Common Milkweed Description:
Asclepias syriaca, commonly known as Common Milkweed, is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to North America. It typically grows to a height of 3-5 feet (0.9-1.5 meters) and spreads to about 2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters) wide. The plant has a deep, extensive root system that allows it to survive in a wide range of soil conditions.
The leaves of the Asclepias syriaca plant are large, broad, and ovate-shaped, with a pointed tip and a slightly hairy texture. They are arranged oppositely on the stem and can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) long and 4 inches (10 cm) wide.
The plant produces fragrant, small, pink to purple flowers in clusters at the top of the stem from late spring to mid-summer. The flowers have a unique structure consisting of five petals and five sepals that are fused to form a distinctive hood-shaped structure called the corona. The corona contains a nectar-rich reservoir that attracts a variety of pollinators, particularly butterflies and bees.
After the flowers are pollinated, Asclepias syriaca produces large, elongated seed pods that can reach up to 5 inches (13 cm) long. These seed pods are filled with numerous small seeds that are attached to silky, white floss, which helps them to disperse in the wind.
Overall, Asclepias syriaca is an important plant for pollinators, particularly monarch butterflies, which rely on it as a host plant for their eggs and as a food source for their larvae. The plant is also used in traditional medicine for various ailments, and its floss was historically used as a stuffing material for pillows and life jackets.
Common milkweed is very common in Minnesota and the rest of the Midwest as well as the Northeastern states. It can, however, be found natively as far west as Oregon and as far south as Texas.
Standard Plant Information:
Plant Height: 2' - 5'
Bloom Time: June - August
Preferred Habitat: This versatile plant does well in a variety of habitats from dry to wet, from part-shade to sun, in fields, shorelines, and woodland.
For most homeowners, the best option is to scatter seed on the ground by hand broadcasting at a minimum of 16-64 pls ounces per acre. For even coverage, we recommend that you broadcast seed in perpendicular rows across the site to ensure even coverage.
You’ll want to broadcast any grass seed first, which will get raked into the soil lightly. Next, it is ideal to mulch the area lightly with either a clean (no seed) straw or preferably with our native Little Bluestem straw, sold at our retail garden centers. After a light mulching is complete, now it’s time to broadcast your native wildflower seeds, which should not be raked into the soil. A good rain or watering is sufficient to cover the seed.
Simply dig a hole in the soil slightly larger than the plant’s roots. Ensure that the soil line of the plant is maintained during the transfer (i.e. the plant should be at the same level with the ground as it was in the pot). Pack any loose dirt back around the plant and make sure you water it well the same day to ensure it has the best chance of survival.
maps used with permission from MN Wildflowers