Milkweeds and Monarchs

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A few words about Monarchs, Milkweeds, and Milkweed growth.

There is a public misconception that only one species of Milkweed can be used by Monarch Butterfly caterpillars; this is not true! Monarch Butterflies are dependent on Milkweed plants to reproduce, as Milkweed leaves are the only food their caterpillars can eat, but their caterpillars will feed on any species of Milkweed. In fact, we've been carefully relocating Monarch caterpillars from every Milkweed species we sell for years (better to pupate in our low-traffic garden patch of Milkweeds).

Given that they are all equally appropriate for Monarch caterpillars, the very best Milkweed species you can plant is one that is best-suited to your conditions and area and will thrive where you plant it, so when choosing a species, choose one that is native to your area and suits your garden conditions.

As for Milkweed growth, all Milkweeds develop root systems that quickly begin to spread side to side, or develop a deep tap root (depending on the species): if they are left too long in pots, the roots will twist back on themselves, permanently hampering the plant's ability to channel nutrients efficiently and increasing the odds that the fleshy roots will be damaged during transplanting. So the best way to plant milkweeds is to plant the seeds in place in your garden or meadow. The second best way to plant them is by planting very young plants whose roots have not even begun to fill the pot. These plants will have a much greater chance of success, and their roots will take hold quickly in their new home. Some species will grow rather quickly the first year (Swamp Milkweed) and others will put on very little upper growth as they focus energy on establishing their tap roots (Butterfly Milkweed), but all will support Monarchs, and in time, produce beautiful flowers for all sorts of pollinators to enjoy. We begin shipping Milkweeds in late May.