The Ultimate Milkweed Plant Growing Guide

The Ultimate Milkweed Plant Growing Guide : Monarch butterflies are falling rapidly owing to habitat loss and pesticide use. Because milkweed is the only plant that supports monarchs throughout their lives, growing it is the best method to help. It releases a toxin that renders monarchs poisonous and bitter to some predators.


The Ultimate Milkweed Plant Growing Guide

“The bottom line is, if milkweed disappears, so will monarchs,” says Laura Lukens, national monitoring coordinator for the Monarch Joint Venture, a federal, state, and other partnership. Home gardeners are crucial to monarch, pollinator, and wildlife habitat. Residential properties could provide thousands or millions of acres of habitat.



What Is Milkweed?

Milkweed, formally known as Asclepias, has over 140 species throughout the Americas. Only this plant feeds monarch caterpillars. Milkweed is named for its milky sap in the stems and leaves.



What Does Milkweed Look Like?

When milkweed flowers, it doesn’t appear to be much. After that, vibrant, brilliant flowerheads that reach up to five feet in the air greet you. Fortunately, the butterflies also cannot ignore them.



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Which Types of Milkweed Plants Should You Grow?

What milkweed should I cultivate and where can I obtain it? asks Oshkosh Birds & Blooms reader Leo Patt.

Not all milkweeds are garden-friendly. Asclepias syriaca, the monarch caterpillar’s favorite diet, is native to a wide range but can spread rapidly and may not be suitable for a tiny yard. Give it space or remove undesirable plants. Seeds and underground rhizomes disseminate it. To reduce seedlings in next year’s garden, remove pods before seeds are discharged. Sullivant’s (Asclepias sullivantii) resembles common milkweed but is less invasive.

When investigating, utilize botanical names because common names vary widely. Milkweed species have different sun, water, and space needs, therefore pay attention to growing requirements.



Best Milkweed Plants for Your Region

Call your county extension office to find out which milkweeds are suitable for your region and study their development habits and needs before planting. Visit to find out which milkweeds are native to your area and where to acquire them.



Will Aphids Hurt My Milkweed Plant?

Aphids and other insects may be drawn to milkweed. Aphids on milkweed resemble little yellow dots with black legs. Usually, many of them are grouped together close to the plant stem.

Laura explains, “A high aphid concentration on your milkweed may look bad, but these insects are not necessarily harming monarchs.” “Generally, there are not enough to kill the plant unless they are in extremely high density.”

The best course of action is to manually remove pests, chop off branches that have a lot of aphids, or blast them with a garden hose if they’re causing damage, as chemical pesticides and insecticides also kill monarchs. Another option is to just let nature do its thing.



How to Grow Milkweed Indoors from Seeds

It might be difficult to start milkweed from seed indoors. For most seeds to germinate and eventually flower, they require a cooling phase known as vernalization and stratification.

If you wish to start milkweed plants inside, either immediately sow the seeds into peat pots covered with a tight plastic bag or sow the seeds between moist paper towels inside a sealed plastic bag.


Place in the fridge for a minimum of thirty days. Sow cold-treated seeds in a potting mix that has been dampened. Plant the pots next to a sunny window or under a grow light. Caution: Seedlings might not grow at all or might emerge slowly.

When there is no longer a chance of frost, begin transplanting the 2-to 3-inch plants that still have their intact rootballs if the seedlings survive. The extensive taproots of most milkweed plants are intolerant of disturbance. After being transferred, a seedling may die or lose its leaves.

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