Which Asclepias do you plant??

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, Butterfliers in the Midwest,

I'm reorganizing my Zone 6 (Cincinnati) butterfly garden and I'd like to know which Milkweeds are the most successful for you.

And please let me know if you buy them, direct seed, winter sow, or start in a greenhouse environment?

Right now I have A. encarnata (swamp) Cinderella from the nursery. The pic shows part of my garden (in springtime) where I want to put some milkweed.

Thanks so much,

Thumbnail by tabasco
Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, DGers,

I can't believe that posters here are the Butterfly forum don't have favorite Asclepias?!

I recently read that there are at least 40 kinds of asclepias, although I have no clue what all of them could be. I do know that there are many more asclepias available on the market these days, and of course, some are native to only certain regions.

And I have read there there is a great deal of controversy over the Tropical Milkweed (A. currasavica) that is so popular and easy to grow from seed. I'm wondering if gardeners here have found a good easy substitute for Tropical Milkweed, or if you continue to use it. I have read that it can be cut back in regions where it come backs or continues to grow through the year and whatever the contagion is will be subdued doing that.

Right now I grow A. Currasavica and A. Encarnata. I recently bought ten more plants of Encarnata (swamp MW) on sale for fall planting and I expect to replace my tropical. But is this necessary? I wonder...

Thanks for posting your thoughts on Asclepias.


Colima, Mexico(Zone 11)

Hi Judy...I also cannot account for your receiving no replies to your question. I always thought the US Midwesterners were active Asclepias growers and i know you do not want to hear from me, but you should have had at least 10 responses. I don't know what's going on.

From what i have heard, reading various posts regarding Asclepias, it appears that people in the Midwest (and everywhere else) have very good luck with Asclepias that are native to their region. This make very good sense. And i expect the butterflies will respond best to the native plants in each particular region. If you have a NABA.org in your area, they will tell you what asclepias are native to your region. There are other organizations as well. I would search for something like "Asclepias plants native to the Midwest" and see what you come up with. I would definitely go native. Maybe your Midwest butterfly gardeners have already started hibernating for the winter. :-D Here in zone 11 i grow guilt-free Asclepias c. which is native in my area and grows wild here. Good luck.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Judy, I was also surprised you didn't receive any replies. When I responded to your other thread I decided to wait on this one for others with more asclepias experience, although I did save the thread and marked it "watched"

As far as A. curassavica - after reading all the bad stuff I decided to do a little searching on my own. Although I've never grown it (and I realize it isn't native to my area), I considered trying some because other's have had good luck growing it quickly and easily in pots during the summer. Since most of my yard is shady, I thought it might be something I could move around.

I found an article by a U.C. Davis professor who's been monitoring and studying butterfly populations in CA for over 40 years. It was found that cutting back the plants to allow new growth prevents the protozoan parasite. The article was very informative. I posted the link in the Daily Pictures #111, but it you didn't see it, here's the link.


I also discovered an asclepias that is shade tolerant (possibly perfect for me). It's native to the eastern U.S. - Asclepias 'exaltata' or "Poke Milkweed". If this one interests you, take some time to read members comments. Many of them mention it's shade tolerance.


There are different sources that show what areas various asclepias are native to, but most of the ones I found aren't complete lists so it's some here, some there.

If you want some of those links, let me know.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thank you vitrsna and nuts for your thoughts. I have not been on DG for a few years and it does seem like this forum is a little quiet. Vitrsna, I hope you are escaping the worst of Hurricane Patricia. It looks like a vicious storm. And I hope the monarchs are secure in their habitat by now--keeping fingers crossed.

I did some research this a.m. and I found this interesting detailed memo from Chip Taylor of NABA about Monarch Recovery. He sights a US Ag Services map that shows regions in the US that are most critical for growing asclepias with respect to monarch migration. http://monarchwatch.org/blog/2014/03/25/monarch-butterfly-recovery-plan/ Nuts, I see you are right in the main highway for monarchs.

Nuts, In the past when I had a predominantly shady yard I grew Purple Milkweed http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=aspu2 which is very hard to find in the nurseries but it is known to grow in 'part shady' environments. (I winter-sowed my seeds from Prairie Moon.) I do not know how the monarch's like it though. It is native to a vast region in the US and a pretty nice garden plant for 'casual' gardens (like mine).

