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.

Choosing the right milkweed for your garden

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. 

Butterflyweed does best in dry, sandy soil with little nutrition. It’s often seen growing in fields and along the sides of the road, which means it’s drought-tolerant and a good choice for low-maintenance perennial gardens.

When and where to plant milkweed

In spring, your milkweed plants will likely be dormant with no green leaves. This is when the plant is focusing all its energy into developing a strong root system, and it won’t “wake up” until the soil warms.

If you plant milkweed in fall, your plants will be able to establish themselves before winter. In cold climates, milkweed will die back and return in spring with new growth.


Milkweed plants grow best in full sun locations that get six to eight hours of sunlight per day.

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