6 Butterfly Garden Blunders + Lessons Learned Growing Forward

Costly Mistakes in the Butterfly Garden and
How to Avoid Them in Yours

Each fall we excitedly plan our butterfly garden, and each summer we watch those plans magically unfold…and sometimes unravel.

While each year seems to bring a higher percentage of garden success, there are still new lessons to be learned each season.

Here are 6 of our recent butterfly garden failures, and how you can avoid them:

 

FAILURE 1

Winter Sowing Container Failure

A few winters ago, we put out our first winter sowing containers.

I purchased a few uncommon milkweed varieties, and only had about 5 seeds of each. I put them all in winter sowing containers. This winter was the 10th coldest Minnesota winter on record…and that’s a degree of cold stratification some milkweed varieties don’t need!

The relentless winter was followed by torrential spring rains that overflowed the sowing containers. Then something green started to emerge from the saturated soil…MOLD!

After being subjected to the angry wrath of Mother Nature, most of the seeds failed to germinate…but why? What is the cold, the rain, or something else altogether?

LESSON 1

So, last season I tried winter sowing again, and experienced more mold issues with opaque milk jugs. This time, I also tried winter sowing milkweed seeds in clear 2-liter soda bottles.

To my amazement, excess moisture and mold were not an issue using those containers…perhaps it’s because the soil receives more direct sunlight?

Growing forward, I am going to use more 2 liter bottles…using a good seed starting mix will also help regulate the moisture levels inside the containers.

Winter Sowing Native Milkweed Seeds- choose your winter sowing containers wisely for a higher germination rate...
Mold Free containers

I always suggest to people that they try different methods of seed germination, so they’re not putting all their milkweed seeds in one basket.

While winter sowing can be an effective way to start seeds, your results depend on something you have absolutely no control over…the weather! Start some of your seeds this way, while starting the rest with another method like fall planting or starting seeds indoors.

 

FAILURE 2

Dutchman's Pipevine Failure
Broken Pipe

I cut back the woody growth from the Dutchman’s pipevine…that would be the same woody growth that new spring growth is supposed to emerge from.

The plant proceeded to die, so we turned to a nursery for a fresh start.

Unfortunately, one of our garden pests took a liking to the tender replacement, and chewed off all the new vines. Say it isn’t so, but the Dutchman’s pipe may be down for the count…again. Sorry pipevine swallowtails!

But wait…an update!

I was going to toss the new pipevine plant, but we opted to erect a protective barrier instead. It’s vining up the trellis and is proving to be a true survivor. Go Dutch!

Butterfly Garden Blunders- What I did to my poor pipevine plant, and how I overcame my mistake to put my climbing vine back on track...
Protective Custody

After installing galvanized rabbit fencingir?t=monabuttgard 20&l=ur2&o=1 butterfly garden along the inside perimeter of our back yard fence, we’ve been able to keep out the rabbits that were destroying our pipevine and other precious butterfly garden plants.

After our pipevine was mercilessly mowed down by rabbits, a galvanized rabbit fence was the solution we'd been seeking- more butterfly garden blunders and their solutions...
Bye Bye Bunnies

LESSON 2

If I would have taken a few short minutes to research dutchman’s pipe online, I would have saved myself years of growth by realizing the new growth came back on the woody trellis vines I was removing.

Research is a key component to your garden success, and with so much information available in the digital age, you can find the answers to most all garden questions online instead of making foolish assumptions, that can literally cut your growth back by years.

I also learned that the pain of putting up one big rabbit fence is much less than the pain of watching your plants mowed down over, and over…and over again!

A final lesson from this painful chapter…make sure your trellis is secure. Ours came down in a windstorm. As luck would have it, none of the vines were broken. We secured the trellis with garden twineir?t=monabuttgard 20&l=ur2&o=1 butterfly garden this fall.

 

FAILURE 3

Butterfly Garden Mistakes- What's Wrong with these Tropical Milkweed Leaves?

This one I can live with because we have multiple tropical milkweed plants.. This regular tropical plant (Asclepias curassavica) is 4 years old. I thought each year, it would continue to grow bigger and better…not so much.