The other milkweed I grow that I didn't mention before is Asclepias tuberosa (butterflyweed/pleurisy root). It is quite common here as a 'highway' plant--easy growing requirements and not much water. Many say that monarchs don't like to lay eggs on it, but I noticed this summer I had quite a few cats on mine. I read somewhere that 22 different butterflies here like to nectar on it so that's mainly why I grow it. The article also mentioned that 40 different butterflies here like to nectar on Swamp Milkweed. Another reason to grow that one around here...

We saw our last monarch here on October 22. That's pretty late for us--I think it was one that eclosed in our yard and I doubt it will get to Mexico. Next year I'm going to tag my monarchs and perhaps I'll find out some of them made it!

Cheers! Judy

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Check out the Mid Atlantic forum---You will have hours of reading and discussions
in butterflies and Milkweeds.

There are so many posts on hand raising Monarchs and
all the milkweeds we all plant just to supply food for the caterpillars.

I think the below Thread is now on part 7.


Happy reading.....Gita

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thx for the link, Gita. Yes, indeedy, there are lots of avid butterfly gardeners on the Mid-Atlantic forum!

I was just touring about my garden counting how many asclepias incarnatas came back this spring--only six or seven out of 20 or so. But maybe it's still early for some of them.

I did score 3 A. tuberosas for $3 each at the nursery today. I am going to plant them along a stone wall so they don't get water logged.

It's taking me a long time to learn successful asclepias gardening in my yard!

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Good old native syrica
These are few years old from seed ,
I believe my avatar still shows the bloom

Thumbnail by juhur7 Thumbnail by juhur7
Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Wow, Ju...I'm surprised they're growing so well this early, even in your Zone 6. They look great!

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

nuts ,, They grow well here ,it's home

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Hi, tabasco, and welcome back. I remember you from Bird Gardening or one of those forums.

Wish you continued success with your Asclepias sp. I have three or so species native here at the Valley - Asclepias syriaca, Asclepias viridiflora, and another greenish/yellowish Asclepias sp.

(Zone 5a)

When it dries out, I'll be putting in some Asclepias sullivantii I picked up today. I've had great success with the Butterflyweed and Swamp Milkweed. We planted the Spider Milkweed as bare roots, but I am not sure I've seen any come up. The Common is all around here and Whorled Milkweed grows along the road. I tried transplanting some Whorled, but I don't think any made it.

I actually thought of buying the Tropical Milkweed to treat as an annual and yank them up in the fall. I went to my local nursery and asked him to grow some for me without any chemical use. Turned out, he got the Butterflyweed instead. I sort of felt guilty even wanting to plant that, but wanted to help Monarchs while I got some natives established, so I am glad he chose the A. tuberosa.

I tried bringing in caterpillars to raise last year, but they died. Maybe they had parasites?? I fed them the leaves of the species they were taken from. I won't be doing that again this year. Some years ago, we brought in a full grown caterpillar and saw it go from chrysalis to butterfly, so we've enjoyed seeing that.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

My swamp milkweed and butterfly weed are in full bloom now (about 30-40 plants) and I've spied just a couple of swallowtails and frits nectaring on it. I did see a couple of monarchs a few weeks ago, but none now.

Anybody seeing a good butterfly turnout this summer?

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Only a few here , so far , not a good sighting season ,

Otway, OH(Zone 6b)

Not very many at my house either

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

I am concerned about the total lack of monarchs and other butterflies in my garden. I know the storm in Mexico depleted much of this year's 'crop' but I had no idea sightings would be this slim.

The thing is, I have very few swallowtails, frits, and other species in my yarden as well. I wonder how that relates to the monarch population.

A lonely frit on swamp milkweed:

Thumbnail by tabasco
Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

I'm perceiving that we are having a normal year for butterflies in general, though I'm sorrowfully weak on ID. The Valley is on 10 acres in rural Scott County KY, and not particularly heavily managed - though planted with lots of flowering/fruiting woody plants. Many native herbaceous species have established (returned/revived) with less and no mowing. Lots (thousands) of Asclepias syriaca are native here, and 3-4 minor species that are confusing for me to ID.

Lots of the smaller orange ones like you've shown, and normal amounts of yellow and black swallowtails. Plain white ones that like to gather moisture/minerals from the gravel driveway, and pale blue ones are the others I find normal to see flitting about.

This is the time of year Bottlebrush Buckeye are swarming with all kinds of stuff, and it would be where to check the pulse of pollinator (and other winged) populations. I've attached images of past Junes and an array of visitors.

UNFORTUNATELY, due to total knee replacement surgery last Monday, I have a bit of a hitch in my giddyup. I can look off the deck to see what's going on, but can't yet get out/about in the yard for close observations.

