Did you know the Monarch butterfly population has declined 90% in the last 20 years? The destruction of native prairies and grasslands, as well as the widespread use of commercial weed killers, has decimated the population of native milkweed—the only plant Monarch butterflies will lay eggs on.
You can help. By incorporating milkweed into your yards and gardens, you can not only feed Monarch butterfly caterpillars but a host of other butterflies as well.
There are a number of milkweeds to choose from so here is a quick guide of some of the more common varieties you’re likely to find.
Asclepias incarnata—Swamp Milkweed
This variety is native to the Central and Eastern U.S. It is a perennial that prefers part shade and slightly moist soil. I can grow up to four feet in height. It has pink or white flowers with a sweet vanilla-like fragrance. This variety is well-behaved in the garden (not invasive).
Asclepias speciosa—Showy Milkweed
This is a native species to the West Coast. It has fragrant pink flowers and prefers sun and well-draining soil. Because it prefers poor soil, fertilize sparingly. It grows between four and five feet in height and can be a vigorous spreader—so give it plenty of room.
Asclepias tuberosa—Butterfly Weed
This native to the Central and Southern U.S. has showy bright orange flowers. About two feet in height, it is well-behaved in the garden. Because it has a long taproot, it is somewhat drought tolerant. However, because of that long taproot, it does not transplant well.
Asclepias Syriaca—Common Milkweed
Common Milkweed is native to the Central and Eastern U.S. It can grow up to six feet in height and is happiest in most conditions as long as it gets plenty of sunlight. Pink flowers have a soft sweet fragrance. This is another vigorous spreader.
Asclepias currassavica—Tropical Milkweed
This one is not native but has naturalized over the Southern U.S. in zones 9 to 11. It has showy yellow and red-orange flowers all summer long. There is some concern that because it blooms all the way to frost that is can encourage Monarch butterflies to stay past the time they should be beginning their migration to Mexico. Experts recommend planting this with a native Milkweed and cutting the flowers off when the native variety stops blooming.
Let Us Help You Choose the Right Variety!
Stop by the Great Big Greenhouse and let us help you select the best milkweed plant for your yard. We have various varieties in stock and ready for your garden.
Whichever variety you choose, you’re not only decorating your yard with flowers, you’re decorating it with butterflies.