Plant Milkweed Now
by Sandy Swegel
It’s Show and Tell time. It’s time to take the kids or some curious adults outside and prove your superior knowledge of the ways of nature and introduce them to butterfly eggs. It’s been a good milkweed year in the wild this year. Lots of spring rains followed by warm days have made the perfect home for milkweed plants. Milkweeds are growing in my garden and along roadsides and ditches. If milkweed plants are fully grown…mine are in tight bud about to bloom…you can walk up to almost any plant and look under the leaves and find little tiny white monarch butterfly eggs.
Milkweed plants, Asclepias, as you probably know are the ONLY host plant for the monarch butterfly. The butterfly lays her eggs on the underside of the leaves. The eggs hatch hungry little larvae that chew up the leaves.
The larvae get big and fat and eventually form pupae, also on the underneath side of a milkweed plant.
Finally, “ta-da” a monarch butterfly emerges.
I have two favorite kinds of milkweed plants in my garden. The “showy milkweed” Asclepias speciosa with the big pink seed head you’ve seen in fields, and “Butterfly weed” Asclepias tuberosa which is my favorite because it’s bright orange and looks good in the dry August garden next to the Black-eyed Susans. It also makes a great picture to see a Monarch butterfly on one of the orange flowers.
Monarchs are happy to choose either of these two “milkweeds” or any of the other more than 100 different species of milkweeds around the world. So you can pick the flower you like and grow it in your own garden. Grow it and the monarchs WILL come. I’ve had good luck with fall or winter direct sowing of the seeds that easily grow into blooming plants the next year. After that, they reseed themselves gently.
And, just in case there are any monarch butterflies out there that don’t know how to do this, there’s an instructable!