It is said that the monarch population has dropped by 90% in the last 20 years or so. This is due to various causes such as the elimination of America’s grasslands, agricultural practices, and even home gardening. The monarch butterfly is such an iconic and beautiful species. the National Wildlife federation has set forth to help save the monarch.
With that being said, one of the largest factors for the monarch butterfly’s decline is the increasingly hard to find milkweed. Milkweed is the ONLY plant its caterpillar eat. Without it, the monarch butterfly can’t successfully sustain its population. So what can you do? You can plant some milkweed in your garden or landscape.
Do note that this plant is toxic. Certain compounds are found in milkweed that makes it toxic to humans, pets, and livestock. When planting, milkweed, be sure to keep it in areas where animals or children will not come in contact with it.
When planting your milkweed, be sure to plant it in a space where you will not mow it. Since monarch caterpillars use the plant as food, avoid using pesticide as well. The flowers also provide food for the butterflies as well. A variety of early, middle, and late blooming species will help the species throughout their life cycle.
Meet the Plants
I present to you, 5 species of milkweed that can help feed any visiting Monarchs. These plants have attractive flowers, and would make a great garden for our butterfly friends.
Common Milkweed(Asclepias syriaca)
Habitat: Shade intolerant, needs lots of sun, moist soil
Plant Description: Grows 3 – 5 feet with some reaching 8 feet. The flower has large clusters of pink to purple flowers and blooms from June to August.
Native Regions: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Habitat: Needs a fair amount of sun as well, drought tolerant, dry or moist soil
Plant Description: Grows 1 – 2 feet . The flower has flat clusters of yellow orange or bright orange flowers. Blooms May to September.
Native Regions: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN, MO , MS , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WI , WV
Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)
Habitat: This is another plant that loves sun. Requires dry soil
Plant Description: The flowers are deep magenta. Blooms May to July.
Native Regions: AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SD , TN , TX , VA , WI , WV
Mexican Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)
Habitat: This is a sun lover, drought tolerant, and can tolerate dry or moist soils.
Plant Description: This variety has whorled leaves (hence the name) with clusters of greenish-white flowers with a purple tinge. It typically grows to 1- 2.5 ft. Blooms June to September
Native Regions: AL , AR , AZ , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV , WY
Antelope-horns Milkweed (Asclepias asperula)
Habitat: Lots of sunlight, medium water usage, and can tolerate dry or moist soils.
Plant Description: This variety has clusters of greenish-yellow flowers, that are often tinged with maroon. It typically grows to 1- 2 ft. Blooms March to October
Native Regions: AZ , CA , CO , ID , KS , NE , NM , NV , OK , TX , UT
In closing, the flowers of these plants are actually quite attractive. Milkweed comes back year after year. The only concern should be the plant’s toxicity. They contain cardiac glycosides that are toxic to humans, grazing animals, and pets. It is best to keep these plants in an area that will undisturbed by pets, cattle, and children.