Asclepias speciosa. Native to western and central North America (including BC’s Okanagan region), Showy Milkweed is the plant at the center of Monarch butterfly conservation efforts. This is the particular species of milkweed that the Monarch caterpillars feed on after hatching, so it is highly prized by egg-laying adults. The flowers are notoriously generous with nectar, so they attract a host of other butterfly species, as well as bees, hummingbirds, and many other pollinators. The plants grow to around 90cm (36″) tall, with greyish green foliage topped by spherical clusters of pink flowers. Once the seed pods form, they can be cut and dried to good effect. Plant Showy Milkweed seeds anywhere to help with pollinator conservation.
Note: This species spreads by self-seeding as well as spreading its rhizomatous roots. In favorable settings, it can spread aggressively. For this reason, we recommend it for larger containers or for areas where it can be controlled through regular pruning. To avoid self-sowing, simply cut the seed pods off before they mature.
Showy Milkweed also happens to be pretty much deer-proof.
How to Grow Asclepias
Follow along with this handy How to Grow Asclepias guide and enjoy butterflies, hummingbirds, and a host of other pollinators in your garden. When transplanted seedlings are 10-15cm (4-6″) tall, pinch back the growing tip to encourage multiple flowering points. Asclepias tuberosa prefers dry, sandy conditions or any average garden soil in full sun. Plants grown from seed bloom in the first year if given an early start. They can be pulled up in fall and treated like annuals to prevent spreading. Asclepias does not divide well, but it’s an outstanding choice for xeriscaping. Asclepias speciosa and some of the others do better in swampy soil, but they are not fussy plants.
Season & Zone
Exposure: Full sun
Sow indoors late February to the end of March and transplant or direct sow towards late April. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 10-25°C (50-75°F). Seeds should sprout in 7-35 days. Asclepias may benefit from stratification: Seeded trays are wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for two to three weeks before being placed over bottom heat. This may result in more even and speedier germination.
We have had success direct sowing A. tuberosa in March, with blooms the first year. In our experience, A. speciosa returns with vigor in the second year and begins blooming by June.
Barely cover the small seeds using sterilized seed starting mix. Space transplants 30-60cm (12-24″) apart.
Note: All parts of the plant are harmful if eaten. Flowers are not edible.
Download our Asclepias tuberosa Factsheet.
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