Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca

Full to part sun; moderately wet to dry moisture level; tolerant of a wide range of soils, including clay but prefers a sandy loam; moderately acid to neutral pH.  3 ft. height, blooms in summer, purple flowers, spreads rapidly by rhizomes and self-seeds.

Germination Code:  C(30)

Native Region:  Middle and East Tennessee plus Shelby County in the Coastal Plain Province

Plant can be somewhat weedy and invasive, but it is a favorite of Monarch butterflies.  Attracts butterflies and bees and is an important food source for Monarch caterpillars.



One response to “Common Milkweed

  1. joystewart December 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    We need to take a fresh look at this plant. It is too bad that its primary image is a plant that is weedy and invasive. The real facts are much more interesting. Surprisingly enough, it is somewhat common for native nurseries to have difficulties propagating this species. In addition, according to Monarch Watch, it is not very competitive with other plants for light, water and space, and as plant succession occurs, it tends to be crowded out by other species and disappears. Add to that the fact that of the 13 native milkweed species in Tennessee, all but about 3 are difficult to grow, either difficult to germinate or hard to keep alive once planted in the garden. Given the critical role milkweeds play in the survival of our Monarch butterflies, we should probably be very glad that we have a milkweed species that is relatively easy to grow, and if it spreads too much in the garden, we can just cut off or transplant rooted shoots that we don’t want. This plant has so much going for it. It has attractive flowers, is very beneficial to many species of native bees, attracts predatory insects that prey upon pest insects, is one of the Monarch’s preferred food sources, and has the “just right” level of cardenolides that Monarchs prefer (the heart toxin in milkweeds that makes Monarch caterpillars toxic to predators). In planting them in my garden (having tried direct seeding, transplants of plugs, and rooted cuttings), I have found the plant tricky to get started, often requiring 2-3 years to see results, so I am thrilled every time I have a plant succeed.

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