Date 08/03/2015

Pat Pearson, Habitat Coordinator

Here is as complete a piece as I can produce about planting milkweeds for monarch butterflies for Florida residents.  I know you have seen this information before, but it is worth repeating.  There has been so much printed about the decline in the monarch population that I'm sure you know how desperate their situation is, so please try to help this beautiful and amazing and unique butterfly.  It needs all the help we can give it.

The five native Florida milkweeds are:

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
Asclepias perennis (Aquatic Milkweed)
Asclepias tuberosa L. (Butterfly Weed)
Asclepias variegata (White Milkweed)
Aclepias viridis (Green Antelopehorn Milkweed)

You can find this list with a description and photos at monarchs/milkweed/milkweed-profiles/Your local County Extension Agent is a good source of information about what variety is best for your area.

The Monarch Joint Venture  organization ( recommends NOT planting a variety of milkweed called "Tropical milkweed" (Asclepias curassavica).  Our non-migrating monarch populations south of Orlando will use it, but are better off with other, native milkweeds.  Tropical milkweed  is popular and commonly available in nurseries.  Scientific studies are now proving that Tropical milkweed harbors and spreads a serious disease known as "O' (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) that is devastating to monarchs that feed on it.  They become unable to fly and often die.

If you already have this milkweed growing on your Florida property, trim it back to about six inches throughout the fall and winter, or better yet, replace it with another, and native, milkweed.

All milkweeds are perennials and some can be grown from cuttings. Cuttings provide a way of producing new plants in a relatively short time and it avoids some of the difficulties of starting plants from seeds. To start cuttings, cut the stems underwater, then coat the bottom of the stem with a strong rooting hormone. The stems should be placed in sand, vermiculite, or potting soil that is kept continuously moist. Cuttings can usually be transplanted in 6-10 weeks. Survival is best when cuttings are made from green stems (1/3 inch diameter) obtained from plants fertilized two weeks earlier.  Do not allow the milky sap of the plants to get on your skin or in your eyes, it is very irritating.

Soil Types
Light soils are better than heavy clay soils. Well-drained soils are generally best but  Asclepias incarnata (Swamp milkweed) can be planted at the edge of ponds or wetlands, and does well in saturated conditions.

Where to Plant
Most milkweed species like full sunlight and they will do best if they are planted in the sunniest areas of your gardens.

Think about spreading the word.  Contact your local Garden Club and ask that their members plant milkweed.

Encourage your local nurseries to stock milkweed seed and plants that do well in your area.

Tell your friends and neighbors not to plant Tropical milkweed because of the  disease it carries.

Encourage your community to plant some milkweeds for monarchs in parks and on other public lands, and anyone who has a wildlife habitat should have a few milkweeds in it.

Tags: Garden, Butterfly, Milkweed, Plant

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