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Milkweed is the host plant
(caterpillar food) for
Monarch butterflies. It is also utilized as a nectar source by many
butterfly species, bees, hummingbirds, and more. Here we offer numerous
species of milkweed plants that are great for the butterfly garden..
We ship milkweed plants from
May through October, but only to the states listed below.
available for 2021 shipping:
Most of our Milkweed Plants are shipped in 3" pots or nursery liners.
We ship USPS First Class or Priority Mail. Shipping charges are shown near the bottom of the 'home' page of the web site.
Please be sure the address that comes thru on your order form is the address used by the U.S. Postal Service.
Once you place an order, please watch your email closely for updates on order status.
Milkweed (also known as Bloodflower and/or
Native in Mexico and the northern half of South America, Tropical Milkweed grows 30"-36" high and produces clusters of bright yellow or yellow-orange bi-colored flowers (sorry, no choice of flower color). Highly utilized by Monarch butterflies for egg-laying. Used as a nectar source by many other butterfly species and also by hummingbirds. Plant in full sun and treat as an annual. Save the seeds this fall and start them yourself next year (this milkweed is easy to grow from seed). Shipped in 3" pots. The plants are small. Deer resistant.
Annual. 6 plants for $22.50 Sold Out for 2021.
*** Note: If you are going to use these plants to raise monarch caterpillars, I suggest you keep the plants in pots, not plant them in the garden. See more about this on the 'Monarch Larvae' page.
Balls Milkweed (also known as Swan Plant, Balloon
Plant, Devil's Balls, and Family
(Asclepias physocarpa and/or Gomphocarpus physocarpus)
Native to southeast Africa, Hairy Balls Milkweed grows 48"-60" high and produces clusters of tiny white star-shaped flowers August thru September. Balloon-like seed pods appear in September and October. Utilized by Monarch butterflies for egg-laying and used as a nectar source by several other butterfly species (and also by hummingbirds). Plant in full sun and treat as an annual. Save the seeds this fall and start them yourself next year (this milkweed is easy to grow from seed). Shipped in 3" pots. Deer resistant.
Annual. 5 plants for $22.50 Sold Out for 2021.
U.S. Native Milkweed:
Swamp Milkweed, pink flowering
Clusters of small pink flowers on plants which grow 36"-42" high. Swamp Milkweed is a U.S. native that usually grows in moist areas (but it does not require a moist location in the garden). Usually blooming June thru July, this plant serves as a nectar source for several butterfly species and as a host plant for Monarchs. Deer resistant.
Perennial, zones 3-8. $6.00 each
Note: Our Swamp Milkweed plants are heading toward dormancy. Their leaves are yellowing and will, in the next few weeks, be dropping. They might not look good but they are still fine for fall planting.
Milkweed, white flowering
(Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet')
Clusters of small white flowers on plants which grow 32"-40" high. Usually blooms late June through July. 'Ice Ballet' Swamp Milkweed is a choice nectar plant for numerous butterfly species (including the red admiral shown here). It is also a top choice for monarch egg-laying! Deer resistant.
Note: Our Swamp Milkweed plants are heading toward dormancy. Their leaves are yellowing and will, in the next few weeks, be dropping. They are still fine for fall planting though.
Perennial, zones 3-8. $6.00 each
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Clusters of bright orange flowers adorn this plant from late June through July. Usually growing 18"-24" high, Butterfly Weed attracts numerous butterfly species for nectaring and it is sometimes utilized as a host plant for Monarch butterflies. Known also as Pleurisy Root, Butterfly Weed must be planted in a soil that provides excellent drainage, especially in winter. A US native, Butterfly Weed is drought-tolerant and deer resistant.
Perennial, zones 3-8. $6.00 each
Note: Our Butterfly Weed is heading toward dormancy. Their leaves are yellowing and will, in the next few weeks, be dropping. They might not look good but they are still fine for fall planting.
A native to much of the eastern USA, Common Milkweed generally grows to about 48" high and blooms late June through July. Our plants are small this year but they should reach mature size next summer. Common Milkweed is utilized as a nectar source by hummingbirds and also by many butterfly species. Also used as a host plant by Monarch butterflies. Shipped in 3" pots. A US native, Common Milkweed is drought-tolerant and deer resistant.
Perennial, zones 3-9. $5.00 each
Sorry, Sold Out for 2021.
