My growing Milkweeds!

Monrovia, CA

The 2 bigger ones are Narrow Leaf Milkweed the other 2 are Indian Milkweed. The Indian Milkweed's definitely spreading out more than the Narrow Leaf. Taller Indian Milkweed's got some "buddies" and a baby Indian Milkweed's just popping up too. Soon to have a couple of Tropical Milkweed plants too. Not really a plant person. I'm doing it for Monarch butterflies!

Thumbnail by Protaygo Thumbnail by Protaygo Thumbnail by Protaygo Thumbnail by Protaygo
Monrovia, CA

Hello? Any tips? And do I need to do anything to them? Do they need any cutting?

This message was edited May 6, 2014 8:15 AM

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Looks good! If you do decide to cut anything off, check for eggs, usually on the bottom of the leaves since removing the eggs would defeat the purpose of growing these host plants. You can bring the eggs inside if you will be home every day for the next couple weeks to care for the caterpillars. You might not want to do this repeatedly, but it's really cool to watch at least once. If interested, please seek advice from a reputable source, and/or ask for guidance here.

You may want to add some other nectar plants to better attract the adults, and to provide sustenance over a longer period of time (if you haven't already.) Simple, from-seed plants like Zinnias, Basil, various herbs can grow quickly and help provide nectar plants, as well as plants bought already growing.

Monrovia, CA

Thank you Purple! Oh wow, they can lay them as soon as now. If I do get caterpillars, they're gonna decimate the baby Milkweeds I think. During the last week in May I wont be here for 5 days. But I definitely do wanna care for the caterpillars REPEATEDLY!! And like I said, I'm not a plant person. But 'cause of what you're saying to me I'll add more. How much more? 2? More than 2? I'll buy them already growing. I'm visual. I like to SEE them growing.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Only you (with the aid of a crystal ball?) could answer this question, based on your budget, space, number of egg-laying females interested in your yard. I would let the plants (and caterpillars) alone until you get back from your trip, except for watering if thirsty.

Glad you're so excited! Share the info with people, monarchs numbers are dwindling terribly from pesticides being used to kill their food, and the general attitude that Asclepias plants are weeds. If more people knew they are necessary to have around to have monarch butterflies, the situation could be remedied, or at least much less critical.

This pic is from when my daughter was much younger, taking some newly hatched butterflies outside to fly away. We released 71 butterflies that summer. I had 3 A. incarnata plants, which were sufficient for the number of eggs and caterpillars I found. I don't know much about the season of them in CA, but there should be tons of info 'out there' about that.

Thumbnail by purpleinopp
Monrovia, CA

What's wrong with my Tropical Milkweeds? Should I water it alot more? Should I have it under some shade? Thank you so much!

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Manhattan Beach, CA(Zone 10b)

Protaygo, Most plants, shrubs, and trees are being fried this week by the sun. Your milkweed definitely look like they need water.

Hopefully, it will get cooler by the weekend.

Monrovia, CA

Thanks! So?? So just alot more water? For the Milkweeds, does it matter how long/duration I do it? No shade? I'm assuming then no shade. Again, thank you alot!

Manhattan Beach, CA(Zone 10b)

Protaygo, you need to play it by ear. For your potted plants, once per week should be OK. For the ones direct planted maybe two times per week.

Instead of using a hose or sprinklers I would use a 1 or 2 gallon watering can and water the milkweeds directly. This allows you to water them deeply. Even though the top soil may look dry, the soil deeper down will be moist.

In temps that are 100F for several days with the very dry humidity that we are having you need to watch them daily.

Supposedly it will be much cooler by this weekend but them back to the mid-high 80s again next weekend.

Several of the leaves on many of my plants have been burned. The flowers on my roses, cosmos, etc. are also burned.

Unless you can use some kind of shade cloth, there isn't anything you can do to prevent the burning.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

When plants can't take the heat, because they're new, or the weather is unusual, a lawn chair or little table can provide a little shade without suffocating. Placed so the shadow provides some relief in the hottest part of the afternoon is usually very helpful. Plants that aren't really thirsty can wilt in the afternoon and then perk up overnight. If you are able to check in the mornings, (and your plants don't need water every day, which they very well might being new and with such hot, windy weather,) you'll get a more accurate assessment. Giving plants that aren't really thirsty more water, especially in the heat of the day, can harm plants. Morning is also the best time to water, when possible. Otherwise, later in the evening is the next best. Plants that are truly wilted from being dry (and not just temporarily too hot) are on deaths' doorstep, definitely water them.

The soil looks like it has very little organic matter in it, and nothing on top to protect it from getting so hot and all of the moisture evaporating. This is probably going a little far, a little fast, but to have great plants, you have to have 'great dirt.' Successful 'plant people' are also 'soil people.'

