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Native Plant of the Week: Common Milkweed

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

Family: Asclepiadaceae


Name: Asclepias syriaca

Bloom Time: June-August


Soil Condition: Dry to Moist - Well Drained


Light: Full Sun


Height: 3-5' but sometimes to 8'


Native Range: Eastern North America


Asclepias syriaca is one of the most important native plants we have and is a must-have for the pollinator garden, but be warned, it needs a lot of space. Milkweed plants (including Asclepias tuberosa and Asclepias incarnata) are the sole food source for the Monarch larvae. It will self-sow readily in the garden, and it also spreads rapidly by rhizomes. Seeds can be sewn, no more than 1/4" deep, in fall, spring, and early summer. Common milkweed is also great in a planter if you want to control its spread.


Maintenance: To control the height, you may want to cut back by 1/2 when it reaches 12". Be sure to do this by mid-May, as you don't want to cut it when the Monarch is laying her eggs. This will cause more branching, leading to more flowers and more leaves for the caterpillars to eat. Remove the seed heads to control spread.


Benefits: Host plant for Danaus plexippus (Monarch Butterfly) larvae and nectar for many butterflies and native bees, especially bumble bees.


Uses: Native Americans used this milkweed as a source of fiber. During WWII, children in the northern states collected the seed pods, processed for the coma, or floss, and it was used for flotation in life vests. Today the coma is harvested for use in pillows and comforters. Seed pods are also valued in dried flower arrangements.


Companion Plants: Schizachyrium scoparium, Andropogon gerardii, Andropogon virginicus


Warning: Common Milkweed is very aggressive and will most likely overtake anything planted near it.


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