Growing 30"-40" high, Showy Milkweed is native to the western half of the U.S. It produces purple-pink flowers and blooms June thru July. Showy Milkweed is great for the pollinator garden, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds, honey bees, and other beneficial insects. It is also a host for Monarch larvae (caterpillars).
A US native, Showy Milkweed is drought-tolerant and deer resistant.
Perennial, zones 3-9. $5.00 each
Sorry, Sold Out for 2021.
Host Plants for Other Butterfly Species:
Rue is a beautiful garden
plant, with lacy blue-green leaves and many small but showy bright yellow
flowers from June through August. Known as herb o' grace, because its
branches were once used by Catholic priests to sprinkle holy water. Rue
grows 30"-36" high. Deer resistant.
(Dictamnus albus rubra)
A favorite at our nursery, Gas Plant grows to about 36" high and produces beautiful pink or white flower spikes in late spring. The leaves and flowers have a fragrant lemon-like scent. Sorry, no choice of flower color but 80% of ours are pink. The plants will likely not bloom until next year. Deer resistant.
As discovered by Rose many years ago, a host plant for Giant Swallowtail butterflies.
Perennial, zones 3-8. $8.00 each Our Gas Plants are small, only 3" - 5" high.
Sorry, Sold Out for 2021.
| 'Silver Brocade' Artemisia
(host plant for American Lady caterpillars)
(Artemisia stellariana 'Silver Brocade')
Looks very similar to annual dusty miller! Grows 10"-15" high and about 24" wide in one season. Utilized as a host plant by American Ladies. Deer resistant and drought tolerant. Must have excellent drainage to survive the winter.
To raise 5 American Lady caterpillars, you should order 2 or 3 of these plants.
plants to the following states within the USA: Connecticut, Delaware,
Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, North
Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island,
South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. State
and Federal regulations prohibit us from shipping to other destinations. If you do not live in one of the states we are permitted to ship to,
please do not order. We will not ship your order and will charge you a
$1.00 service charge to cancel your order and refund your payment.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Bronze Fennel is an aromatic
herb (smells like black licorice) with soft, wispy, fern-like foliage. It grows
48"-60" high and is strikingly beautiful, pretty enough to use
in the back of a flower garden. As an
herb, it is used in breads, sauces, dips, spreads, and more. What a
beautiful plant this is, fit for a flower garden---and it's a perennial!
Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, the
same one grown for culinary use, is also a host plant for the Black
Swallowtail. It grows
Dill is a reseeding annual
with delicate, fern-like foliage. It grows 18"-24" high. As an
herb, it is used in breads, sauces, dips, spreads, and more. Herb
gardeners harvest both the leaves (dill weed) and the seeds (dill seed).
Flower (vine) (Passiflora
Purple Passion Flower, also known as Passionvine and Maypops, is native to PA, OH, IL, IN, MO, KS, and all states laying to the south of these. Growing to 10' - 20' long, Purple Passion Flower produces exotic-looking 3" lavender blooms June thru August. Its seed pods (known as Maypops) develop about 3 months after flowering occurs and are about the size of chicken eggs. Passion Flower will climb up fences, arbors, and walls. Hardy in USDA Zones 6 - 9.
Host plant for the Variegated Fritillary (pictured right) and Gulf Fritillary.
Photo by Josh Hillman.
Perennial, zones 5-8. $8.00 each
PawPaw trees grow to a height of 25' - 30'. They prefer rich, moist, well-drained soil in partly shaded locations (but will usually thrive in sunny spots too). PawPaw produces fruit which, when ripe, tastes like a blend of banana, mango, and pineapple.
Host plant for the beautiful long-tailed, black and white striped Zebra Swallowtail.
Perennial, zones 5-9. $8.00 each (Small seedling, 5" - 8" high)
False Indigo grows 36" - 40" high and produces blue sweet pea-like blossoms. Its flower spikes rise above blue-green foliage on gray stems. Usually blooming the month of June, it produces interesting seed pods after flowering. The foliage of this bold plant is beautiful and lush from spring thru late fall. A beautiful perennial that is hard to find. Deer resistant.
Host plant for the Orange Sulphur, the Clouded Sulphur (pictured right), and the Eastern Tailed Blue.
Perennial, zones 3-9. $6.00 each Sorry, Sold Out for 2021.
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Milkweed is essential for the
existence of Monarch butterflies.
