting their options based on speculation doesn’t seem very prudent to me.

Prudence? For that we study history.

Prior to their introduction in new ecosystems all we could do is speculate about the impact of non-natives. A lot of people, putting human wants first, have helped non-natives spread. History tells us that time and again, these invaders have wrought unexpected and costly damage to human agriculture and/or native species. Tony, you keep chastising people for raising concerns although we have no evidence.

Put it this way…. as yet there is no (or maybe very little) evidence on the health impact of drinking fracking water after it goes through a municipal treatment plant that of course was not designed to remove fracking chemicals. If we apply your logic, you should be A-OK drinking that water without further treatment, and letting your family drink it too. Wait! You’re not willing, even though there is little or no evidence the trace amounts of frack chemicals could impact your physiological system?? Well, let’s celebrate the lack of evidence and Minnesota’s abundance of clean water. May it ever stay that way. And may we never declare any of the plant species you recommend “noxious weeds” after some surprising parasite learns to use them as a vector before taking out Minnesota’s wild rice crop.

Natives are the only way to go, for ecologically minded butterfly fans. Non-natives are for the ecologically ignorant who can’t see impacts past their property line, and for profiteers.

I would like to know which milkweed will grow the best in Maplewood, MN, near St. Paul and Minneapolis. Thank you. JoyceAnn Vogt

I’m in your region and we grow many types of milkweed (both perennial and as annuals). Common milkweed is a great milkweed for our first generations of returning monarchs. Showy milkweed and purple milkweed are similar in appearance but are less invasive in a garden setting.

Swamp milkweed is a fantastic summer milkweed that prefers moist soil. Non-native tropical milkweed is popular with monarchs around migration time but must be grown annually. Hope this helps!

I find Asclepias verticillata (whorled milkweed) to be pretty widely distributed in central and southern Minnesota along farm roadsides and ditches though it’s not nearly as abundant as A. syriaca. I also often find monarch caterpillars on A. verticillata. A verticillata also seems with withstand roadside mowing pretty well.

Hi Paul, we added four verticillata plants last season and looking forward to their return in spring. My biggest concern with this species is the lack of leaves! I can’t imagine a plant even satisfying one caterpillar. But, I’m trying out as many options as possible without making assumptions so verticillata gets a fair shot too. Perhaps cutting it back will give it a bushier growth…Thanks for your roadside reports!

I love your site, thank you!

It would be SO helpful if under each milkweed you list to also state the climate zones that are suitable. We grow several milkweed varieties on our small 2 1/2 acre parcel in rural Arroyo Grande, CA. Indeed Asclepias physocarpa/ Gomphocarpus physocarpus (goose plant) is useful, because it grows to be a BIG plant and can support many caterpillars. You might mention that this variety needs to be staked, as it gets top heavy and easily tips over, especially when gophers nibble on the roots which generally does not seem to kill it!)

Thanks for your comment Ron! It really helps to get constructive feedback. 1) if you look at the post you’ll see that some of the milkweed varieties listed have secondary links going to plant pages with more detailed info (including physocarpa). I will think of a way to make those links stand out more so visitors don’t miss them 2) I added a bullet point about staking in perennial zones (I have also heard this from a couple other gardeners) Thank You!

this is an amazing website to go on cause I’m a kid who is raising a caterpillar!

I just needed to know what milkweed to use so the caterpillar can eat?

Hi Deena, monarch caterpillars can eat any variety of milkweed listed on this resource page.

Hi Deena, I’m glad you are finding the website a helpful source. good luck with your caterpillar!

I live in Nipomo and only have had success with the asclepias with gold and orange flowers. I love to collect and replant the seeds. Where did you purchase your plants/seeds? We had 3 flybys of monarchs and each set of caterpillars ate every leaf and flower, but the plants regrew enough to support the next wave. I also work at Dunn School in the Santa Ynez Valley and have brought my potted asclepias to help feed the caterpillars here, but I worry about freezing, so take them to Nipomo and my greenhouse. Sources for viable plants/seeds would be helpful.

Hi Nancy, if Ron doesn’t get back to you with local options, check out some of the top rated milkweed stores here. Good luck!

I just started using seeds instead of live plants. from my own seed pods and about four hundred seeds I bought. I now have about six to seven hundred plants comeing up. should be feast for our little frends this spring. gary

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

(aka: Orange Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Weed)
Butterfly Milkweed, one of four milkweeds on our site, is perfectly named; it is a brilliant orange butterfly magnet. It’s native to eastern North America and is easy to grow. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun.

It blooms a beautiful cluster of flowers in the summer months, and each fall, the seeds are dispersed through the air as the large teardrop-shaped seed pods burst. This plant is a must-have in every butterfly garden. Encourage new growth by deadheading flowers.