Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Common Milkweed, Common Silkweed, Silk Grass, Virginia Silk, Silky Swallow Wort, Virginian Silk
Asclepias syriaca

Family: Apocynaceae (a-pos-ih-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Asclepias (ass-KLE-pee-us) (Info)
Species: syriaca (seer-ee-AK-uh) (Info)

15 vendors have this plant for sale.

56 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 47 photos.
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11 positives
6 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive plant_it On Jun 24, 2013, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

Milkweed is of vital importance to Monarch butterflies.

If you are interested in Monarchs, you must check out Bring Back The Monarchs. The goals of this program are to restore 20 milkweed species, used by monarch caterpillars as food, to their native ranges throughout the United States and to encourage the planting of nectar-producing native flowers that support adult monarchs and other pollinators --

To learn about monarchs, go here:

Positive NordicFletch On Oct 13, 2009, NordicFletch from Stanchfield, MN wrote:

Common Milkweed (A. syriaca), as well as some other milkweeds, is not only a food source for the Monarch butterfly -- it is a food source for Humans, too. Yes, it is edible.

The shoots (like asparagus, when the leaves are still "hugging" the stem), the flower bud clusters (they resemble broccoli) and the immature pods (like okra) are edible. Even the mature flowers are edible, as long as they have not begun to wilt. When harvested at the proper stage of development, you can eat these parts of the plant raw, steamed or boiled with no danger of being poisoned. If it were not edible, the Natives (the "Indians" of the Americas) would not have eaten it as a vegetable.

My source: "The Forager's Harvest", by Samuel Thayer, as well as many other "Wild Foods" enthusiasts -- and my own personal experience eating this DELICIOUS vegetable.

Positive napdognewfie On Aug 1, 2009, napdognewfie from Cumberland, MD (Zone 6a) wrote:

Grows wild all around here along the roads & in empty fields. I leave some volunteers grow for the butterflies & pull the ones in my way. Flowers smell wonderful especially if there are a number of them.

Last year my plants were covered with big, red Milkweed beetles. I spent all summer killing them by hand (gross!) I have only found one so far this year so I am hoping they are gone. Maybe this year, the butterflies will be able to lay their eggs.

Positive 10norsky66 On Feb 16, 2009, 10norsky66 from Berea, OH wrote:

We first allowed this so-called weed to remain because of its importance to monarch butterflies. We see many adults visiting our milkweeds, but have yet to find any eggs or caterpillars. Anybody have pictures to help me spot these stages?

In addition to the monarch connection, I appreciate the plants because their large fleshy leaves are an attractive contrast to the fine-textured foliage of nearby plants. Few pests have bothered them in the 6 or 7 years I've had them, but this past year I found I had to start limiting their spread.

My mother-in-law made pretty Christmas tree ornaments from the dried seed cases.

Positive DMgardener On Nov 16, 2008, DMgardener from (Daniel) Mount Orab, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

The Plant is FANTASTIC! THe flowers are extremely attractive to all butterflies (esp. Monarchs) in my area. The scent is phenomenal, very much like hyacinths. The only downside is small; when the seedpods 'explode' they leave a whitish mess/cloud on the grass. It dissipates within a week. However, they DO NOT transplant well. Grow from seeds instead.

Neutral frostweed On Nov 30, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca is native to Texas and other States.

Neutral sallyg On Jun 4, 2006, sallyg from Anne Arundel,, MD (Zone 7b) wrote:

A plant of pluses and minuses as others have described. Here in central MD, I rarely have seen any monarch action on my ten-plus year, healthy patch. I do always have milkweed bugs and often milkweed moths, which are interesting in their own right. The moth caterpillars clued me in on another type of milkweed that volunteered in my yard, as I saw them on it and figured it must be a close relative.

Positive fmanddk On May 29, 2006, fmanddk from Chicago, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

I feel in love with milkweeds after moving to Chicago and 'rescued' one from being dug out by landscapers. Well, that one root is now popping up all over my yard, even in a bed of Butterfly Weeds (which even thought they are also Asclepias don't seem to be as attractive to Monarchs as host plants).

Despite the fact that is not well bahaved, I love this plant. Last year we raised and released 3 Monarchs, and my son and I have already brought in 4 Monarch eggs to raise this year. And the smell of the flowers is heavenly!

Shortly after the milkweeds came, the milkweed bugs followed. Maybe that's why we haven't seen any pupae on the plants themselves.

Positive raisedbedbob On Jan 31, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

I've read that the young pods can be boiled and eaten in an emergency.

Neutral Gabrielle On Jan 24, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

I like the look of Milkweed, I like the scent of its flowers, I like the butterflies it draws, but I don't like its invasiveness. I have a small yard, so have to have plants that are a little better behaved. Maybe if I had it in an area with poorer soil it would be better.

Neutral Breezymeadow On Oct 23, 2005, Breezymeadow from Culpeper, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant grows wild all over the Piedmont area of Virginia & my fields are full of it. Although I don't find the plant itself or its flowers particularly attractive, I do like the seedpods, which make lovely additions to fall & winter dried arrangements & crafts.

Although it is well-known as a food source for the Monarch Butterfly, I have yet to see any Monarch larvae on any of the plants around here, although the butterflies themselves are frequently spotted from late summer until frost. As a "butterfly " plant, I don't see even 1/10th of the number of butterflies that I do on other wild attracters such as Butterfly Weed & Thistle.

