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Milkweed Plants
Monarch Conservation

Please scroll down and read 'Which Milkweed for the Monarchs?'

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Our new 'Plant Index' page lists all the plants we will be offering for the 2015 shipping season.

During the shipping season (May thru October), our Facebook fans will receive notification of special promotions being offered on our web site. They will also be periodically posted on which plants are especially nice at that particular time (making these plants a better buy at that particular time).

   Milkweed plants (Asclepias) are the host plants for Monarch butterflies...but milkweed is also a highly sought nectar source for many other butterfly species! Aside from attracting Monarch butterflies for egg-laying, milkweed entices swallowtails, painted ladies, American ladies, red admirals, fritillaries, and hairstreaks for nectaring.
   Milkweed also draws hummingbirds and hummingbird clearwing moths to the garden for nectar.
  On this page we offer Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), Hairy Balls Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriacea), and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) when we have it available for shipping.  
Tropical Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, Butterfly Wee
          What's a hummingbird clearwing moth? You'll find the answer on our FAQ page.

We ship milkweed plants from May through October.
   We ARE able to ship plants to the following states within the USA:  Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. State and Federal regulations prohibit us from shipping to other destinations. If you do not live in one of the states we are permitted to ship to, please do not order. We will not ship your order and will charge you a $3.00 service charge to cancel your order and return your payment.

We Ship Plants from May through October:

Most of our
Milkweed Plants are shipped in 3" pots or nursery liners. 
We ship USPS Priority Mail.

Tropical Milkweed, Bloodflower, Asclepias curassavica, Monarch butterfly caterpillar larvae host plant Tropical Milkweed  (also known as Bloodflower and/or Mexican Milkweed)
(Asclepias curassavica)

A South American native, Tropical Milkweed grows 30"-36" high and produces clusters of bright yellow or yellow-orange bi-colored flowers (sorry, no choice of flower color). Highly utilized by Monarch butterflies for egg-laying. Used as a nectar source by many other butterfly species and also by hummingbirds. Plant in full sun and treat as an annual. Save the seeds this fall and start them yourself next year (this milkweed is easy to grow from seed). Shipped in 3" pots. Deer resistant.

            
8 plants for $20.00

Note:  Our Tropical Milkweed will not likely be ready for shipping until early June. If your order includes this plant, your entire order will be held until the Tropical Milkweed is ready for shipping.

  

Asclepias physocarpa, Gomphocarpus physocarpus, Hairy Balls Milkweed, Swan Plant, Balloon Plant, monarch butterfly caterpillar larvae host plant Hairy Balls  (also known as Swan Plant, Balloon Plant, Devil's Balls, and Family Jewels)
(Asclepias physocarpa and/or Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

Native to southeast Africa, Hairy Balls Milkweed grows 48"-60" high and produces clusters of tiny white star-shaped flowers August thru September. Balloon-like seed pods appear in September and October. Utilized by Monarch butterflies for egg-laying and used as a nectar source by many other butterfly species (and also by hummingbirds). Plant in full sun and treat as an annual. Save the seeds this fall and start them yourself next year (this milkweed is easy to grow from seed). Shipped in 3" pots. Deer resistant.

                6 plants for $20.00

Note:  Our Hairy Balls Milkweed will not likely be ready for shipping until early June. If your order includes this plant, your entire order will be held until the Hairy Balls Milkweed is ready for shipping.

 Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed, monarch butterfly caterpillar larvae host plant  Swamp Milkweed, pink flowering 
(
Asclepias incarnata)

Clusters of small pink flowers on plants which grow 36"-42" high. Swamp Milkweed  is a U.S. native that usually grows in moist areas (but it does not require a moist location in the garden). Usually blooming June thru July, this plant serves as a  nectar source for several butterfly species and as a host plant for Monarchs. Deer resistant.


