Showy Milkweed: Growing Asclepias Speciosa

Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is effectively often called a bunch plant to monarch butterflies. That is very true with social media actions and plenty of organizations providing free milkweed seeds to assist encourage the institution of this perennial flowering plant. There are over 100 species of milkweed crops which are native crops in North America, so chances are high that you simply’ll be capable to discover a native milkweed species so as to add to your butterfly backyard! Showy milkweed is native to the western half of the US.

These aromatic flowers entice useful bugs similar to butterflies, hummingbirds, honey bees, and wild native bees. It additionally attracts milkweed beetles, named as such as a result of they solely feed on milkweed crops. These beetles don’t chew or sting and gained’t do a lot hurt apart from munching just a few leaves. If the inhabitants of milkweed beetles turns into too massive, they will simply be picked off of crops and squished. Milkweed beetles advanced to make the most of milkweed’s poisonous milky sap to their profit. They eat milkweed, which in flip makes them poisonous to something that may try to eat them. Monarch caterpillars deploy this similar chemical protection technique which they carry into maturity, making monarch butterflies poisonous as effectively. 

Because the title showy milkweed would counsel, the milkweed blossoms are ornate and add a surprising pop of colour to your butterfly backyard. Their star-shaped flowers in spherical clusters are paying homage to fireworks and customarily start to bloom in mid-summer. By late summer season, the blooms will all be spent, and the power within the plant will likely be targeted on producing seeds and seed pods. 

There’s some warning for use when selecting a web site in your milkweed as it’s poisonous to folks and pets alike. It ought to be planted in an space not simply accessible to young children or pets. That being mentioned, regardless of its toxicity, milkweed is definitely edible! It’s only poisonous in its uncooked kind. As soon as correctly cooked (blanched), they will safely be eaten. It’s price noting to make use of excessive warning when selecting to devour milkweed as it could actually simply be mistaken for different crops within the dogbane household that are unsafe to devour. Deal with this as you’ll deal with foraging for wild mushrooms. When doubtful, seek the advice of an skilled, or don’t devour it in any respect. It’s additionally price noting that, as with different meals, some folks have a sensitivity to milkweed, so it’s finest to strive it in small quantities if it’s your first time consuming it. 

Regardless of its toxicity, the advantages of including these nectar crops to your gardens are price it! They supply pollinators and useful bugs with much-needed habitat; above all else, they assist monarchs as their larval host! A fast Google search will show you how to decide whether or not or not you reside in a monarch migration path and which milkweed is native to your space. Should you’re fortunate sufficient to reside inside the migratory paths, then you might also be fortunate sufficient to identify monarch caterpillars in your crops and watch them remodel into lovely butterflies.

Good Merchandise At Amazon For Rising Showy Milkweed:

Fast Care Information

Showy milkweed flowers reside as much as their title. Supply: Thayne Tuason
Widespread Title Showy milkweed, Colorado milkweed
Scientific Title Asclepias speciosa
Household Apocynaceae (generally known as the “dogbane” household due to their toxicity to canine
Top & Unfold Grows upright, reaching 4ft tall, spreads by way of underground rhizomes
Gentle Full solar
Soil Effectively-draining
Water Drought tolerant as soon as established
Pests & Ailments Aphids, leaf miners, root rot, leaf spot

All About Showy Milkweed

Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is usually mistaken for widespread milkweed. They each have central flower components comprised of spherical clusters of small pink flowers. Nevertheless, showy milkweed flowers have a extra pronounced star form consisting of 5 hoods with outstanding hooks. Widespread milkweed flowers are smaller and extra rounded. Showy milkweed grows in an upright columnar behavior with broad blue-green leaves. 

Showy milkweed is native to North America and might be grown in USDA zones 4-9. It’s a perennial in its native habitat, and although it dies again to the bottom every winter, it comes again to life in early spring. To begin new crops, accumulate seeds on the finish of the season and sow them immediately into the bottom within the late fall. These seeds require stratification and subsequently have to be winter sown with a view to assure germination within the spring. 

Showy Milkweed Care

Older showy milkweed foliage
As showy milkweed ages, the foliage begins to yellow. Supply: Bear Paw Battlefield

Asclepias speciosa is comparatively care-free as soon as established – different gardeners with expertise can attest! There are some things to notice that will help you decide the precise spot in your backyard. Then you definately’ll be having fun with it and the butterflies it attracts for years to return! 

