Milkweed, Common

Scientific Name:  Asclepias syriaca

Light:  Full Sun

Zone:  3 to 9

Height:  3.5 to 6.5 feet

Width:  .75 to 1 feet

Flowers:  May to August, pale Purple

Fruit/Seed:  August to November, Pod

Fall Color:

Butterflies:  Monarch Host.  This milkweed also attracts buckeyes, bumblebees, eastern tiger swallowtails, fritillaries, hairstreaks, honeybees, hummingbird moths, mourning cloaks, painted lady butterflies, red admirals, spicebush swallowtails, question marks, and more.

Birds:

Hummingbird:

Deer Resistant:  Yes

Insects/Pollinators:  Attractive to many insects

Native:  Carroll and throughout Maryland

Idea Garden:

Propogation:  Sow seeds at 70 degrees.  Germination should occur in 15 to 30 days.  Some sources say a 30 day cold stratification is required.  Seeds should be started 2 months before your final frost date – about March 10th in Carroll County.  Seeds can also be sown outside in the fall or by winter sowing.

Description

Common Milkweed is aptly named as it is the most widely found milkweed in North America and Carroll County.  It commonly occurs in fields, open woods,  roadsides and along railroad tracks throughout the County.

 It has very fragrant pink and white blooms that sadly last for just a couple weeks in early summer.

Seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars).

Though used in butterfly gardens, meadows, prairies, or naturalized/native plant areas, this plant is considered by many gardeners to be too vigorous and weedy for borders.

Common milkweed is the easiest milkweed to harvest leaves from to raise monarch caterpillars indoors.

Common Milkweed is easily grown from seed, and will self-seed in the landscape if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open. It can spread somewhat rapidly by rhizomes and often forms extensive colonies in the wild. Common milkweed can also be propagated by  rhizome cuttings. Both seedlings and cuttings will usually bloom in their second year, although cuttings will occasionally bloom during their first year.

Here are some precautions you can take to make this milkweed less invasive:

  • Cut off and discard some/all seed pods before they open.
  • Tie organza bags around the pods to catch the exploding seed.
  • Plant common milkweed outside of your main garden if possible so they are their own mini-garden.

The plants also get pretty ugly by summer’s end. You can avoid a ‘common’ eyesore by cutting stalks back by a quarter to half after the plants are done flowering.  They will grow fresh new leaves and look better at season’s end…and possibly get you a few extra monarch eggs.  Leave some plants uncut if you want to harvest milkweed seeds in the fall.

Sources

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Common Milkweed  – USDA Plant Fact Sheet

Common Milkweed – Missouri Botanical Garden

Milkweed – University of Connecticut Home and Garden Information Center

Recommended for Wildlife by

Creating a Wild Backyard – Hummingbirds, Butterflies & Bees – Maryland DNR

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed

For the Birds, Butterflies & Hummingbirds: Creating Inviting Habitats – Virginia Extension

Top Nectar Plants, Piedmont (Central Maryland) by North American Butterfly Association

Some Favorite Nectar Plants – Washington Area Butterfly Club

Butterfly Gardening in the DC Area – Washington Butterfly Club

Bring Home the Butterflies by Tony Gomez

Photos

Anita Gould, Flickr Creative Commons

Additional information

Zones

Zone 5, Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8

Light

Sun

Soil

Dry, Loam

Flower Color

Purple

Flower Season

Summer

Fruit Season

Fall, Summer

Wildlife Value

Beneficial Insects, Butterfly Host, Deer Resistant, Nectar

Native

Carroll, Coast, Mountain, Piedmont

Notable Features

Fragrant

Local Availability

Available, Widely Available

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