Feed the Metamorphosis: Milkweed for the Butterfly Life Cycle


With their fragrant flowers, which grow in orange & red clusters like little bells, all milkweeds are a magnet for butterflies.
There are different varieties of Milkweed, and the one that we recommend for our area is Red Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica).

Its growth habit is upright, it matures to 3-4’, blooms in 3’’ clusters Spring-Fall, and is hardy to the mid-20s. It’s a vigorous grower with brightly colored flower clusters and flowers excellent for cutting. It’s adaptable to most well-drained soils, and is happiest in full sun. Also known as the “Blood Flower” this variety is native to Mexico and South America. Along with butterflies, hummingbirds and bees are also regular visitors to the showy flowers. In the heat of the summer, they produce flattened clusters of small, complex red flowers each topped with a yellow “crown.” These will blossom into fall if regularly deadheaded. When the stems are broken, they emit a milky-white, sticky latex sap.
Beyond the blooming stats, Milkweeds are a critical resource for our whole environment. The nectar in all milkweed flowers provides valuable food for butterflies, bees and other pollinators. They eat and lay eggs on Milkweed, then metamorphose into larva then pupa before flying off as an adult butterfly. All butterflies have “complete metamorphosis.” To grow into an adult they go through 4 stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

Did you know the leaves of all milkweed species are the only food that the caterpillars of the beautiful American Monarch butterflies can eat? Sadly, because of widespread pesticide use, wild-growing milkweeds are disappearing in places where these butterflies breed. Due to this, it has led to a 90% decline in the number of Eastern Monarchs in a just single decade. (AmericanMeadows.com) Looking ahead, if we don’t replenish these lost milkweeds, Monarch butterflies will vanish from the American landscape forever!
Save the Monarch and plant Milkweed!

Planting Milkweed:

  1. Loosen the soil where you will be planting (about two feet in diameter).
  2. Make a planting hole that is twice the diameter of the pot.
  3. Place your milkweed in the hole without disturbing the roots and tamp soil around the rootball. Water well.

Pests & Disease: Typically there are no serious pests or diseases. However, in certain situations, both aphids and whitefly can overrun your milkweed plants. Use a jet of water to hose them off. When you spray, be sure to avoid any clusters of Monarch eggs that are growing on the affected plants. Move any Monarch larvae that have already hatched to a clean plan before spraying.