No doubt you've hear of the plight of the monarch butterfly and the importance of milkweeds to their lifecycle. Did you know we have our own native milkweed? Maligned by some because it doesn't provide forage for cattle (which seems like an unfair way to assess a native plant), showy milkweed is a perfect addition to the garden. It is the complete package, with showy flowers, large interesting leathery grey-green foliage, and pollinator value. Plus the seed pods are really fun, like a neatly packed alien spaceship.
This species tolerates a wide range of moisture conditions, from stream or ditchside habitats to dry grassland, as long as it gets plenty of sun. Showy milkweed is slow to break dormancy in the spring, and each year your plant will add some size, going from a few stems to a little colony. The less water, the slower the spread.
Young plants may take several years to begin flowering, so patience is encouraged! If you are hoping to attract butterflies with milkweeds, it is important to plant a fairly large patch. Single plants either can't be found or don't seem to be worth the effort to many pollinators.
milkweed colony image: Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
- Asclepias speciosa