In a nutshell, adding anything 'mulchy looking' to the soil surface around the root zone (but not up against the stems) of plants will help keep the roots cooler, provide organic matter as it decomposes, and prevent evaporation from happening so fast. Store-bought mulch is often too dry the first year for a dry climate, and if you're near these wildfires on the news, that may be a bad idea. The micro-organisms that decompose wood are slow to get going in a spot with very little existing organic matter, thus it stays really dry and decomposes too slowly to do much good for adding tilth, or retaining moisture, for at least the first summer.

I don't know what you might find practical in your state or yard, but most people have juicy kitchen scraps, peelings and centers from fruits/veggies. Those can be used as mulch (and will look like mulch in a day or two from the description of your weather) and doing this is called sheet composting, shouldn't be such a fire hazard. This can also attract critters who want to eat that stuff. So some find it necessary, more appealing to compost first, or bury these deposits as close to plants as possible without disturbing the roots too much. If you put juicy watermelon rinds, for example, at the base of plants, it should keep the roots cool and moist for a few days, give-or-take for the weather. Putting a light coating of dirt over them will keep fruit flies from building a high-rise city there.

Anything that will decompose that you have available, and can look at, not create a worse problem for some reason, can be added to soil surface. Eventually, the soil under the stuff you keep adding will be much darker, softer, take much longer to dry, and have the tilth and fertility for plants to be their best. If you mow a lawn, (and you're sure the grass hasn't made seeds yet,) the cut grass is excellent, small trimmings from plants, pulled weeds that haven't made seeds yet, leaves, coffee grounds, anything from your kitchen that's not a bone or grease, or very salty. Having a dog in the yard rules out anything that's touched meat at our house too. Dairy products are usually too stinky (though not a problem if buried.) I try to find a way to use all organic matter at our house, and the plants appreciate it very much. I used to have an actual compost pile, but for various reasons, these other methods work better for me, and are so much less work.

Monrovia, CA

Again, thank you both! Thank you so very much, Purple! The Tropical Milkweeds are in the ground. I'll do the 1 or 2 gallons thing. That's what I've been having to do. What, in my mind, I've been doing is "best". Water daily. Your poor plants, Shorty.

Purple, I got them and "grounded" them last Thursday. I'll give my Tropical Milkweeds some (shade) relief. Not putting all of it in the shade, only some of it. I mean, the leaves/upper part of it. It's gonna be 100 today, 91 tomorrow, 84 Sunday. I didn't know that, "giving plants that aren't thirsty more water, especially in the heat of the day, can harm plants". I thought that would really help them. They do perk up over night! Aaah morning's the best time to water them. Purple, we do use plant mix inside of the dirt! Oooh "soil people". There will be fires around here some time. We're right up against the San Gabriel Mountains. There was a fire somewhere (not sure) close we saw smoke. Thank you for the local tips! Yikes, store-bought mulches are bad!! And count me in for the "sheet composting"!!

I am gonna try out the Ohyas (Ollas) thing some time. Unglazed clay pots for water irrigation. It's an ancient technique. I like the idea. It's different.

Rancho Santa Rita, TX(Zone 8a)

Protaygo, please click on my name & send me a D-mail.

tks, Baja

Monrovia, CA

....What for?

Rancho Santa Rita, TX(Zone 8a)

The olla system will work great for you.

Or you can get a gallon milk or water jug.

Find a nail anout 2 1/2 " or so, and using
pliers or a vise-grip, heat the nail till
super-hot and poke holes with the nail
in the jug near the base.

Set the jug on the ground near or among
the plants and fill the jug with water.

This will create a system similar to a drip
hose or an olla system.

Are you on the west side of the San Gabriels ?

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Excellent idea, glad you posted it in public! This also makes it so much easier to solicit help for watering if needed/available. "Just fill the jug, please." The water will drip out slowly enough to soak in deeply near the roots, not run away sideways.

Rancho Santa Rita, TX(Zone 8a)

It will also prevent wasting precious water where it
is neither needed or wanted :)

Monrovia, CA

Is it okay to mist/leave water droplets on plants? Or no is that not a good thing to do? Thank you!

Dallas, TX

I mist mine. Best to do that early in the morning or around dusk. (Some people say not to do it at dusk but heck, it can rain at dusk.) I think mine are doing ok. I had some leaves turn yellow and drop but have heard that's not unusual. I don't know if you have access to the Texas Gardening forum here on DG. If so, there are several threads relating to Milkweed, including some started by me. I'm growing Milkweed for the first time so I've been grilling my peeps in Texas. I have 2 plants, both still in pots b/c I need to dig a new bed (my bad), and they get part sun. I 'think' they'd be happy with full sun but I have large Red oak trees that kinda rule out full sun. I'm in Zone 8a and don't know where Monrovia is or if it would make much difference.

