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All About Milkweed

Milkweed Spring 2023 Update:

We have 3 different native milkweeds growing in our greenhouse this winter for Spring 2023 sale.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata), and Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Where and how do I plant my Milkweed?

Milkweed likes sunshine, so plant it in a spot where the soil drains well and it can get lots of sun during they day.  

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At Izzy's Farm we grow our milkweed on Root Pouches.  This allows for better root growth and less shock when transplanting.  Simply cut the root bag with scissors down each side and peel the bag off.  There is no need to agitate the roots.  

Planting Milkweed in Large Root Bags

If you don't have a lot of sunny garden space consider planting Milkweed in large root bags.  They are mobile, you can cut your milkweed back in the Fall and bring them inside to winter over, AND you can use the big plants for cage raising if you desire! 


Root Bags are durable and last for 2 few years.  They also provide good air circulation for roots.  Available at Izzy's!  WIN-WIN! 


Removing Aphids from Milkweed

Milkweed doesn't require a lot of pampering, aphids (orange) can be a problem if left unattended.  Monarch will avoid laying eggs on heavily infested plants. 


CHECK THE PLANT FIRST FOR CATERPILLARS before treating.  NEVER USE PESTICIDES. This will kill your caterpillars!  Here's what I do:

 #1   Give them a blast from the strong stream of water and knock them off.  This will drown and dislodge them from the plant.  If you find some, remove them to a safe place before water spraying your plants.

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 #2  Squish 'Em!

Yes, a little gross, but a little squish goes a long way!  The adult aphids can divide themselves 80 times! OMG... 

 #3  CASTILE Soap Spray:

AGAIN - CHECK PLANT FOR CATERPILLARS! Remove them to safe safe place with some leave for a couple hours.

Recipe: 2 TBS Castile Soap to 1 Gallon water  *soap can be found in the bath section at Kroger or Walmart.  Fragrance okay. 

Mix soap and water in sprayer and give the aphids a good dose.  Look under leaves too!  They like to hide.  Rinse leaves a few hours later with water to remove soap residue.  Replace Caterpillars back to plant.




Mix hydrogen peroxide and water together in a one gallon sprayer.  Spray Milkweed leave UNDERNEATH (where fungus usually lives) and on top.

This mixture is mild enough that it doesn't see to bother eggs, BUT to be safe REMOVE CATERPILLARS WHEN SPRAYING.  After leaves have dried you can replace them on the plants.

This is also a good practice to disinfect your plants after cage feeding.


TROPICAL MILKWEED - Fact from Fiction

Tropical Milkweed has been under attack by native purists for a while now.  There a pros and cons to ALL Milkweed varieties so let's look at the facts, remembering that out #1 goal is to provide healthy, clean, abundant milkweed for the Monarchs. *note: It is good practice to have several Milkweed varieties in your garden if you have room.


Tropical Milkweed is Killing the Monarchs because it doesn't die back.  It can carry OE spores from the adult Monarchs wings and spread it to caterpillars.


Here in Arkansas we have Winter.  This means that ALL MILKWEED will die back.  Milkweed that OE spores stays rested on is mainly present in the southern part of the US where they don't freeze during the Winter and can be present on ALL varieties of milkweed - NOT JUST TROPICAL.


Tropical Milkweed keeps Monarchs from migrating in the Fall because it still has leaves.


NOTHING will keep Monarchs from migrating IF it is healthy and large enough to migrate.  They have an extremely strong urge to migrate when the time comes.  I tag Monarchs when they during migration season (mid September - mid October) and I never see a Monarch staying put unless it just isn't capable of migrating from wing damage or size.  I have been studying this myth for several years now and I have to say that it is just that - a MYTH.

Let's take a look at the PROS and CONS of several Milkweed varieties that are commonly available in Arkansas.  I have years of experience with all of the following varieties.


Swamp/Rose Milkweed 

Common Milkweed 

Butterfly Weed 

Poke Milkweed

Tropical Milkweed

Swamp/Rose Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) - NATIVE


*Perennial - this means it will come back each year.

*Early to rise - We start seeing our Swamp/Rose       milkweed emerge right after the last frost

*Grows quite big in sunny location, 3'-4' tall & wide

*No taproots so it is not invasive.

*Can support quite a few caterpillars once mature



*Slow to get started.  Won't support many   caterpillars the first year.

*Subject to leave fungus if not well ventilated.

*Milkweed bugs love the seed pods but that doesn't hurt the plant or monarchs

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) - NATIVE


*Perennial - this means it will come back each year.

*Grows tall in sunny location, 3'tall 1' wide

*Large leaves for cats to much

*Can support quite a few caterpillars once mature



*Slow to get started.  Won't support many   caterpillars the first year.

*Can be invasive - has an aggressive tap root system and will take over an area.  GREAT if thats what you want though :)

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) - NATIVE


*Perennial - this means it will come back each year.

*Easy to find in local nurseries



*Grows much lower to the ground making caterpillars vulnerable to ants.  Female Monarch will choose much taller plants to lay eggs on.

*Slow grower but eventually gets there.  Doesn't support many caterpillars even fully matured.

Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) - NATIVE


*Perennial - this means it will come back each year.

*Grows in shady locations, 2'tall 1' wide



*VERY Slow to get started.  Won't support many   caterpillars the first couple years.

*Late to rise - usually don't see much until late May

*Slow grower but eventually gets there.  Doesn't support many caterpillars even fully matured.

TROPICAL Milkweed ( Asclepias curassavica)


*Supports Monarch Caterpillars throughout the entire 1st season

*Prolific leaf producer

*Regenerates leaves and growth at a very fast rate so it can be trimmed back hard in early summer to get rid of aphids and regenerate new, clean growth for late summer/early fall monarchs.

*Blooms and Nectar from Spring though early Fall

*Great milkweed stems for cage feeding

*Easy to grow in the garden - Sunny location

*Not Invasive

*Tender leaves caterpillars prefer

*Female Monarchs lay more eggs on my Tropical then any other variety I have.  

*Grows BIG, 4'-5' tall and 2'-3' wide

*Seed pods will cast seeds for next years annuals

*Great to plant in Grow bags for Cage feeding


*ANNUAL in our zone - so it dies after the first hard freeze.  

If you would like to read an article published by the Monarch Watch Society you can do so here.  Tony Gomez is the leading authority on Monarch Butterflies here in the United States.

Is Tropical Milkweed Killing Monarchs?

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