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How to Grow Asclepias

May 16, 2022



Asclepias include over 100 species of evergreen or deciduous perennials adorned with small clusters of flowers that are irresistible to butterflies and pollinators.


Four species of native milkweed are found in most states: the Whorled Milkweed, Common Milkweed, and Swamp Milkweeds, and Butterfly Weed. They will thrive in a wide range of garden and meadow habitats from the eastern seaboard to the Rocky Mountains, including southern Canada. Plant milkweed in your meadow or garden to provide much-needed habitat and food for monarch butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.

Butterfly Plant

Where To Plant

Light: Milkweed needs to be planted in the sunniest parts of your yard or garden.

Soil: There is a Milkweed variety for every landscape.

Common Milkweed grows well in average garden soil. 
Swamp Milkweed, is great for wet meadows or rain gardens. 
Tropical Milkweed performs beautifully in hot, humid conditions, and can be grown as an annual in the north. 
Butterfly Weed and Whorled Milkweed grows best in dry conditions.


Spacing: Milkweed establish large, deep root systems and prefer not to be transplanted. 

Butterfly Weed, Whorled Milkweed, and Common Milkweed should all be spaced about 18” apart. 

Swamp Milkweed eventually matures to form clumps up to 36″ across.

Watering Vegetables

When To Plant

Tuck live plants into the ground in spring after the danger of frost has passed.

Some types of milkweed spread more aggressively than others. To contain the plant, grow milkweed in a raised bed or container and remove the seed pods. Or plant it only where it can run freely. Milkweed does not need to be fertilized.

Wear gloves when handling milkweed, because the milky sap may cause skin or eye irritation. In large quantities, the sap may be toxic to livestock or pets.

How to Plant

Carefully remove the Milkweed plant from its pot by loosening the pot from the rootball. Place your hand around the plant and turn it upside-down to slide the pot off the rootball. Don’t tug at the stem, as you could damage it.

Before planting, make sure to score the roots with your hands or a pocketknife, so they will spread out into the surrounding soil from the rootball.

Water after planting and about three times a week until the plant gets established.

Tip: To avoid unwanted seedlings, remove all seed pods in early fall, before they split open and spread their seeds.