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.     3-6 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.  Quite drought tolerant once established.  Flowers are especially fragrant and attract a wide range of insects including butterflies, moths, long tongued bees, skippers, wasps and more.  It is one of the preferred food sources for Monarch caterpillars.


6 responses 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.

    • Linda B Norsworthy April 23, 2018 at 12:01 am

      where can I get some?

      • joystewart April 25, 2018 at 9:12 pm

        Typically the best you can find are seeds which do need a 30-day period of cold pre-treatment. I was trying to remember where I got my plants, and I am pretty sure it was from two places. Someone was selling pieces of root on ebay, and those came up quite nicely. But I just checked ebay, and they only have seeds at the moment. The other place was from the yard of friend who had them coming up in her garden and she didn’t want them. The tricky part with digging them up is that the roots are pretty deep and you have to really dig down to get enough root to have it survive. If you can’t find plants, I may be able to dig some roots for you at my place. Let me know. P.S. I just checked one other nursery, Missouri Wildflowers Nursery, and they do sell small pots of plants for $2.50 and quart pots for $5. You can order from them online. I am sure these pots were started from seed this past winter but Common Milkweed grows pretty fast.

      • joystewart April 29, 2018 at 2:44 pm

        Hi, Linda. I am sorry to end up posting another response, but I re-read your message and it reminded me of another place where I got some of my milkweed plants. They came from Easy Living Wildflowers. You can order on-line. I am surprised I forgot that one because it is one of my favorite stories. I came home one day to find the box of plants on my front door step. I opened the box and found healthy, sizeable Common Milkweed plants complete with a big Monarch caterpillar munching away on one of the plants. It had had a nice plane flight from Missouri to NE Tennessee.

  2. Sharon Roth June 8, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    ” 3 are difficult to grow” which ones might they be Joy Stewart?

    • joystewart June 10, 2019 at 2:24 am

      I originally said that all but 3 are difficult to grow. I believe you are asking which ones are the 3 that are easy to grow. That would be Common Milkweed, Swamp (Red) Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed. If I misunderstood your question, please let me know.

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