It is somewhat toxic to livestock, but is not attractive to them so is rarely eaten except in desperation. Still - I remove it regularly from all pasture areas. It can come up as a pest in my vegetable garden, but is relatively easy to pull from moist soil.

All in all, I'm rather "neutral" on it as a garden plant, although I do understand it's importance in the "wild" scheme of things.

Neutral zemerson On Oct 22, 2005, zemerson from Calvert County, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

I haven't grown this in a garden, but from living in Rhode Island, I know it well. It seems to be a prolific spreader and has seedpods full of "milkweed silk" and seeds. Grows most often mixed in with beach plum and other seaside plants.

Positive SalmonMe On Oct 23, 2004, SalmonMe from Springboro, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

This plant is definintely a HUGE attraction for adult Monarchs. It's important to also note that it is not only a preferred host plant, but Asclepias are the ONLY host plant for Monarch caterpillars. The Monarch larvae/caterpillars cannot survive without Asclepias as a food source.

Positive PurplePansies On Jul 16, 2004, PurplePansies from Deal, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:

I looooove asclepias syriaca...... it is not the best garden plant because it will take its share of space...... but if you plant it elsewhere...... contain it etc. it is a great plant...... I think it's pretty and the smell is........ oooooohhhhh ...... heavenly..... it's also a host for monarch butterflies...... one of the most important hosta and the monarchs are loosing their habitat...... find a place for this plant in your garden...... you won't be dissapointed!!!!! Kids also love the fluffy seed pods and some people use the seedpods in crafts although I like poppies for this better ....... the smell is of lilacs and hyacinths....... very strong and wafts on a summer evening :)

Positive CaptMicha On Jun 6, 2004, CaptMicha from Brookeville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

No matter how much this plant spreads, it can't get on my bad side. I think the flowers from common milkweed are the most becomming of all the cultivated and other wild milkweed.

The plant yeilds large 4" round clusters of mauve flowers with broad leaves and thick stems.

The negative is that the stalks often fall over if the season was overly rainy. Also, this plant spreads by a vigourous underground root system and will come up all over the place if not controlled. I found that cutting the plants down to the ground continously (whenever they come back up) and disturbing the root system by digging up as much of it as possible elimates unwanted plants.

Common milkweed does not seem to be preferred over other milkweeds by monarchs and other butterflies. They tend to pass over the common and go for swamp milkweed which has flat flower clusters and tender leaves.

Edited to note that this milkweed is extremely targeted by milkweed bugs and beetles due to it's thick stems and broad leaves.

Positive luvprimitive On Apr 17, 2004, luvprimitive from Evington, VA wrote:

I have one bed that is devoted to my milkweeds. It's in my front yard. I love the blooms. You can smell them all over the front yard. But the plants are special to me because of the Monarch Butterflies. Every year I wait for them to lay thier eggs on my plants and hunt daily for the caterpillars to emerge. I bring them in the house and raise them until they become butterflies and then release them. Last summer I raised and released 14 monarchs. I supply the 1st grade classes at the school where I teach with caterpillars to raise each year also.

Neutral poppysue On Jan 4, 2003, poppysue from Westbrook, ME (Zone 5a) wrote:

This milkweed is common in New England and grows wild along the roadsides and in open fields. Although the flower clusters are attractive, IMHO this is not a good choice for a garden plant. The deep fleshy roots will invade surounding plants and they're nearly impossible to dig out. I've dug 3 feet down trying irradicate it from some of my beds and it still pops back up like it was never disturbed.

On a positive note, it's a host plant to monarch butterflies. Adults love the flowers and the caterillars feed on the foliage. Plant it in an out of the way area where it can compete with grasses and weeds. It's tough enough to stand it's own ground and you'll be able to enjoy the butterflies it attracts.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Barling, Arkansas
Concord, California
Richmond, California
Lilburn, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Gardner, Illinois
La Grange Park, Illinois
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Washington, Illinois
Indianapolis, Indiana
Valparaiso, Indiana
Iowa City, Iowa
Benton, Kentucky
Clermont, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Melbourne, Kentucky
Nicholasville, Kentucky
Oberlin, Louisiana
Litchfield, Maine
Skowhegan, Maine
Brookeville, Maryland
Cumberland, Maryland
Oakland, Maryland
Valley Lee, Maryland
Billerica, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts
Bay City, Michigan
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan
Pinconning, Michigan
Duluth, Minnesota
Isle, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2 reports)
Minnetonka, Minnesota
Saint Cloud, Minnesota
Stanchfield, Minnesota
Vicksburg, Mississippi
Cole Camp, Missouri
Helena, Montana
Greenville, New Hampshire
Frenchtown, New Jersey
Mount Laurel, New Jersey
Buffalo, New York
Glen Cove, New York
Himrod, New York
Willsboro, New York
Efland, North Carolina
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Oxford, North Carolina
Winston Salem, North Carolina
Berea, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Glouster, Ohio
Mount Orab, Ohio
Springboro, Ohio
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Dayton, Oregon
Walterville, Oregon
Albion, Pennsylvania
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Erie, Pennsylvania
Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Middletown, Rhode Island
Manning, South Carolina
Clarksville, Tennessee
Round Rock, Texas
Willis, Texas
Evington, Virginia
Glen Allen, Virginia
Madison, Wisconsin
Porterfield, Wisconsin
Pulaski, Wisconsin
Racine, Wisconsin

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