Purple Milkweed is Back!


You don’t see a lot if Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) in gardens, not even in native plant gardens. For several years I doted on a small clump of it in the Back Garden Raised Bed. Feeling that the plant should be more widely grown, in 2014 I offered free seeds from my own plants to anyone who wanted them.

I was going to do the same in 2015, but that year the Purple Milkweed didn’t produce any seed pods. Then in 2016, the plant seemed to just disappear. Assuming it had simply faded away, I mourned its loss.


So imagine my delight this year when I saw a Purple Milkweed stem topped with a cluster of flower buds, which opened just the other day. There are two other stems without flowers nearby.

I do wonder how this happened – don’t think these are self-sown plants, as it takes three years for A. purpurascens seedlings to flower.

DSC_0712In any case, Purple Milkweed leaves look a lot like Common Milkweed (A. syriaca), but A. purpurascens is much shorter, just 2-3 feet. The flower clusters have a richer color, and are also held upright, while common milkweed flowers sort of droop. Purple Milkweed doesn’t  spread aggressively, and seems to prefer part shade to full sun. The Common Milkweed is much more fragrant, though.

Purple Milkweed is not an easy plant to find. I’ve never seen it at a garden center, and few online retailers carry it. I ordered my original plant from Shooting Star Nursery in Kentucky, but they no longer do mail order. Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota sometimes carries seeds, but no plants. Various people have told me the seeds are not easy to germinate.

DSC_0699Above is one of the stems without flowers. Keeping my fingers crossed for flowers next year. I’m also keeping my fingers crossed for seed pods from this year’s one flower cluster. I’ll be happy to offer free seeds again if there are any seeds to give away.

I’d like to pamper my Purple Milkweed to give it a boost, but I’m not really sure how to do that. I think for now I’ll just give it some extra water now and then.

DSC_0746On a related front, I’m pleased to see the revival of another favorite plant out in the front garden. This time it’s the Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) in the Driveway Border. This plant had dwindled away to almost nothing. To reverse the trend, I moved in some new volunteer Anise Hyssop from other beds. I also made more room for them by dividing some of the competing plants. More on Anise Hyssop in future posts.

It’s always nice when a favorite plant you had written off makes a surprise return.

35 Comments on “Purple Milkweed is Back!”

  1. It is so good to have a loved plant back in the garden, the purple Milkweed seems to be on a decline if so few places are selling the seeds. Also love the Anise Hyssop…probably wouldn’t like our really hot weather in summer I’m guessing.

  2. Very fortunate, especially as it is a favourite plant. I do hope it produces some seed for you. I have been fortunate too, in that three plants (2 buddleia and a Gaura) that I thought had frozen completely in winter have bounced back… I’m not sure if they will flower this year but at least they are not dead!

  3. You sent me some purple milkweed seeds in 2014, but perhaps I didn’t sow them correctly (in three different gardens!) for they came to naught. The next year I got a couple of plants from Shooting Star. They shriveled and vanish. Then, last year, a tentative shoot appeared but disappeared. This spring, two shoots which grew sbout 8 inches, then gone again. I have a wire cage around the spot and keep it weeded and clear in hope that next year they will prevail. I can look at yours and hope!

  4. This is very interesting. Makes me wonder what the stunted-looking milkweed that has come up in my backyard for two summers now is. It has never flowered. But it keeps coming back so I guess I just sit and wait it out and maybe something will happen!

  5. Welcome back, purple milkweed! I was not able to get the seeds to germinate after your last give-away, but I would like to try again, now that the blueberry bed is turning into a milkweed bed. I had a ‘Red Husker’ mysteriously reappear, far from its original spot. Wish the Canada thistle and Queen Anne’s lace would disappear.

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