Perennial
, zones 3-8.    
    $4.50 each

Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet', swamp milkweed plants Swamp Milkweed, white flowering
(Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet')

Clusters of small white flowers on plants which grow 32"-40" high. Usually blooms late June through July. 'Ice Ballet' Swamp Milkweed is a choice nectar plant for numerous butterfly species (including the red admiral shown here). It is also a top choice for monarch egg-laying! Deer resistant.


Perennial,  zones 3-8.       $4.50 each 
      

Asclepias tuberose, Butterfly Weed, Monarch butterfly caterpillar larvae host plant Butterfly Weed   (Asclepias tuberosa)

Clusters of bright orange flowers adorn this plant from late June through July. Usually growing 18"-24" high, Butterfly Weed attracts numerous butterfly species for nectaring and it is sometimes utilized as a host plant for Monarch butterflies. Known also as Pleurisy Root, Butterfly Weed must be planted in a soil that provides excellent drainage, especially in winter. A US native. Deer resistant.



Perennial
, zones 3-8.      $5.00 each

Asclepias syriaca, Common Milkweed, monarch butterfly caterpillar larvae host plant Common Milkweed
(Asclepias syriaca)
A native to much of the eastern USA, Common Milkweed generally grows to about 48" high and blooms late June through July. Our plants are small this year but they should reach mature size next summer. Common Milkweed is utilized as a nectar source by hummingbirds and also by many butterfly species. Also used as a host plant by Monarch butterflies. Shipped in 3" pots. Deer resistant.
         

Perennial, zones 3-9.           Should be available in June or July. Please check back then.

Asclepias speciosa, Showy Milkweed Showy Milkweed
(Asclepias speciosa)

Growing 30"-40" high, Showy Milkweed is native to the western half of the U.S.  It produces purple-pink flowers and blooms June thru July. Showy Milkweed is great for the pollinator garden, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds, honey bees, and other beneficial insects. It is also a host for Monarch larvae (caterpillars).
  Deer resistant. Drought tolerant.

Perennial
, zones 3-9.              Should be available in June or July. Please check back then.   

 

Live within driving distance of central Pennsylvania?
If so, you might want to attend one of our Gardening For Butterflies presentations.


We will offer three or four of them during the summer of 2015. Please periodically check out the home page of our web site for the dates and details. Once we decide on this year's dates, information will be posted.

Milkweed is essential for the existence of  Monarch butterflies. 
A Monarch butterfly is pictured at the top of this page. Adult Monarchs (and many other butterfly species) love nectar-rich milkweed as a food source, but there is a more important reason for the Monarch's close attachment to milkweed. Milkweed is the only plant material that Monarch caterpillars can eat. Remove Monarch caterpillars from milkweed and they will starve; or they will eat other plant material, sicken, and then die. The scientific name for milkweed is Asclepias (pronounced as-KLEE-pea-us). Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) is well known to most northeasterners. It grows along roadsides, in fields, and  in open meadows. Producing sweet smelling mauve-pink flowers  late June through July, common milkweed usually matures at about 48" high. Some northeasterners assume common milkweed to be the only milkweed species which exists.  Actually, over 100 species of Asclepias grow in the USA, with over 200 different species growing worldwide.
   Common milkweed is not the only Asclepias species which can be utilized as a food source for the monarch caterpillar. In reality, any Asclepias serves the purpose, although some species lure more egg-laying female monarchs than others.
   Among the Asclepias species highly utilized by female monarchs for egg-laying are Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed, an annual), Hairy Balls Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa, an annual), and Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed, an perennial). Both are now offered on this page.


Want to learn more about milkweed plants?  
If so, please read our Introduction To Milkweed.

And if you would like to see pictures (arranged sequentially) that show the life stages of a monarch butterfly, check out our article on 
Monarch Metamorphosis
.

 

Which Milkweed for the Monarchs?

