The Plant Native

Common Milkweed

Highlights

Common Milkweed—this blah name hides its power. This is one tough flower. Drought, full sun, diesel exhaust on highways—this plant can take it all. Most importantly: Common Milkweed is a host plant for the Monarch butterfly. Common Milkweed can be planted in any of the continental United States and most of Canada, too. If you have a spot for this tall powerhouse, plant 5+ immediately to help the Monarchs. Scroll on for planting tips.

Full Sun
4-6′ tall
Host plant
Asclepias syriaca

Monarchs AND hummingbirds love Common Milkweed

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant native Common Milkweed

Table of Contents

Meet Common Milkweed

Common milkweed is a North American native perennial known for its clusters of pink to lavender-colored flowers that bloom in midsummer. Its botanical name, Asclepias syriaca, pays homage to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, emphasizing the plant’s historical medicinal uses.

Common Milkweed produces spherical blooms that are covered in flowers

How to grow Common Milkweed

  1. Sunlight: Common milkweed thrives in full sunlight. Ensure your garden bed receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.

  2. Soil: Well-draining soil is crucial for the success of common milkweed. It is adaptable to various soil types but prefers slightly sandy or loamy soil. Adding organic matter can improve soil structure.

  3. Watering: While common milkweed is drought-tolerant, it benefits from consistent watering, especially during dry spells. Water the plant at the base to avoid wetting the leaves, as this can help prevent diseases.

Common Milkweed's range is huge! Map from USDA Plants Database

Where is Common Milkweed native?

Common Milkweed is native to most of North America. It is one of the most ubiquitous milkweeds (there are approximately 100 different milkweed species in total.)

You may be familiar with Common Milkweed's beautiful seedpods that appear in the fall and winter

How can I plant Common Milkweed by seed?

Common Milkweed is easy to plant from seed in either the fall or the spring. It may take two years to see flowers if you plant this way: the first year, the Common Milkweed is focused on growing roots.

800-mile tip for seeds and planting

A big tip for picking seeds is to try to buy or obtain seeds from places that are within 800 miles (or less!) of where you live—the closer, the better. This ensures that the seeds you’re buying are suited for your area (Common Milkweed seeds from Iowa might not be the best seeds for a garden in New York.) 

Provenance matters for seeds and plants

Where a seed comes from—its provenance—matters. It ensures that the DNA of your Common Milkweed mixes well with the genomes in your area. Not to get too nerdy… but to ensure that our gardens positively contribute to biodiversity (making plants more resilient and helpful to wildlife), staying within a 800-mile radius is our best bet.

Common Milkweed seed sellers

Here are some online seed sellers (alongside their locations) that sell Common Milkweed seeds:

Local blooms, fewer glooms

Try to find plants and seeds from within 800 miles of where you live.

Plants and seeds from within 800 miles are best suited for your weather, water, and sunshine. This also fosters cross-pollination among locally grown plants, enhancing the resilience of seeds and plants for generations to come. Stay local for a happy garden!

What are good pairings for Common Milkweed?

Pair this sun-loving native flower with friends who like the same full sun, drained environment. Great pairings include:

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Bee Balm

monarch-on-butterfly-weed-the-plant-native

Butterfly Weed

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Coneflower

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False Sunflower

rattlesnake-master-flowers

Rattlesnake Master

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Stokes Aster

And that sums up our love letter to native favorite Common Milkweed! This beautiful flower is one of 100 different species of milkweed—all of which are host plants for the Monarch butterfly. Planting milkweed ensures that we have beautiful, easy-to-care-for landscapes that support our beloved, iconic wildlife. Common Milkweed has been overlooked for its beauty and resiliency—let’s turn that trend around! Plant them via seeds or pick up some plants from your local nursery, and be on the lookout for Monarch caterpillars in the fall. Happy planting!

UPDATED —
03/01/2024
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