Tropical Milkweed

AKA Bloodflower

Scientific Name:  Asclepias curassavica

Light:  Full Sun

Zone:  9 to 11, grown as an annual in Carroll County

Height:  24 to 36″

Width:  18 to 24″

Flowers: Red-orange with yellow hood from June to October

Fruit/Seed:  Seed Pod, July to November

Fall Color:

Butterflies:  Monarch host, many butterflies nectar on tropical milkweed

Birds:  Birds eat the many caterpillars and insects that feed on tropical milkweed.

Hummingbird: attracts

Deer Resistant:  Yes

Insects/Pollinators:  Attracts many pollinators and other insects.

Native: No

Idea Garden:

Propagation:  Tropical milkweed can be grown from cuttings, but it is quite easy to start from seeds. Start the seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost to get flowers earlier; plants from seeds sown outdoors may not bloom until late summer or early fall. Seeds should germinate in 2 to 3 weeks at room temperature. Soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting to improve germination.

Description

Tropical milkweed must be grown as an annual in Carroll County. Plants will bloom by 4 months. It is a great container plant to place on decks, in hanging planters or in patio gardens to observe the many butterflies and nectar feeding insects that will visit the orange, red, and sometimes yellow flowers. Tropical milkweed will not live through our winters and dies with the first frost. It is a long bloomer, but will not keep monarchs from migrating as reported in hot season climates. [Wisconsin Master Gardeners]

The long stems are excellent for cutting and the flowers have a long vase life.

The flowers are very attractive to butterflies, bees and other insects, as well as hummingbirds. Monarch butterflies use this species as a host plant. The caterpillars seem to prefer this species over many of the native species that have tougher leaves. They have a higher survival rate and a shorter development time on A. curassavica than on common milkweed, A. syriaca. [Wisconsin Master Gardeners] 

Pinching the young plants will encourage branching and therefore more flower clusters. Plant seedlings outside after last frost date. This species may reseed if the developing pods are not removed.

There is currently a hotly contested debate about whether tropical milkweed is spreading disease to monarch butterflies or causing them to delay migration. For us, this is a non-issue because of location but, to be safe, please pull your milkweed by the first of November and compost. The original report can be read here, https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2014.1734.  Currently, no research shows these issues are a problem north of the South Carolina coast.

Cultivars/Varieties

‘Silky Gold’ – a cultivar with yellow flowers; 28″; Ornamental & multipurpose plant.

‘Silky Deep Red’ – darker red flowers than the species; 28″; Ornamental & multipurpose plant.

‘Apollo Orange’28″; Bright scarlet flowers with yellow corolla.

‘Apollo Yellow’ – Yellow flowers

Sources

Tropical Milkweed – USDA Plant Fact Sheet

Tropical Milkweed – Missouri Botanical Garden

Milkweed – University of Connecticut Home & Garden Information Center

Tropical Milkweed – University of Wisconsin – Extension Master Gardeners

Recommended for Wildlife by

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

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

Butterfly Gardening in the DC Area by Washington Area Butterfly Club

 Bring Home The Butterflies Vol. I: How to Attract More Monarchs to your Butterfly Garden…and Keep Them There! by Tony Gomez

Photos

Nancy Bittler

Additional information

Light

Sun

Soil

Clay, Dry, Loam, Moist

Flower Color

Orange, Red, Yellow

Flower Season

Fall, Summer

Fruit Season

Fall, Summer

Wildlife Value

Beneficial Insects, Butterfly Host, Deer Resistant, Food for Birds, Hummingbird, Nectar

Notable Features

Containers, Cut Flowers, Humidity Tolerant, Long Blooming

Local Availability

Available, Widely Available

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