                                                                                                by Rose Franklin,  January 19, 2015

 

Americans are worried about the current status of the Monarch butterfly population, and they should be. Monarch numbers have dramatically declined in the past ten years or so. Some entomologists even wonder if the spectacular annual migration to and from Mexico might one day cease to exist. The over-wintering population in Mexico last winter, 2013-2014, was the smallest ever recorded, about 10% of the 20-year average.

Monarch enthusiasts, knowing that Monarchs must have access to milkweed if the population is to increase, are opting to plant milkweed instead of petunias, impatiens, geraniums, and marigolds. But they are confused about which milkweed species they should plant. Some gardeners are told they should only plant the milkweed species that are native to their area while others hear that almost any milkweed, including those that grow in the tropic jungles of the world, like Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), are suitable hosts for the Monarch.

It was scientists who first began to oppose the planting of Tropical Milkweed. They claimed that because this milkweed species grows year around in some parts of the U.S, it might disrupt the Monarchís migratory cues in autumn and facilitate in the creation of a large population that does not migrate but, instead, resides year around where Tropical Milkweed grows year around.  And there, where it is not killed off annually by autumn frosts (southern Florida and along the coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico), Tropical Milkweed surely harbors pathogens and facilitates in the increased transmission of disease (especially Oe, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha). Researchers even know that there are, and have been for a number of years, a few small Monarch populations residing year around, and breeding year around, in isolated locations along the Gulf coast.

Migration likely serves several purposes in the well-being of Monarchs. It compels the Monarch to abandon habitat which might be contaminated with pathogens. The long-distance migration also serves to weed out the individuals that are weak and diseased, so that only the healthiest of the population is left to produce offspring the following year.  

Because migration is assuredly advantageous to the health of the Monarch population, I am not comfortable in knowing that even a tiny fragment of the Monarch population has become non-migratory and now breeds year around in a few locations along the southern coast of the U.S. In those areas where Tropical Milkweed does not die in winter, I urge people to refrain from planting it. If it is already planted, I suggest the Tropical Milkweed plants be cut to the ground in autumn and all the debris discarded, thus eliminating the possibility of Monarchs reproducing year around on foliage which might be contaminated with disease. If those residents along the Gulf coast are unwilling or unable to cut their plants to the ground every fall, I advise them to spray their Tropical Milkweed with Roundup, repeatedly until it is completely gone. I donít generally advocate the use of Roundup, but in this case, I will tolerate its use so that the Monarch will be able to multiply in healthy, disease-free environments.

OK. I agree that in the 3% of the nation where Tropical Milkweed grows year around, it could, and most likely does, harbor and spread disease among the small Monarch population that has chosen to reside and breed there year around. But,  as stated above, this could be prevented if people would cut their Tropical Milkweed plants to the ground every fall. In the other 97% of the U.S. though, I think Tropical Milkweed might well be of benefit to the Monarch, especially at this point in time, when Monarch numbers are swiftly dwindling (though, in my opinion, maybe not any faster than other butterfly species are dwindling in number).  

I do not believe that Monarchs migrating from eastern Canada or the northeastern states of the U.S to Mexico could be persuaded to stay in Pennsylvania or Virginia because they encounter a large stand of Tropical Milkweed growing in a garden. I simply do not believe that. Eastern Monarchs are genetically programmed to make the annual migration to the over-wintering sites in the high-altitude oyamel fir forests in the trans-volcanic mountains of central Mexico. Northeastern Monarchs emerging from pupae between late August and mid-September are in reproductive diapause and thus, not capable of mating and laying eggs. Probably in response to shorter day length, cooler autumn temperatures, and/or the orientation of the sun, they emerge from their pupae, feed on nectar to store sugar in their bodies, and then automatically begin their long journey south.

I have been an avid butterfly gardener for twenty years, and I have grown many species of milkweed in my gardens in central Pennsylvania. My advice, at this particular point in time, is to plant whatever milkweed species will aid the Monarch in its quest to survive and multiply.  