Thumbnail by ViburnumValley Thumbnail by ViburnumValley Thumbnail by ViburnumValley Thumbnail by ViburnumValley Thumbnail by ViburnumValley
Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Get Well VV The first is a Snowberry Clearwing
2 A Silver Spotted Skipper
3 A species of Blue ( not sure of ID
4 A Painted Lady .
5 Moth ) I do not recognize
Lots of Milkweed here , few Butterflies ,
I have seen a few ,

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

VV Sorry to hear you went under the knife for your knee--I hope your recovery is going well. Though I'm glad to hear your butterfly population looks fairly normal this year. I think you are the first person here in our region who has reported a decent population, as far as I can tell.

My populations are still down, but I have had pairs of black swallowtails, zebra st, eastern tigers, and a few frits in the past week. Just two or three monarchs so far this year and no cats on my milkweeds or dill/fennel/parsley or pipevine or sassafras.

Maybe things will pick up here before too long. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Normal is in the eye of the beholder, and I can't say that I'm even remotely Lepidopterae-philic - but I appreciate their presence and I generally plant things to attract all the native fauna.

I suppose a strong local bird population has an effect on how many larvae get to run through their life cycles uneaten, and mature into the adults we like to watch. I say - more of all! Lots of protein for baby birds, some eaten up foliage, and then the gossamer-winged luminescence of the ephemeral adults.

Good stuff.

Doylestown, PA

I have asclepias tuberosa (aka "butterfly weed"). It's the only kind of milkweed available from nurseries in my area. I did have some "swamp milkweed" bought from a local nursery that did really well for two or three years, then we took down our rotting fence, and the deer came in and ate all of it. It has not come back. The a. tuberosa has taken off nicely, though. Seeds have traveled all over the yard, so there are clumps of it here and there with most of it clustered around the origin plants. I also have a lot of butterfly bushes of different kinds around the yard. We get a lot of yellow swallowtail butterflies, and over the last two or three years we've seen monarchs starting to come in--just a few, but they've grown in number a little more each year. I've had stuff planted for 15 years with lots of false starts, mistakes, failures, invasions, and some successes, and our happiest grower has been the butterfly bushes. I keep adding asclepias around them, and when I weed I don't pull any asclepias babies. It takes time and seasons, but it does seem to be working, especially now that the garden is getting mature. We installed a newer and slightly taller fence this past spring, and so far it's been a good deer deterrent. It's the first time I've seen my coneflowers in three years, and everything else is happier and more robust without their disturbance.

This message was edited Aug 20, 2016 8:44 PM

This message was edited Aug 20, 2016 8:45 PM

Camden, AR(Zone 8a)

I have enjoyed coming across this thread and following the links and learning about the different milkweeds. I have what I am fairly certain is the common milkweed - but it has never bloomed for me. I have no clue why. It is reproducing and spreading but never blooms so it definitely isn't an attraction to the butterflies. :( My friend thought it might be in too much sun, but after following the links and studying about it, it says it requires full sun - which is where it is located. I have some young plants if anyone is interested in trying it out. Not sure how difficult it would be to dig them up since they spread by runners, but I can try.

Not a butterfly expert at all - and I have trouble keeping the names straight, but I enjoy seeing them.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

If you can take and post some images here, then we might help you further with ID and/or information about how your plant/s are growing.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

I grow Asclepias curassavica (all three colors), Narrow-leaf milkweed (california native), Gomphocarpus (two types), and Tweedia caerulea (a blue flowering milkweed). I have another native one out in my pasture, not sure what it is called. I have a butterfly garden area and have a few butterfly bushes and some other flowering plants out there that are host plants also. Of interest is that I grew a bunch of Buddlea from seed last year and they are easy to grow and even bloomed the first year, who da thunk.

Camden, AR(Zone 8a)

I have never noticed seeds on my butterfly bushes - did you harvest the seeds off some you already have? I guess I will need to look more closely. I have rooted lots from cuttings and divided bushes before but just never looked at seeds.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

You know I haven't tried to get seeds off of mine. I had a friend send me some of a Buddleia mix seeds she bought. I was really surprised at the germination I got, I should be checking them for seeds.

Camden, AR(Zone 8a)

Well, I meant to look at mine to see if I could spot any, but I haven't thought of it yet. Let me know if you spot some ....

Edited to say, I also keep forgetting to take a pic of my plants that never bloom..............MAYBE I can remember to do both this evening!

This message was edited Sep 13, 2016 12:32 PM

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

It's a shame you aren't getting any bloom, mine bloom wonderfully and they're even in lousy sandy soil. I wonder what would cause that.

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