Calotropis Procera

A Milkweed Tree To Feed Them All

Calotropis procera: Rooster tree, Sodom apple, Rubber bush, Swallow-wort, Milkweed tree

 

Male Monarch Sips nectar from Calotropis procera flowers
Beautiful Boquet of Milkweed

Plant Specs:

  • Perennial: USDA hardiness zones 8a-11 (lows -12.2 °C or 10 °F)
  • Annual in colder zones
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Height: up to 15 feet
  • Spacing: at least 6 feet, 15′ for perennials
  • Flowers: maroon, purple, white
  • Velvety silvery-gray leaves
  • Blooms all season
Monarch Caterpillar dines by beautiful Calotropis procera flowers
Dining Room Centerpiece

Pros:

  • Constant blooms provide monarchs an all season nectar source
  • Large, thick leaves can sustain more caterpillars
  • Caterpillars don’t need to crawl away to pupate
  • Great option for adventurous gardeners looking to try something new
  • Fragrant flowers (unlike its wider known relative Calotropis gigantea)
Monarch caterpillar pupates on Calotropis procera tree branch
Milkweed Tree Convenience

Cons:

  • Not enough data from North America – needs to be monitored for potential problems
  • Prone to aphids like most species…again, keep an eye on your plants.
  • Has been reported to be invasive in India and Africa
  • It’s not native so you’ll need to plant other varieties too (Monarchs will use both native and non-native varieties)
Calotropis rocera milkweed seedlings
Little Trees of Life

Plant Propagation:

    • Start seeds indoors 2 months before final frost
    • Sow seeds directly after final frost in perennial zones
    • Soak seeds in hot water 24 hours before planting
    • Use a for faster germination

  • Propagate from woody cuttings. In annual zones, this also allows you to start the season with larger plants. My plants did not flower in year 1 starting from seeds.
  • Cuttings from soft stems

Calotropis Procera Growing Tips:

Second Year Procera Plant
Overwintered Indoors
  • If you don’t want additional seedlings next spring, simply cut off the seed pods before they pop open or bind them shut with twist ties or rubber bands if you want to collect  milkweed tree seeds. Seeding is less likely to be an issue for those below USDA hardiness zone 8.
Open Milkweed Pod Calotropis Procera
Seeds Of Hope

Pollinator Plus:

Nature photographer Maria Firpi says to keep an eye out for hummingbirds and bees!

This section is a work in progress because there are so few North American “gardening” reports about this milkweed species. If you have experience growing procera, please comment below to shed some light on this mysterious milkweed. (note: this is not Calotropis gigantea (giant milkweed) so please don’t post about that on this page.)

Resources:

1.

Click here for More Milkweed Ideas to Enhance your Monarch Butterfly Garden

You can see more of Maria Firpi’s amazing monarch photography on her blog The Tropical Flowering Zone where there are also full-length photos of the milkweed tree for monarchs. Maria is nature photographer from Puerto Rico and also photographs exotic birds, flora, fauna, and reptiles.
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Comments

  1. Sharon says

    I just received some of these seeds from Hawaii and will let you know how they do! I am in Florida !

      • Sharon says

        I soaked my seeds overnight and planted them Sunday. I already have two seeds sprouting! Fingers crossed ……

        • Sharon says

          I have 16 sprouts now! Wow! This sprouted amazingly fast! I plant to keep all of them potted and on our porch until our last frost in February of 2015. I have never seen one of these trees. I will plan my butterfly garden around these trees. So exciting! A tad tired of the tropical milkweed here in FL.

          • Christina says

            do you have any more of these? I live in Florida too. I have so many tropical milkweeds and one giant milkweed plant but no seeds from it. I am not sure if its the same plant as yours. Mine isn’t called a tree?? Let me know thanks.

            Christina

          • says

            Hi Christina, Calotropis gigantea (giant milkweed) may be what you’re growing. That is more commonly sold in nurseries throughout Florida. If you can’t find “procera” locally I would try seeds. good luck!

  2. Ashley says

    Looking forward to more info on these.

    Has anyone grown either of the “giant” milkweeds (Calotropis gigantea or procera) totally indoors under artificial lighting? – Would have to grow something like this indoors here all year around…

    It sure sounds like the huge leaves of Calotropis might make things easier as an abundant host food for monarch cats. (One Calotropis vs several tropicals to deal with…) But wondering about container size, and how fast they grow/keeping the “tree” size manageable (pruning).

    • says

      Ashley, I don’t know anyone else that grows these in pots so we are the guinea pigs! The only one that died indoors was in a pot with poor drainage. Two more died outdoors during our wet spring.

      They have grown like molasses in Minnesota, but hoping the big one will flower in August. The reason I wanted to try procera is because it’s both host and nectar plant. We have gotten several eggs on it this season. I am bringing in both of ours over winter again…

      Your vision of ‘one tropical to feed them all’ sounds much more feasible in Florida. Please keep us posted!

      • David L. Z 5b NW MO says

        I will be growing this next year for the first time. I will have ~ 20 types of milkweed next year and am also considering Calotropis gigantea. Am wintering over 7 Tropical MW under lights in the basement.

          • David L. Z 5b NW MO says

            Hopefully next year :-) I got a late start this year and only had 5 plants total of 3 types. Also I am in an urban area and there are NO milkweed plants near by that I have seen.

    • Gina Charpentier says

      Ashley,
      I started with 3 inch tall plant in April 2014 in my greenhouse planted in a one gallon pot. It quickly outgrew that pot so put into a 5 gallon. Now it is over five to six feet tall! It almost reaches the top of my greenhouse, it has bloomed nonstop and the caterpillars love it. I live in the high desert, in the winter it can get well below freezing. I will keep it In the heated greenhouse over the winter and cross my fingers. I love this plant/tree?

  3. Josh says

    I just started some indoors in Oregon. We only have two months of sun left so this is poor/impatient planning on my part but what the hey. I will baby them all winter and put them outside next year when our rains stop.

  4. Inger says

    I would like to know how to start Giant Milkweed from cuttings, I just came back from Puerto Rico and brought 4 cuttings, about 5″ back, I put them in water, but how do I go from here? I live in Nothern Virginia, so if I get them going they would have to go into pots, not a problem, since I have a greenhouse to overwinter them in, I just need to know what the next step is and if it possible to grow them from cuttings
    Thanks.
    Inger

    • says

      Hi Inger, the only people I’ve spoken to that have had success rooting giant milkweed have used rooting hormone powder and planted directly in pots filled with organic peat. You need to stake each cutting with something like a small wood stake and attach with a twist tie so the cutting stays upright while it establishes a root system. good luck!

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