Right now there are two species of Milkweed blooming in our garden: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Butterflyweed (A. tuberosa). As you probably know, native Milkweed species are essential to the future of the Monarch Butterfly.
The Common Milkweed has grown into a nice little patch that is blooming well in the Sidewalk Border. Common Milkweed is an aggressive plant, but as of now I’m glad I planted it. Once established it spreads far and wide via roaming rhizomes. Stems that pop up where they are not wanted are yanked out or mowed down (as in the lawn). I also cut back before the flowers go to seed.
Those who introduce this plant to their gardens should know what they are getting into. Nevertheless I am pleased to see Common Milkweed included in a surprising number of gardens in our community, particularly in parkways aka “hell strips”.
I love the unique shape of Milkweed flowers, though the dusty pink color of this species does not excite me. The flowers of Common Milkweed also have a wonderful honey scent, which is the main reason I planted it where passersby could appreciate the fragrance.
As for Butterflyweed, I used to have a very nice patch in the Driveway Border, but it has been much diminished since we did some driveway construction. Butterflyweed has a taproot and spreads by making clumps, but it doesn’t run. It resents disturbance. And the Driveway patch is now being shaded by other plants, notably Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta).
Generally, though, Butterflyweed is a fairly easy plant. Mainly it wants sun and well-drained soil, though there is a variety adapted to clay soil sold by Prairie Nursery. And I love the vibrant orange color.
More recently, we planted a couple of new Butterfyweeds in the little bed in front of the front door landing. They seem to be doing ok, though that spot got a lot of snow piled on in late winter. That seemed to delay the emergence of the plants – they are late to break dormancy anyhow. Not sure they appreciated the extra moisture, either.
Our biggest patch of Butterflyweed is tucked out-of-the-way on the west side of the Crabapple bed. It looks healthy, but is blooming a bit sparsely.
Milkweed species are the only host plants for the Monarch Butterfly. I was pleased to catch a single Monarch here nectaring on the Common Milkweed. We don’t usually start seeing multiple Monarchs until later in the summer.
Here’s the same Monarch (I think) basking on some Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata).
The most recent Monarch population numbers are quite grim. However, it’s not too late. Planting native Milkweed species in our home gardens is one easy way most people can contribute. We also have Rose and Sullivant’s Milkweed (A. incarnata and A. sullivantii) in our garden but they are not blooming yet, so I’ll write about them later. Plus, there are a number of other garden-worthy species.
Do you grow Common Milkweed in your garden? Are you happy with it? Do you have a different favorite Milkweed species?