Solar and Temperature

Asclepias speciosa requires a full solar setting that receives 6-8 hours of direct daylight per day. Showy milkweed is native to the western United States and components of Canada, and for that reason, they develop finest in USDA zones 4-9. Widespread milkweed is its japanese counterpart. There are some central states the place showy milkweed and customary milkweed, amongst different members of the Asclepias genus, habitats overlap. Showy milkweed seeds require chilly remedy to germinate, which is another excuse why these crops are native to areas that obtain a chilly winter. 

Asclepias speciosa seeds is not going to germinate at temperatures above 85 levels. The crops desire temperatures of 65-75 levels through the spring and summer season whereas they put out new progress. They’ll deal with the warmth and drought as soon as established, and with the cooler climate in fall, you’ll discover the formation of milkweed pods. These pods will dry out, cut up on the seam, after which burst open with milkweed puffs! The pods are filled with many flat oval seeds which are hooked up to silks (very like a dandelion seed) and can take to the wind and unfold. You’ll be able to accumulate the seed pods as soon as dried, earlier than they burst, with a view to unfold the seeds extra purposefully or to save lots of them for future use. 

Water and Humidity

Asclepias speciosa is especially drought tolerant as soon as established, so overwatering is usually the difficulty right here slightly than underwatering. Water 1 inch per week till established, after which water each different week. Overwatering, particularly together with humid environments, could cause fungal points for milkweed. Water on the base within the early morning earlier than the warmth of the day. Within the fall, as soon as the pods start to kind, you may stop watering altogether. Asclepias speciosa will dry up and die again to the bottom within the winter. 


Milkweed pods broken open
Milkweed pods dry out and break open to unfold seeds. Supply: greenwithenvygirl

One other advantage of including showy milkweeds to your backyard is their potential to tolerate a variety of soil situations. They’re not fussy relating to soil ph. They’ll tolerate poor soils with common fertility and don’t require any added compost or natural matter. They won’t, nonetheless, tolerate poor drainage. You should definitely plant them in a web site with good drainage and away from areas close to downspouts or low-lying areas the place water might pool after it rains. 

Fertilizing Showy Milkweed

Showy milkweed might be discovered rising wild in roadside ditches and in clusters in wooded areas deep within the mountains of the higher Midwest US. This tells us that they can’t solely survive with out fertilizing however flourish and multiply. That being mentioned, when you’d like to extend the quantity and measurement of your blooms, you are able to do so with a dose of phosphate fertilizer as quickly because the buds seem. In any other case, your milkweed with be simply advantageous with out it! 

Pruning Showy Milkweed

Showy milkweed can simply take over an space due to the best way they unfold by way of underground rhizomes. To maintain it manageable in a backyard setting, it could be essential to prune again showy milkweed because it begins to unfold. Or you need to use this to your benefit and place it in an space the place you may enable it to unfold in a cluster. Suppose you need to keep away from the difficulty of spreading or managing its containment altogether. In that case, it’s possible you’ll think about planting showy milkweed in a raised mattress or massive container like an previous whiskey barrel. If a whiskey barrel isn’t accessible to you, we suggest a Root Pouch develop bag or an Air Pot. On the finish of the season, after the seed pods (technically the plant’s fruit) have launched their milkweed puffs, the stalks will likely be utterly dried and might be reduce with hand pruners again to the bottom degree. 

Showy Milkweed Propagation

The simplest method to set up milkweed in your backyard is to direct sow seeds. In truth, in all species, milkweed propagation is most simply accomplished by seed. Showy milkweed seeds require chilly remedy by way of stratification. Stratification is the method that seeds naturally undergo once they lay dormant within the soil through the chilly winter. The warming climate within the spring then alerts the seed to sprout and start to develop. This particular remedy for the seeds is critical to ensure germination. Showy milkweed seeds can generally be tricked into considering they’ve gone by this dormant interval by putting them in a fridge for just a few weeks earlier than planting them out. Nevertheless, direct sowing the seeds within the fall is your finest guess. 

Showy milkweed tends to have a protracted and deep taproot, making transplanting milkweed troublesome and largely unsuccessful. That being mentioned, as a result of they unfold by way of rhizomes, it’s generally potential to propagate milkweed crops by way of rhizome cuttings. Should you discover a younger shoot developing close to a mom plant, then dig it up, together with the rhizome, and transplant it to a distinct space. It’s essential to do that whereas the shoots are younger and earlier than the taproot turns into too deep to simply dig up. Do that on a cool and overcast day with none excessive warmth within the close to forecast. This may give your milkweeds time to ascertain. 


