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What Are the Different Types of Milkweed?

The monarch butterfly population has declined significantly in the last few decades due to the loss of America's grasslands ecosystems, commercial agricultural practices, and conventional gardening. One of the major reasons for the decline is the shortage of milkweed plants, which is its only caterpillar host plant. Here are a few different types of milkweed native to several different states around the country.

  • Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) — These pink or purple flowers have an attractive odor and bloom from June to August. They should be planted in moist soil and require lots of sunlight. They typically grow between three and five feet but can grow taller. 
  • Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) — Also known as Orange Milkweed for its yellow-orange color, this perennial blooms from May to September and grows about one to two feet. It can survive in moist or dry soil and is drought-tolerant, but it requires sunlight to thrive. 
  • Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) — This pink perennial is shade-tolerant but requires a lot of water and moist soil to grow up to five feet. The large blossoms on the plant are made up of small rose-colored flowers that are clustered at the top of a tall branching stem. They bloom from June to October. 
  • Antelope-Horns Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) — Also known as Spider Milkweed, this plant actually gets its name because the growing seed pods look like antelope horns. The flowers are pale green, tinged with maroon, and the stems are densely covered with tiny hairs. With sunlight, dry or moist soil, and regular watering, these perennials will bloom from March to October and reach one to two feet tall. 
  • Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) — These deep red perennials bloom from May to July and thrive in sunlight and dry soil. The milky juice that comes from this plant is known to remove warts. The plant size is about two to four feet. 
  • Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) — This plant typically grows from one and a half to three feet, but can get as tall as six feet under favorable conditions such as sunlight and moist soil. This perennial has blue-green leaves and rose-colored flowers that grow at the top of the stem and bloom from May to September. 

After learning a little more about the different kinds of milkweed plants, we can help to change the monarch's fate. Monarchs can not successfully reproduce without milkweed, so we must do something to help perpetuate the species. By planting milkweed native to your region, you can do your part in saving this beautiful creature.