Milkweed Family of Plants
Monarch Butterfly Food Source

You can’t raise Monarchs without the Milkweed family of plants.

swallowtail and monarch on milkweed

It is the sole Monarch caterpillar food source.

There are over 100 species of milkweed in North America. They are members of the genus Asclepias.

The thick, white milk (sap) of the milkweed family of plants contains lethal cardenolides (heart poisons).

They produce vomiting and sometimes death if eaten by a predator.

The Monarch’s tissues are miraculously not harmed by the chemicals which normally effect the nervous system.

This means the Monarch:

  • has few competitors for milkweed
  • caterpillar, after eating milkweed, has higher concentration of poisons than the plant
  • poisons are passed from caterpillar to butterfly during metamorphosis
  • predators stay away after one taste (update: the Cardinals seem to think they are very tasty, though!!)

The Monarch’s total dependency on milkweed also means “no Monarch”.

When I first decided to plant a butterfly garden, I read that you needed milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies.

Common Milkweed Asclepias Syriaca

So...I planted some Common Milkweed. BIG MISTAKE!!

This is an invasive plant that sends runners underground and shows up all over the place. It can look quite "weedy", also.

Years later, I am still occasionally pulling this pest out of my garden.

To the right is a photo of a mature Common Milkweed plant.

Common Milkweed works fine for raising butterflies with kids (or yourself!) when you don't have any milkweed in your garden.

It is usually easy to find in roadside ditches or weedy areas.

Check out the leaves for eggs or caterpillars to bring home and raise. Don't forget that you will need a supply of leaves to feed the caterpillar.

Swamp Milkweed Asclepias Incarnata

After realizing my mistake of planting common milkweed in my garden, I did some research and bought some perennial Swamp Milkweed. This is a nice garden perennial and its flowers are a favorite nectar source for many butterflies.

Tropical Milkweed Asclepias Curassavica

My other favorite milkweed is Tropical or Scarlet Milkweed. This is an annual in the colder climates. I start Tropical or Scarlet Milkweed from seed (check out my easy directions on the link above) and put plenty of plants in my garden.

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa

This perennial milkweed plant is another popular plant that attracts monarch butterflies. Check out more detailed information on these butterfly garden plants.

Milkweed Seeds

Photos of two favorites in the Milkweed family of plants. I also have seeds available for these Monarch Butterfly plants. Click on the names below for more detailed information on these two varieties of milkweed.

swamp milkweed
Swamp Milkweed
Asclepias incarnata
Purchase Swamp Milkweed seeds....the best perennial milkweed plant for Monarch Butterflies, refrigerate seeds for 1 month or plant in the fall

scarlet milkweed
Tropical Milkweed
Asclepias curassavica
Purchase Tropical Milkweed Seeds....these are very easy to grow from seed and are definately the Monarch Butterfly's favorite host food!

Buy Milkweed Plants

Some milkweed can take a while to grow from seed. If you don't want to take the time to grow the seed, check out these cheap .

I have discovered as long as I have a good supply of the milkweed family of plants in my garden....the Monarchs will come!!

I go into further detail on my two favorites from the milkweed family of plants in the links above, including more photos of milkweed.

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