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The flowers of common milkweed are a nectar source for many butterflies and the leaves provide food for monarch butterfly larvae.

The flowers of common milkweed are a nectar source for many butterflies and the leaves provide food for monarch butterfly larvae. USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 5 October 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Asclepias syriaca

Common milkweed (No Advance Orders)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Asclepias syriaca is a robust perennial with thick oblong leaves.  Plants are anonymous until summer when pink nodding flower clusters appear. The flowers consist of many small florets that are arranged in a nodding rounded cluster. Flowers emit a fragrance that attracts a bevy of nectar seeking butterflies. Plants are best adapted to sunny sites with well drained or dry soil. No advance orders on this item.  

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  Plants occur in Eastern Canada, in the Eastern United States except Florida and in the Plains States west to Montana.

Indigenous plants are found in sunny dry grasslands, fields, disturbed areas, open woodlands and along roadside and railroad rights of way.

Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 3-9.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Asclepias syriaca is a clump forming perennial with many upright stout stems emerging from a sturdy tap root. 

The leaves are large and thick with a broadly oblong shape and coarse texture.  Summer flowers are arranged in drooping pinkish-purple umbels.  Many species of butterflies, nocturnal moths and bees seek the floral nectar.

Unique warty or spiny seed pods form after flowering.  The pods split when ripe and release many brown seed with silken parachutes that drift away on the wind. 

Plants grow 3-5’ tall with 2-3’ spread.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Asclepias syriaca is an easily cultivated sun loving plant for well drained or dry soils.  

Plants are drought tolerant and vigorous.  They have a tendency to form colonies from underground rhizomes and will also seed themselves around the garden.  If self-seeding is an issue, remove the pods before seed are released.

In the past, this milkweed was so abundant that it was described as “weedy” by many.  Due to loss of habitat and use of herbicides, Asclepias syriaca is no longer as common.  While it may be a bit invasive for a manicured garden, this plant could be just the thing for a dry difficult site or for a novice gardener who wants to get started with milkweeds.

LANDSCAPE USES:  Horticulturally speaking, Asclepias syriaca is a less refined more drought tolerant version of Asclepias incarnata.  This plant is a great choice for a Wildlife Garden or a Dry Meadow.  Also useful as an Accent, Butterfly Nectar Plant, Butterfly Host Plant or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting.  Asclepias syriaca provides Fragrance and Showy Blooms and can be used in Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders, Roadsides and Restoration Projects.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:   Asclepias syriaca mingles well with Asclepias tuberosa, Asclepias verticillata, Coreopsis tripteris, Echinacea purpurea, Liatris aspera and Rudbeckia hirta.

Asclepias incarnata can be substituted if needed in moist or wet sites.

TRIVIA:  Milkweed sap contains bitter tasting and toxic cardiac glycosides.  These chemicals accumulate in the bodies of Monarch caterpillars and function as a safeguard against predators.  High toxin concentrations make the caterpillar more poisonous and impart more protection. Usually Monarch caterpillars and other milkweed foragers develop a bright warning color that may be interpreted as “If you eat me, you’ll die!”

This plant is a No Advance Order plant, which means it is only available to order when the plant appears on our Availability and must be shipped within 2 weeks of ordering.  We are more than happy to add you to a list to contact you when the plants become available.  We cannot offer approximate dates of when the plants will be available next. 


Height:

3-4 ft

Spread:

9-12 in

Spacing:

18-24 in

USDA Hardiness Zone:

4-9

Bloom Color:

Purple Red

Asclepias syriaca Characteristics

Exposure

  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Critter Resistance

  • Deer Resistant

Attracts Wildlife

  • Butterflies

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist to Dry

Attributes

  • Naturalizing
  • Drought Tolerant

Flowering Months

  • July
  • June

Foliage Color

  • Green

Season of Interest (Foliage)

  • Summer
  • Spring

Growth Rate

  • Medium

Interesting Notes:

For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ASSY


Plants that work well with Asclepias syriaca ''

Eastern whorled milkweed Eastern whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
Tall coreopsis Tall coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris)
Sweet black-eyed Susan Sweet black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Plains oval sedge Plains oval sedge (Carex brevior)
Field oval sedge Field oval sedge (Carex molesta)

Substitutions for Asclepias syriaca

Butterfly weed Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)