Although it won’t be official until mid-March, when the Mexican government releases the winter’s population count, ‘unofficial’ reports are anticipating a rather small migrating population. These unofficial reports are coming from the El Rosario Sanctuary in Mexico (see video example from 2016 at the end of this post); a site that can sometimes be the winter home for over 50% of the entire monarch population in Mexico. Reports and photos show butterflies densely covering approximately 18 trees. That’s good news, but last year, reports were that 50 trees were covered.

That’s not good news, but it is a call to action: PLANT MORE MILKWEED!

We’ve written a lot about pollinators, monarchs, and natives. We think that they are really important, so forgive any redundancy! A few things to keep in mind:

  • All Milkweed plants are Asclepias
  • Milkweed is the required host plant for monarch butterflies
  • Any loss in the population of milkweed means the loss of the monarch population
  • We are losing both at an alarming rate
  • The biggest threats come from urban development and agricultural intensification

The interconnection between the Monarchs and Milkweeds is a lovely song and dance; during the spring, summer and early fall, the butterflies breed and lay eggs on the milkweed plant. Several generations will be produced during this period, and the ones born in late summer and early fall will the ‘greatest generation’; they will migrate to spend the winter in a forest habitat. Generally speaking, those ‘easterners’ will fly to Mexico and the ‘westerners’ will make their way to California. After their ‘winter break’, this population will begin breeding in winter and early spring, and then fly north and east. Milkweed is a VITAL component along their flight.

These plants are vital, and they are very easy to grow. As perennials, they will come back year after year and they do spread pretty well via rhizomes. So, plant a few and as time goes by, you will be growing even more than a few. Plant a lot, and you will be rewarded exponentially!

Our Plants – Please make sure to review these plants on our Product Pages so you can see the range for each of these Asclepias plants.

We have been growing Asclepias tuberosa for a very long time. This native is by far the most naturally abundant and can be found in 41 states. It is an easy to grow perennial, and has always been popular. However, as we began to move our business to the web and began growing for gardens all over the continental US, we decided to expand our selection. This spring, we are introducing 3 new varieties!
Asclepias syriaca: ‘Common Milkweed’ – there really is nothing ‘common’ about this lovely herbaceous perennial Asclepias! Easy to grow and quick to establish, this weedy Missouri native will thrive in dry soil situations. It grows to between 3 and 4 feet, and produces lovely round clusters of flowers in lavender to pink shades. Remember, Asclepias, in general, are slow to ‘wake’ up in the spring so give them time. They are establishing good, strong roots and when they are ready to emerge, you will be quite happy and the Monarchs will too!
Asclepias incarnata: ‘Swamp Milkweed’ – a little more ‘refined’ than the syriaca, this Asclepias is often referred to as ‘Rose Milkweed’ due to its rosy pink and fragrant bloom. Growing well in medium to wet soils, incarnate can be found in swamps, river bottoms, wet meadows and along creeks and streams. This milkweed can handle clay or rich and loamy soil, and is also deer resistant. A taller variety, growing up to 5 feet, it really stands out when blooming in July and August.
Asclepias verticillata: ‘Whorled Milkweed’ – a lovely little Milkweed growing up to 2.5 feet, it is known for (and named for) its needle-like whorled linear leaves. It is a tolerant plant and a vigorous grower that is easy to plant. This late season bloomer has lovely white and greenish-white blooms that will flourish in your late season. And, like all Asclepias, it is a vital food source for the Monarch butterflies.
Asclepias ‘Hello Yellow’: a cultivar of our native Asclepias tuberosa, this cheery Milkweed has bright yellow flower clusters that attract Monarchs like crazy! This plant is quite suitable for gardens and urban areas. A welcome addition to any pollinator garden; however we do advise against planting it too close to a true ‘wild or natural’ area to avoid cross pollination with a native. We find this easy-to-grow Milkweed a wonderful addition to any garden, and it’s one of our favorite for cut flowers.

Please join in our efforts to ensure that the Monarchs will thrive in healthy and sustainable numbers for a very long time. The solution is simple: grow more, and encourage sustainable and responsible growth that allows for the conservation of natural resources upon which all life depends. Smart Growth!

 

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