Asclepias, aka “Milkweed”

If you chose to add one important plant for sustaining habitat in your garden, please chose Asclepias. Also known as “milkweed”, this native perennial is the ONLY plant upon which a female Monarch butterfly will lay her eggs. The leaves provide the primary food source for the hatched larvae who soon spin their chrysalis before gracing our gardens as a glorious butterfly.

Monarch butterflies need our help in rebuilding lost habitat along their migration routes. By planting one of three types of native milkweed, you can help them recover.

My favorite variety is “tuberosa”, the shorter, more compact variety shown above. It not only supplies Monarch food, it’s favored by hundreds of other native perennial bees and wasps which play a vital role in pollination.

The taller “incarnata” and “syriaca” milkweeds are stately back of the border perennials with long-lasting profuse blooms. Whichever you choose, it’s advised that you only plant varieties that are native to your area. Planting a tropical milkweed here in New England could actually be more harmful to Monarchs as it may disrupt their regular breeding patterns. Use The Xerces Society milkweed seed finder here.

You can also Contact Me for asclepias seeds, if you live in the greater Nashua area.

Take the challenge and help pollinators by planting Asclepias and other important native perennials that are discussed on my website!

  • Plant type: native to North America

  • Growing Conditions: full sun, tolerates average to poor soil and hot, dry conditions. Drought tolerant.

  • Size: tuberosa reaches 18”; incarnata & syrica can reach 3’ in height;

  • Spread: 1-2', can form colonies by rhizome or seed

  • Bloom: June through September in Zone 5b

  • Maintenance: low-maintenance

  • Biodiversity: host plant for Monarchs; frequented by all pollinators

  • Pairings: ornamental grasses, mixed borders

  • Location: tuberosa, front of border; incarnata & syrica back of bed

  • Pests: none

  • Sourcing: through The Big Little Garden

orange pop of color in a sun-shade border

The cheerful orange inflorescense of Asclepias tuberosa contrast beautifully with purple-leafed Cimicifuga (bugbane). Keep the color going with regular deadheading.

asclepias seed harvest in early fal

Seeds are easily harvested from ripe seed pods. Store in a paper envelope in a cool, dry place and direct sow in spring or start indoors in late winter.

The tall, stately growth habit of Asclepias incarnata “Ice Ballet” is evident here, anchoring the back of this mixed perennial border.