Milkweed (asclepias) plants are essential to butterfly gardens. What is more enchanting than a kaleidoscope of butterflies fluttering around your gardens? Milkweeds provide nectar rich flowers and their leaves are the ONLY! food source for the larvae of monarch butterflies. There are many species of milkweed and there is a great selection at my favorite garden center, The Growing Place. Go there to enjoy their garden settings, visit with their knowledgeable sales staff and pick up a copy of this year’s (free!) planting guide, “Inspired to Grow.”
I have common milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca), swamp milkweed (Asclepias Incarnata) and butterfly weed (Asclepias Tuberosa) in my gardens. Common milkweed can be aggressive, so I decide where I want it and remove the extras. It’s one of the best food plants for monarch larvae and the pink blossoms are just lovely!
Swamp milkweed has especially showy seed pods and comes in both pink and white (Ice Ballet). Look for monarch eggs on the underside of their narrow, pointed leaves.
Butterfly weed, in my opinion (even though orange isn’t on my preferred color list) is the best milkweed for starting a butterfly garden. The Growing Place also notes that it is the most garden worthy. I have yet to find it in other locations in my gardens and its showy, orange flowers attract hummingbirds, too. I tucked it in behind white, pink and purple blooming plants and my color preference isn’t jarred too much.
Why should we plant milkweed? Of all the land in the United States, only 12% is protected — nature preserves, national and state parks, etc. It is just not enough land to provide what our populations of butterflies, bees, birds and other animals with whom we share our world need.
If everyone would plant a milkweed or other native perennial, shrub or bush — it would make a big difference. Read through the garden guide (Just ask for one at The Growing Place. They’re free.) and look for plants that are native and then look for ones that “attract butterflies” or “attract hummingbirds” or in the plant description mentions that it is a host plant, a plant that an organism — such as a butterfly — lives on and off of. You have many to choose from, but choose one and take it home. You’ll be glad you did!
My gardens are especially delightful when butterflies stop by and yours can be, too. I can grow milkweed and you can, too!