A Monarch butterfly is pictured at the top of this page. Adult Monarchs (and many other butterfly species) love nectar-rich milkweed as a food source, but there is a more important reason for the Monarch's close attachment to milkweed. Milkweed is the only plant material that Monarch caterpillars can eat. Remove Monarch caterpillars from milkweed and they will starve; or they will eat other plant material, sicken, and then die. The scientific name for milkweed is Asclepias (pronounced as-KLEE-pea-us). Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) is well known to most who reside in the eastern half of the U.S.. It grows along roadsides, in fields, and in open meadows. Producing sweet smelling mauve-pink flowers late June through July, common milkweed usually matures at about 48" high. Some people incorrectly assume common milkweed to be the only milkweed species which exists. Actually, over 100 species of Asclepias grow in the USA, with over 200 different species growing worldwide.
Common milkweed is not the only Asclepias species which can be utilized as a food source for the monarch caterpillar. In reality, any Asclepias serves the purpose, although a few select species do tend to be the female Monarch's favorite for egg-laying..
Among the Asclepias species highly utilized by female monarchs for egg-laying are Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed, an annual), Hairy Balls Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa, an annual), and Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed, an perennial).
|In the past few years, I (Rose Franklin) have read numerous articles claiming that too many gardeners are planting the wrong species of milkweed. In planting Tropical Milkweed, the authors of these articles contend, well-intentioned gardeners are actually harming the Monarch (killing the monarchs, some go so far to proclaim). Tired of hearing this nonsense, I wrote the following article in rebuttal.|
Milkweed for the Monarchs?
by Rose Franklin, January 19, 2015
Americans are worried about the current status of the
Monarch butterfly population, and they should be. Monarch numbers have
dramatically declined in the past ten years or so. Some entomologists even
wonder if the spectacular annual migration to and from Mexico might one
day cease to exist. The over-wintering population in Mexico last winter,
2013-2014, was the smallest ever recorded, about 10% of the 20-year
Monarch enthusiasts, knowing that Monarchs must have
access to milkweed if the population is to increase, are opting to plant
milkweed instead of petunias, impatiens, geraniums, and marigolds. But
they are confused about which milkweed species they should plant. Some
gardeners are told they should only plant the milkweed species that are
native to their area while others hear that almost any milkweed, including
those that grow in the tropic jungles of the world, like Tropical Milkweed
(Asclepias curassavica), are suitable hosts for the Monarch.
It was scientists who first began to oppose the
planting of Tropical Milkweed. They claimed that because this milkweed
species grows year around in some parts of the U.S, it might disrupt the
Monarchís migratory cues in autumn and facilitate in the creation of a
large population that does not migrate but, instead, resides year around
where Tropical Milkweed grows year around. And
there, where it is not killed off annually by autumn frosts (southern
Florida and along the coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico), Tropical
Milkweed surely harbors pathogens and facilitates in the increased
transmission of disease (especially Oe, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha).
Researchers even know that there are, and have been for a number of years,
a few small Monarch populations residing year around, and breeding year
around, in isolated locations along the Gulf coast.
likely serves several purposes in the well-being of Monarchs. It compels
the Monarch to abandon habitat which might be contaminated with pathogens.
The long-distance migration also serves to weed out the individuals that
are weak and diseased, so that only the healthiest of the population is
left to produce offspring the following year.
migration is assuredly advantageous to the health of the Monarch
population, I am not comfortable in knowing that even a tiny fragment of
the Monarch population has become non-migratory and now breeds year around
in a few locations along the southern coast of the U.S. In those areas
where Tropical Milkweed does not die in winter, I urge people to refrain
from planting it. If it is already planted, I suggest the
Tropical Milkweed plants be cut to the ground in autumn and all the debris
discarded, thus eliminating the
possibility of Monarchs reproducing year around on foliage which might be
contaminated with disease. If those residents along the Gulf coast are unwilling or
unable to cut their plants to the ground every fall, I advise them to spray
their Tropical Milkweed with Roundup, repeatedly until it is completely gone. I donít
generally advocate the use of Roundup, but in this case, I will tolerate
its use so that the Monarch will be able to multiply in healthy, disease-free
OK. I agree that in the
2% of the nation where
Tropical Milkweed grows year around, it could, and most likely does,
harbor and spread disease among the small Monarch population that has
chosen to reside and breed there year around. But, as
stated above, this could be prevented if people would cut their Tropical
Milkweed plants to the ground every fall. In the other 97% of the U.S.
though, I think Tropical Milkweed might well be of benefit to the Monarch,
especially at this point in time, when Monarch numbers are swiftly
dwindling (though, in my opinion, maybe not any faster than other
butterfly species are dwindling in number).
