Milkweed for Monarchs and many more!

These days, the plight of the monarch and the need to plant their host plant Milkweed (Asclepias) is well known. But, did you know that there are more than 75 species of milkweed native to North America? These essential plants for any butterfly garden, provide clusters of nectar-rich flowers that are alluring to many types of pollinators as well as food for the monarch larvae to munch on.

The colorful flowers of the different Milkweeds can become a staple in your the summer garden. There are many delightful, showy species to choose from. In general, milkweeds grow best in full sun but some can handle a little shade. Some like wetter areas and some like dryer areas but they are all deer and rabbit resistant.

Popular Milkweeds for your garden

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Asclepias tuberosa • Butterfly Weed, Pleurisy Root
The Perennial Plant Association named this variety the Perennial Plant of the year in 2017. It is considered to be the most garden worthy of our native milkweeds and a Growing Place Choice Plant. Their very showy, brilliant orange flowers are excellent for cutting and very attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. You can also use the seed pods in dried arrangements. It emerges late in spring, so be patient. The long tap root makes division difficult, but it will reseed. Do not prune it in the fall, instead cut it back in the spring. A perfect plant for dry areas in the garden, it will grow 18-24” tall by 18-24” wide.

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Asclepias incarnata • Swamp Milkweed
Like its common name implies this variety prefers consistently moist soils but will also do well in average soil. This is one of many native milkweeds that are a must for the butterfly enthusiast. Small, fragrant, rose-pink flowers are held in loose umbels on strong stems. The showy seed pods are filled with seeds that are ready to fly away. It will grow 3-4’ tall by 2-3' wide. (Side note: your word of the week is umbel. An umbel consists of a number of short flower stalks which spread from a common point, somewhat like umbrella ribs.)

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Asclepias syriaca • Common Milkweed
This is the common milkweed that you see on the side of the road. It is one of the very best food plants for the monarch butterfly caterpillar but can be an aggressive spreader. It has extremely fragrant flower clusters (or umbels) that hang like ornaments under the broad blue-green leaves. It spreads by sending out runners so proper siting is recommended. It will grow 3-5’ tall by 2-3' wide.

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Asclepias sullivantii • Prairie Milkweed
Resembling the common milkweed in overall appearance, this rare native has flowers that are larger, showier, and usually pinker. It creeps slowly by rhizomes, making it a better-behaved plant than the free running common milkweed. It can be found in moist meadows along rivers and near woodlands and thickets. Many beneficial insects visit the flowers for its nectar, as well as being food for Monarch caterpillars. It will grow grow 2-3’ tall by 18-36” wide.

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Asclepias verticillata • Whorled Milkweed, Horsetail Milkweed
A widely adaptable and tough native, great for massing or mixing in the border. The delicate white hooded flowers top the finely cut, thread-like foliage. This fast growing, clumping native is common throughout the tall grass region and in dry pastures and prairies. Like most milkweeds, it will attract an assortment of butterflies. Once established it will be drought tolerant and grow 18-24” tall by 12-18” wide.

Fun facts about Milkweed!

  • European settlers used milkweed down to fill pillows and mattresses.

  • Milkweeds are named for the milky-white sap in their stems and leaves. This sap contains sugar, gum, fat and other compounds that are acidic and somewhat poisonous to animals. By feeding on milkweed leaves and ingesting the sap, monarch caterpillars and adults become distasteful to birds.

  • The sap in milkweed keeps ants and other crawling insects from stealing its nectar. When an ant creeps up the milkweed stem, tiny spikes in its feet pierce the stem and release the sticky sap. The ant becomes tangled and when it stops to clean off the sap, becomes permanently stuck or falls off.

  • During World War II, milkweed was used to stuff life jackets once the regular material ran low. It is about six times more buoyant than cork!

  • Hummingbirds often use the floss from milkweed pods to line their nests.

  • Milkweed floss has been used to mop up oil spills at sea.

Aurora Location

2000 Montgomery Road,

Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

Naperville Location

25w471 Plank Road,

Naperville, IL 60563

Phone. 630-355-4000

Summer Hours

Monday-Friday: 9:00am-6:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am-5:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pmĀ 


Growing for the future with
right plantsĀ in right places.