How to Grow Milkweed + Common Mistakes to Avoid

You've probably heard that you should plant milkweed to save the monarch butterflies.

But many people make this one common mistake when they buy milkweed plants for their garden—and inadvertently do more harm than good.

Here's the lowdown on choosing the right kind of milkweed, the secret to starting milkweed from seed successfully, and tips for growing milkweed in every region.

If you want to plant new milkweed, there are several species of native milkweed in the US. One of the most common, Asclepias tuberosa, is also known as butterflyweed. It’s native to most parts of the country (except the Northwest) and blooms in a brilliant orange or yellow.

Tips for planting milkweed

– Purchase plants from a reputable nursery to avoid systemic pesticide use that could harm pollinators, or start your plants from seed.

– Offer a couple varieties of milkweed, as some monarchs may have a preference for one or the other, and plant a few patches throughout your yard for them to land on.

– Be aware that common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) can spread aggressively by runners. Plant it in a suitable place in your garden where it won’t invade your lawn or overcrowd other plants.

– Plant low-growing perennials in front of the milkweed, as they’ll hide the spindly “skeleton” stems once the monarchs finish feasting. You’ll still be able to see them bloom, as the caterpillars don’t eat all the way up to the flowers.

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