Growing Monarchs with Milkweed

Growing Monarchs with Milkweed

Start your milkweed plants from seed.

In 1975, the monarch butterfly officially became the state insect of Illinois after school children suggested and lobbied for it. Now, more than 40 years later, these butterflies need everyone’s help.  

There is one easy way for gardeners to keep monarch butterflies around for future generations—plant milkweed. Simply, monarchs cannot survive without this plant. Milkweed is the only plant that females lay their eggs on and it is the primary food source for their caterpillars. The flowers are the nectar source for adult monarchs, as well as feeding a wide range of other pollinators. On a larger scale, the Garden Clubs of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are working together to incorporate a mixture of milkweed, wildflower and grass seed into their roadside, restoration projects. I can’t wait to see the highway roadsides blooming with flowers and butterflies. Whether you take care of a home or a highway, now’s the time to offer a gardener's hand to help these winged icons.

Milkweed seeds available at Pasquesi Home and Gardens

'Irresistible Blend' Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
This native perennial has medium green, lance-shaped leaves on sturdy stems and is a food source for monarch caterpillars. Clusters of pink and white flowers with a soft vanilla scent tempt butterflies, hummingbirds and beneficial insect to the garden. Great for cutting too.
Mature Size: 3- to 6-feet tall and 2- to 3-feet wide.
Light: full sun to light shade
Plant: Thrives in a wet or average garden habitat. Plant in rain gardens or perennial beds. Once established, plants don’t need as much water because of a fibrous root system.
Bloom time: June - July
Companion plants: Joe-pye Weed, Coneflowers, Tall Phlox and grasses.

Butterflyweed Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
This native, prairie perennial sports shiny, green leaves and clusters of vivid, red-orange flowers and is an essential larval food source for monarchs.
Mature Size: 1 1/2- to 2-feet tall and 10-to 12-inches wide.
Light: full sun to light shade
Plant: It is tough and drought tolerant—at home in sandy or average, well-drained soil. Once established, it needs little watering because of its tap root.
Bloom time: June through August
Companion plants: Coneflowers, Little Bluestem, Sea Holly, Baby’s Breath, Allium and Switch Grasses.

Narrowleaf Milkweed or Mexican Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)
Native to California and western states, this prairie perennial sports white to pink flower clusters that call in the monarchs and other pollinators. A great drought-tolerant garden plant and cutting flower.
Mature Size: 20" - 40" tall 
Light: Full sun
Plant: It is tough and drought-tolerant—Not fussy about soil. It's at home in sandy or average, well-drained soil.
Bloom time: summer
Companion plants: White Yarrow, Gaura