The Milkweed that I'm referring to is Asclepias curassavica. See

I also have a very small Asclepias tuberosa that's in a pot and in a little shadier spot since it's just a baby. See

This message was edited Jun 9, 2014 3:41 PM

Monrovia, CA

Finally a response! But darn, about you being so far away from me. Thank you!

Dallas, TX

Last month the North TX (or is it North Central TX? Like CA, it's a big state) DG gardeners had an RU where we swap plants, gossip, etc. One member gave me seeds for the A.tuberosa and will apparently has or will have seeds for other types of Milkweed. If my memory lasts for awhile, I can ask her what else she thinks she'll have in the fall. Keep in touch in a few months and I should know more. I am assuming it's legal to mail seeds unless CA has any restrictions.

BTW, mine often appear wilting and at death's door but perk up after a little bit of watering or misting. Might not be immediate but it is a same day effect.

Oh, and not all store bought mulch is necessarily bad. You just have to be very selective. Try for native hardwood and/or native cedar. Do NOT use anything that has been dyed or is made of artificial whatever.

Manhattan Beach, CA(Zone 10b)

Protaygo, consider joining the California Forum here on DG at

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Flower child, totally agree - mulch should be a natural product, not trying to get the soil microbes high on paint fumes, just feed them - LOL!

I can't find where it was said store-bought mulch is bad. Was it me saying it might be too dry, a fire hazard? The fact that it came from a store (unless painted or with some chemical treatment on it, as said above) isn't the issue, just that shredded wood is like kindling when baked dry. I've seen people light mulch on fire by discarding cigarettes in non-desert climates, so it came to mind since we're talking about CA, which is always on fire somewhere in the news.

If you plan (and actually do) add greens to it, and keep doing so periodically, you'll make a layer of composting material that should begin to stay moist for longer and longer periods, which is far different than dry, fire-ready mulch. The mulch will decompose surprisingly quickly. You can get more if you think it's needed, or if you've found a groove of OM to add without it, that's fine too.

I'm not into misting, but I don't live in a desert climate (I live inside a damp sponge, it's southern AL!,) so staying out of that part.

Dallas, TX

I don't know. When I made the comment I was thinking of Protaygo saying something like 'store bought mulches bad'. But the point about CA wildfires is well taken so just shut my mouth! :D

Manhattan Beach, CA(Zone 10b)

Protaygo, I read somewhere that when you water one inch of water travels approximately 3 feet. Two inches of water approximately 6 feet. If your soil has decent drainage and doesn't run off, you really don't need to mist plants in the ground even though the top soil looks very dry.

During the last heat wave we had where it was 100 degrees at the beaches, my water from my hose was so hot it would have cooked any plants that I tried to water. I'm familiar with your city and have relatives who live there too. You're already having temperatures much warmer than in the beach cities.

Roses generally don't like to get their leaves (aka feet) wet. I'm sure there are a few others that prefer to be watered from the bottom and not from overhead. You need to check watering recommendations for each plant you wish to mist to make sure you will not harm it.

For milkweed specifically, I would avoid misting with chlorinated tap water. The chlorine may kill caterpillars and their eggs.

Unless your plants are limp and drooping, watering daily may be more than needed.

Dallas, TX

Yes, water from the hose can be VERY hot. I usually test it out on some gravel or other place I don't care about. I'm always surprised at how long it can take to cool down.

Shorty_CA - I'm confused (not a rare occurrence) about your comment above about misting. I have one of those hose end sprayers with different settings, including mist. Since it's from my outdoor tap, I wonder if it's chlorinated. I wouldn't think so but I guess I could call the City and find out. If it's not chlorinated, does it hurt to lightly mist Milkweed plants?

Manhattan Beach, CA(Zone 10b)

tx_flower_child all commercial water providers in most states are required to put a certain amount of chorine in the tap water. I have read that California water companies put a higher amount of chlorine in our water than other states due to stricter state laws.

I'm not certain that the amount of chlorine in the water supplies for human consumption can harm milkweed plants or caterpillars. I personally use filtered water when misting to avoid the risk.

Dallas, TX

Interesting. I know I drink from the hose from time to time when feeling desperate. (Had worse.) Definitely will check on it here in Dallas aka Dollars per Groucho Marx.

Monrovia, CA

Tx Flower, hmmm I am interested in other Milkweeds. I'm *SO* very impatient for the plant nursery to have the species that I want! Shorty, that's a paid message board there. Purple, aaah I see. I see what you're saying. I do some times keep adding more fruits, vegetables, ect to my plants mulch "diet". lol What does "OM" stand for? O__o Alright. My wetted soil does run off. Don't know in measurements but it does "run". Yup, we are. Lol And *GASP* About how chlorine might kill precious caterpillars and eggs!! :-( Thanks alot guys.

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