Yellowing Asclepias speciosa
As summer season wanes, the milkweed yellows. Supply: Bear Paw Battlefield

When planted within the acceptable zone, milkweed tends to flourish with little or no intervention. There are, nonetheless, just a few points that may come up. Right here we’ll talk about some ideas and methods to cope with any potential points which will come up. 

Rising Issues

Chlorosis is the yellowing of the leaves that may have a number of causes, together with poor drainage, broken roots, compacted roots, or an iron deficiency. To troubleshoot the issue, test the soil round your Asclepias speciosa. Whether it is well-draining and never compacted across the roots, it could be extra doubtless a nutrient deficiency. A foliar spray with an iron compound will quickly enhance the foliage. Nevertheless, amending the soil will likely be wanted for lasting outcomes. 


Aphids, particularly oleander aphids, are the most typical pest of Asclepias speciosa. In a well-balanced ecosystem, ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, or syrphid flies will present up shortly after the looks of those aphids for a feast. These predatory bugs could make fast work of aphid infestations. In conditions the place the nice bugs could also be delayed or the infestation is changing into extreme, you may spray them off the plant with a blast of water. In excessive instances, neem oil can be utilized, however this ought to be a final resort since your milkweed can also host monarch caterpillars and monarchs who lay eggs on stems and leaves. 

The leaf miner is a small larvae that feeds between the 2 layers of leaf materials. Should you see a swirling sample showing on the foliage, this is a sign of leaf miners. The one method to management leaf miners is to take away contaminated plant materials. In excessive infestations, various pesticides similar to spinosad spray could also be thought-about. Nevertheless, it’s essential to contemplate the potential results on monarchs, monarch eggs, and caterpillars which may be utilizing your milkweed as host crops. 


Leaf spot on showy milkweed is often purple, brown, or black. The spots usually begin small and start spreading to contaminate your complete leaf to the purpose that it drops from the plant. Extreme infections can defoliate the plant utterly and infect stems. The fungus spores that trigger leaf spots are airborne and waterborne. Due to this fact, this illness is way much less severe in dry climates with low rainfall. Rising milkweed in an space with low humidity year-round may help forestall this challenge. Trim contaminated leaves to forestall the unfold and get rid of contaminated plant materials fastidiously. 

Root rot is brought on by overwatering of Asclepias species. Extra water can suffocate plant roots. Showy milkweed wants well-draining soil. The signs of root rot will seem as a mushy mushy stem, wilting, and naturally, rotten roots. One of these rot is difficult to get well from however might be remedied if there are nonetheless contemporary white roots on the plant that haven’t but turned to mush. Milkweed doesn’t wish to be transplanted. The most effective plan of action to appropriate root rot is to again off watering and enhance draining of the encircling soil. 

Continuously Requested Questions

Showy milkweed
Showy milkweed is a bunch plant for monarch butterflies. Supply: Matt Lavin

Q: Is showy milkweed poisonous?

A: Sure and no. All milkweed species comprise cardiac glycosides, making them poisonous to people and animals of their uncooked state. Nevertheless, showy milkweed is the least poisonous and might be eaten when correctly ready. The buds, flowers, leaves, and shoots are all edible when blanched. You will need to notice to take excessive warning and make sure you appropriately determine this plant earlier than cooking and consuming it (as it could actually simply be confused with different lookalikes and species within the dogbane household). Deal with it with the identical warning that you’d when figuring out and consuming wild mushrooms. When doubtful, both seek the advice of an skilled or simply don’t eat it.  

Q: Is showy milkweed invasive?

A: Regardless of its title, milkweed shouldn’t be a weed. It’s a native wildflower and isn’t thought-about a noxious weed in any state within the US. 

Q: The place ought to I plant showy milkweed?

A: Decide an space that receives full solar. Bear in mind they will develop as much as 4ft tall so make sure you plant them on the north aspect of your backyard in order that they don’t shade out smaller crops. 

Q: Is showy milkweed annual or perennial?

A: Showy milkweed is a perennial. 

Q: Is showy milkweed aggressive?

A: No, though it could actually unfold aggressively by way of underground rhizomes if left unchecked, it may be in the reduction of and managed comparatively simply. 

Q: Does showy milkweed entice butterflies?

A: Showy milkweed is most notably the host plant of the monarch butterfly. They’re additionally identified to draw the red-belted clearwing moth, the dogbane tiger moth, and the queen butterfly. 

Q: Is showy milkweed poisonous to canine?

A: Sure, all components of the plant (seeds, stems, leaves, and flowers) are poisonous to canine and cats. 

Q: The place must you not plant milkweed?

A: Due to its toxicity, it’s finest to not plant milkweed in attain of pets or young children. 

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