Plant of the Month
Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)
Most milkweeds prefer full sun although there are a few woodland species. All are considered perennial and herbaceous (not woody). Each has its own group of insect herbivores that are attracted to it for food. And although you may wonder why you would allow an insect to eat one of your plants (sometimes to the ground), rest assured that the milkweed has many defenses and coping behaviors of its own and will grow back even more hardy than before. The flowers are unique and critically important for the diversity of pollinators they support. Once established, milkweed will continue to thrive year after year in your garden and generally are easy to transplant or to propagate. Collect the seed when it is ready and then plant it right away as most milkweed seed needs to go through a winter cold to germinate. Here are some milkweeds native to the Southeast you might consider for your garden habitat:
**A note about Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. This is a beautiful milkweed that is not native to our area. It is easy to grow but there are some potential problems for monarchs associated with this plant. If you want to grow this milkweed in your garden, plan to cut it back when monarchs are migrating. You can collect seeds to scatter again in the spring. If the winter is mild, the roots will survive and send up new growth for the following year. Although this is a beautiful milkweed species, please consider planting other, native species in your milkweed garden. - by W. DeWaard
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