Living Acres

Native Milkweed and Where to Get It

August 22, 2016

Plant native varieties of milkweed such as this common milkweed with purple flowers and cone shaped leaves

The monarch butterfly population has been in a steep decline for the past 22 years. Luckily, one of the contributing factors to the decline – the loss of milkweed habitat, has an easy remedy that nearly every landowner can support. Simply by planting milkweed in non-cropland areas, farmers and garden hobbyists will contribute to the ongoing effort of increasing the monarch population.

There are over 100 species of milkweed native to North America, offering a wide variety to choose from when planning a milkweed habitat. It is important to ensure that the milkweed variety you decide to plant is native to the state where you are living. By planting native species, you are increasing the chances of successful growth and decreasing the amount of maintenance the plant will need, quite simply because the plant is already accustomed to the soil and climate.

The easiest way to determine native milkweed species is to visit the Biota of North America Program’s website and view their maps to see which species of Asclepias (the scientific name of milkweed) is present in your state.

Local nurseries will also have knowledge on native milkweed species and are even likely to carry some. Monarch Watch has even published a list of more than 200 vendors that sell native milkweeds in various regions across the U.S. If your local nursery does not carry any milkweed, they may be able to place an order for you.

When you are browsing for your native milkweed, try to track down root sections over seeds. Though it is common to plant milkweed seeds, only a small percentage of planted seeds germinate. Seedlings are also non-competitive and are easily overrun by other plants, making it difficult to establish a vigorous milkweed refuge from seed. Planting root sections with active buds results in the most successful establishment. The plants grown from root sections are typically much more vigorous than transplants in the first year of growth.

To ensure your milkweed habitat returns every summer, Living Acres researchers have developed best planting practices for sustainable milkweed. By following the seven steps, you can ensure that your milkweed is returning in time for the monarch’s migration period.

To learn more, explore


©2018 BASF Corporation