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Milkweed comes in many varieties, and is the only food source for monarch caterpillars. Not only are the leaves essential for monarch caterpillar growth, but the flowers help nourish the adult butterflies as well. The amount of wild milkweed has declined in past years, and horticulturists and home gardeners alike have been working to restore it. This past year, there were less than , monarchs overwintering in Mexico, and that number was even further reduced by a late winter storm. By comparison, the most recent peak year of had over 1. Increasingly, researchers are finding: no milkweed, no monarchs.

See the full definition for milkweed in the English Language Learners Dictionary. Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with milkweed. Spanish Central: Translation of milkweed. Nglish: Translation of milkweed for Spanish Speakers. What made you want to look up milkweed? Please tell us where you read or heard it including the quote, if possible. Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

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Seeds can be difficult to find in the trade, so try to find a friend who grows this species and is willing to share seeds. Purple milkweed is one of many varieties of perennial milkweeds used by monarchs to raise their young. Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa : Unlike most other milkweeds, the flowers of butterfly weed are not pink, purple, or white. Instead, this milkweed species has flowers that are bright orange.

Its short stature and clump-forming habit make it the perfect fit for most gardens. Hardy in zones and reaching just 2 feet in height, the jazzy orange flowers of butterfly weed are nothing short of spectacular. You can buy seeds of butterfly weed here.

Orange flowered butterfly weed is also a milkweed and can serve as a host plant for monarchs. Showy Milkweed Asclepias speciosa : Far less aggressive than common milkweed, showy milkweed is an excellent alternative. Hardy in zones and reaching about 4 to 5 feet tall, the flower clusters of showy milkweed look like groups of pointed stars. Though there are fewer flowers per cluster than with common milkweed, this monarch butterfly host plant species steals the show with its spiky, pinky-purple blooms.

Showy is a great name for it! You can buy seeds of showy milkweed here. The star-shaped flowers of showy milkweed are so pretty.

Milkweed for Monarchs

The plant has a soft, feathery appearance, and since it tops out at about 3 feet in height, it makes a great addition to a perennial border. Whorled milkweed is not an aggressive grower, but it does spread via underground rhizomes, so be prepared to give it lots of room. The flowers of this species are a soft white with just a hint of pink at their centers. Small clusters of flowers top nearly every stem, and despite the delicate appearance of this milkweed species, it can feed a lot of monarch caterpillars.

You can buy seed of whorled milkweed here. There are, of course, many regional species of milkweed as well. You may recall that at the start of this article I mentioned that winter is the perfect time to plant milkweed seeds.

This is because the seeds of perennial milkweed species need to be exposed to an extended period of freezing temperatures in order to break dormancy. The process is known as stratification, and in nature, milkweed seeds naturally pass through this period of cold and wet as winter progresses. So, in order to have success growing milkweed from seed, you have to make sure the seeds are stratified either naturally or artificially.

Instead, plant the seeds in the late autumn or winter. Most milkweeds are easy to start from seed, if the seeds are exposed to cold temperatures. Step 1: Act like Mother Nature. For the best results when growing milkweeds from seed, if you live where winters are cold, simply go outdoors anytime from late fall through mid-winter and drop milkweed seeds wherever you want them in the garden, just like Mother Nature does.

Do not cover the seeds! Simply press them against the soil with your hand or the sole of your shoe.

Grow Milkweed for Monarchs and the James River!

Step 2: Walk away. The easiest way to grow milkweed seeds is to plant them in the fall or winter forget about them. If you want to support monarch butterflies like this one, you need to plant host plants for the caterpillars. You can also grow perennial milkweeds from seed by exposing them to an artificial winter. To do this, fold the seeds into a very slightly damp paper towel, and put the towel in a zipper-top baggie. Place the baggie in the back of the fridge for eight to ten weeks, then remove it and sprinkle the seeds into the garden, again being careful not to cover them with soil.

As you can see, milkweeds are both gorgeous and much needed. Grow as many varieties of this monarch butterfly host plant as you can, and we will all reap the benefits. Great article.

Milkweed Aphids. Annoying but Colorful

We grow most of the ones listed above at Phoenix Perennials. Good morning! Are there any milkweed plants you would recommend for zone 10a? Also, in a related post, you recommend planting dill but I have heard that it can be invasive. How do you recommend dealing with the desire to have swallowtail butterflies with an invasive plant? All are native to that region. Other choices mentioned in this article are whorled milkweed and butterfly weed. As for dill, yes, it can become invasive, especially in warm regions where it throws prolific amounts of seed.

You can also plant a native alternative from the same plant family Apiaceae. Jessica — thank you for your suggestions. I love in San Diego, CA, close to the coast.

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  8. Would these recommendations still work there? Hi Armand — Thanks for the clarification.

    Those Florida species are not a good choice for you. These would be a much better fit. Thank you for the research, and for sharing.

    Milkweed for Monarchs

    I have butterfly bushes which attract Monarchs, but then they lay their eggs in my Azaleas. As caterpillars, they strip every leaf and some stem off my Azaleas, and this can be done in two or three days. Monarch adult butterflies can feed on nectar from many different flowering plants, but their caterpillars can only feed on milkweed. I suspect you have another type of caterpillar on your azaleas. Are the orange milkweed plants harmful to animals? Few animals will eat milkweeds due to their latex-based sap.

    But, if they would nibble it, yes, the alkaloids in the sap could hurt them.

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    However, I know lots of gardeners with cats and milkweeds and have never heard of anyone having problems. I live 50 Minutes west of Chicago, zone 5b. I would suggest either swamp milkweed Asclepias incarnata or butterfly weed. Neither are aggressive and both are fully hardy in zone 5. Where can I find milkweed seeds and what variety would I plant? I live in south central Wisconsin near Madison.