Several years ago, I might have agreed with those who advocate the planting of natives only. Today though, with the Monarch numbers at an all-time low, I advocate that we plant whichever milkweed species Monarchs will readily lay eggs on, and/or whatever milkweed species Monarch caterpillars will readily feed on.

Having had many milkweed species our my yard over the past two decades, my husband and I have seen that, consistently from one year to the next, female Monarchs lay more eggs on Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) than they do on any other milkweed species. Annually, we find 200 or more Monarch caterpillars on the hundreds of milkweed plants growing on our property. At least 70% of those are found feeding on the Tropical Milkweed, not the Pennsylvania native Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), or Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), also known as Bloodflower, grows 36Ē to 48Ē high, generally blooms from mid-July through frost, and prefers full sun. It is native to tropical South America, Mexico, Central America, and a few torrid islands in the Caribbean and thus, must be treated as an annual in most of the U.S. Tropical Milkweed produces clusters of tiny, star-shaped flowers which might be yellow, yellow/orange, or red/orange bi-colors.

I have to assume that female Monarchs know what they are doing in choosing Tropical Milkweed for the laying of their eggs. If they intrinsically choose to lay eggs on Tropical Milkweed, even when a number of native species are available to them, they must have innate reasoning for doing so. Monarchs are genetically programmed to halt reproduction in fall, inherently wired to make the annual migration to and from Mexico, and I think, innately programmed to know which milkweed species is best suited for their offspring to consume. Maybe Tropical Milkweed is more nutritious than native milkweeds, maybe it has something to do with the amount of cardenolides in it, which, once consumed by the caterpillars, serve to make both the caterpillars and the adult butterflies toxic to birds.

Andy, my husband, and I offer a huge buffet of milkweeds to the Monarchs that visit our property during the summer months. Having a choice of depositing eggs on the hundreds of Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed which grow in our yard, along with other milkweeds too, they overwhelming choose Tropical Milkweed. I donít know why they choose it, and I donít care why. I only know that they do.

Aside from advocating the planting of Tropical Milkweed because female Monarchs prefer it for egg-laying, I promote it for another reason also. Tropical Milkweed is highly utilized as a nectar source by fall-migrating Monarchs. In October, when Monarchs are still migrating through Pennsylvania and most flowering plants are far past their prime, Tropical Milkweed is generally still green and, apparently, still producing sweet-flavored nectar. On warm, sunny October days, from late morning through mid-afternoon, our Tropical Milkweed patches are adorned by the flutter of dozens of migrating Monarchs. They stop by, nectar for just a while, and then continue on their way.

Monarchs are in crisis--and so long as they are, and unless someone convinces me that Tropical Milkweed is causing peril to the Monarch (other than in that 3% of the country where it does not freeze out over the winter), I will continue to promote the planting of Tropical Milkweed. I love the Monarch, and my wish is that its population rebounds to the number recorded in Mexico during the winter of 1996-1997, the year the Monarch count was the highest ever recorded.

Data for 1994-2003 collected by personnel of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas in Mexico. Data for 2003-2013 collected by World Wildlife Fund Mexico in coordination with the Dicectorate of the MBBR. Above, a Monarch butterfly nectars on Butterfly Bush.

 Two ways to order: (1) Utilize our on-line shopping cart or  (2) print our online order form, fill it out, and then mail it to us, along with your check or money orderSome of the features of our online shopping cart fail to work correctly with some Internet Service Providers. If you have problems using our shopping cart, please print our order form, fill it out, and then mail it to us. Sorry for the inconvenience. 
We do not accept phone orders.
   Quantities are limited on some of our nursery stock. Plants will be reserved to fill orders in the sequence in which orders are received. Please order at your earliest convenience to avoid disappointment. Please do not order plants which are not currently posted with a picture, plant description, and price.

Rose Franklin's Perennials
107 Butterfly Lane      Spring Mills, PA  16875

(814) 422-8968        Email:  RoseFranklin@aol.com

During our busy shipping season (May 1 thru September 30), please email, don't call.

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