I do not believe that Monarchs migrating from eastern
Canada or the northeastern states of the U.S to Mexico could be persuaded
to stay in Pennsylvania or Virginia because they encounter a large stand
of Tropical Milkweed growing in a garden. I simply do not believe that.
Eastern Monarchs are genetically programmed to make the annual migration
to the over-wintering sites in the high-altitude oyamel fir forests in the
trans-volcanic mountains of central Mexico. Northeastern Monarchs emerging
from pupae between late August and mid-September are in reproductive
diapause and thus, not even capable of mating and laying eggs. Probably in
response to shorter day length, cooler autumn temperatures, and/or the
orientation of the sun, they emerge from their pupae, feed on nectar to
store sugar in their bodies, and then automatically begin their long
I have been an avid butterfly gardener for
years, and I have grown many species of milkweed in my gardens in central
Pennsylvania. My advice, at this particular point in time, is to plant
whatever milkweed species will aid the Monarch in its quest to survive and
Several years ago, I might have agreed with those who
advocate the planting of natives only. Today though, with the Monarch
numbers at an all-time low, I advocate that we plant whichever milkweed
species Monarchs will readily lay eggs on, and/or whatever milkweed
species Monarch caterpillars will readily feed on.
Having had many milkweed species our my yard over the
past two decades, my husband and I have seen that, consistently from one
year to the next, female Monarchs lay more eggs on Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) than they do on any other milkweed species.
Annually, we find 300 or more Monarch caterpillars on the hundreds of
milkweed plants growing on our property. At least 70% of those are found
feeding on the Tropical Milkweed, not the Pennsylvania native Common
Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca),
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata),
or Butterfly Weed (Asclepias
Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), also known as Bloodflower, grows 36Ē to 48Ē high, generally blooms from mid-July through frost, and prefers full sun. It is native to tropical South America, Mexico, Central America, and a few torrid islands in the Caribbean and thus, must be treated as an annual in most of the U.S. Tropical Milkweed produces clusters of tiny, star-shaped flowers which might be yellow, yellow/orange, or red/orange bi-colors.
I have to assume that female Monarchs know what they
are doing in choosing Tropical Milkweed for the laying of their eggs. If
they intrinsically choose to lay eggs on Tropical Milkweed, even when a
number of native species are available to them, they must have innate
reasoning for doing so. Monarchs are genetically programmed to halt
reproduction in fall, inherently wired to make the annual migration to and
from Mexico, and I think, innately programmed to know which milkweed
species is best suited for their offspring to consume. Maybe Tropical
Milkweed is more nutritious than native milkweeds, maybe it has a higher amount of cardenolides in it, which, once consumed by the
caterpillars, serve to make both the caterpillars and the adult
butterflies toxic to birds.
Andy, my husband, and I offer a huge buffet of
milkweeds to the Monarchs that visit our property during the summer
months. Having a choice of depositing eggs on the hundreds of Common
Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed which grow in our yard, along
with other milkweeds too, they overwhelming choose Tropical Milkweed. I
donít know why they choose it, and I donít care why. I only know that
Aside from advocating the planting of Tropical
Milkweed because female Monarchs prefer it for egg-laying, I promote it
for another reason also. Tropical Milkweed is highly utilized as a nectar
source by fall-migrating Monarchs. In October, when Monarchs are still
migrating through Pennsylvania and most flowering plants are far past
their prime, Tropical Milkweed is generally still green and, apparently,
still producing sweet-flavored nectar. On warm, sunny October days, from
late morning through mid-afternoon, our Tropical Milkweed patches are
adorned by the flutter of dozens of migrating Monarchs. They stop by,
nectar for just a while, and then continue on their way.
Monarchs are in crisis--and so long as they are, and unless someone convinces me that Tropical Milkweed is causing peril to the Monarch (other than in that 2% of the country where it does not freeze out over the winter), I will continue to promote the planting of Tropical Milkweed. I love the Monarch, and my wish is that its population rebounds to the number recorded in Mexico during the winter of 1996-1997, the year the Monarch count was the highest ever recorded.
|Data for 1994-2003 collected
by personnel of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) of the
National Commission of Natural Protected Areas in Mexico. Data for
2003-2013 collected by World Wildlife Fund Mexico in coordination with the
Dicectorate of the MBBR.
Above, a Monarch butterfly nectars on Butterfly Bush.
Copyright © 2002-2018. [Rose Franklin's Perennials]. All rights
Revised: August 31, 2021