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.
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
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