Milkweed - Asclepias Tuberosa - Hummingbird's Favorite Dish & Butterflies Too!
The milkweed plant is an essential addition for homeowners who desire butterflies to be part of their outdoor community, attracting the famous monarch butterfly in particular. It is native to the eastern region of North America. An upright plant, this perennial may reach two feet to six feet tall. Its leaves emerge from a sturdy stalk as waxy, pointed and dark green. Soon, as the plant matures, the leaves grow large and become more reddish. They eventually fall from the stem, and the well-known milky substance oozes from the growing plant. Stems eventually turn hollow and hairy. The pink to fragrant purple flowers bloom from June to August.
The milkweed is hardy in zones four to nine and grows best in full sun to partial shade. This plant will produce much better if gardeners apply the stratification process before germinating seeds. This involves placing seeds in moist soil and refrigerating them for three weeks before switching them to warmer temperatures for six weeks. This latter step can be accomplished with grow lights in colder climates. Baby plants should stay moist, and once they have become a couple of leaves, the seedlings should be planted in a sunny location in the yard. The milkweed will send down a long tap root and can benefit from mulching. These plants can be incorporated with other flowers in a border, meadow or naturalized areas. Milkweed can offer many beneficial insects plenty of pollen as well. Once fall and winter set in, the homeowner can leave dead stalks in their landscape, which will attract birds in the early spring who like to use the dead stems for their nests. These hollow stalks are also beautiful spots for over-wintering insects, which will then attract wildlife looking for food during the cold months.