Last winter, I suspected our potted tropical was getting root bound and the leaves looked sickly as it overwintered indoors. In spring, I made vertical cuts on the rootball and planted it directly in the garden.

While it put out new foliage and flowered, it still looked sickly and all the younger plants outgrew it. I guess tropical milkweed is not like fine wine, and I have heard similar reports from other gardeners.

LESSON 3

Now we only overwinter first year tropical milkweed plants. Since Asclepias curassavica is usually one of the easiest milkweeds to find at local nurseries or online, there are better plant options for overwintering indoors.

Even if your overwintering plant fades, you’ll have the opportunity to take stem cuttings  to start brand new plants in fall, winter, or spring. This is my preferred way to propagate Asclepias curassavica.

Tropical milkweed seeds can also be started indoors two months before your avg. last frost.

 

FAILURE 4

Using acid-heavy pine bark mulch killed many of our annuals and also some perennials

LESSON 4

Now we stick to tried and true cedar mulch which has always worked well for keeping plants happy. Yes, other materials can be used, but watch out for any options that can dramatically change the PH level of your soil…this can shock, and ultimately kill your plants.

 

FAILURE 5

Fungus and powdery mildew….what’s a gardener to do?

LESSON 5

Spacing out your plants to provide better air circulation to prevent fungus and mildew. You can also use a hydrogen peroxide/water solution to treat powdery mildew or preventatively treat the soil:

Treating Powdery Mildew in Zinnias

Milkweed Fungus & Disease

 

FAILURE 6

A fantastic butterfly plant….but not for your region?! ?

Recently, we planted non-native Bolivian sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) which is supposed to be a huge pollinator magnet….it grew a whopping 15 feet tall and formed MANY buds, that started to unfold….in October. ?  An interesting experiment for sure, but the bloom timing makes it an impossible dream for a northern garden.

In recent years we’ve also been disapointed by the late blooms of New England Aster, New York Ironweed, Pineapple salvia, and others I’ve been able to successfully block from my mind ?

 

LESSON 6

Remember to keep in mind where a report is coming from when you hear how fantastic a plant is for monarchs (or other pollinators)

Just because a plant is non-native, doesn’t mean it can’t be a valuable asset in your butterfly/pollinator garden. However, there’s less of a chance it will thrive so don’t depend on non-native plants to be the stars of your garden…native plants are the cornerstone of a successful butterfly garden.

It’s easy to make butterfly garden mistakes, especially when you’re first starting out. What ultimately determines your garden success, is how you deal with those mistakes growing forward…

Have you made mistakes in your butterfly garden? Share you story (and lesson learned!) below in a comment to help others avoid making the same mistake…thanks!
Share the Joy of Butterflies

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136 Comments

  1. The green soil you get from using plastic milk jugs is algee not mold. That is why growing containers are black, to block light and prevent that from happening.

    1. Hi Kate, I’m not sure how this could be applied to sowing seeds outdoors without frying the seedlings.

  2. Regarding over wintering Asclepais curassavice, tropical milkweed: My understanding is that it should not be overwintered, but should be allowed to die outdoors to prevent OE infestation which is what is killing a lot of the monarchs. I believe this same issue applies to taking cuttings. Seeds can be collected to grow tropical milkweed for the following year. In Maryland the monarchs do seem to favor this species of milkweed over some of the native types. Tony, I find all your information invaluable and helpful. You are doing a real service by making it possible for us to learn how to support butterflies. You present information in a clear and very understandable format. Please look into this and let me know what your thoughts are

    Tony wrote: “Now we only overwinter first year tropical milkweed plants. Since Asclepias curassavica is usually one of the easiest milkweeds to find at local nurseries or online, there are better plant options for overwintering indoors.”

    “Even if your overwintering plant fades, you’ll have the opportunity to take stem cuttings to start brand new plants in fall, winter, or spring. This is my preferred way to propagate Asclepias curassavica.”

    1. Hi, thanks for sharing your concerns…keep in mind I am gardening in Minnesota where we sometimes need some extra help to extend the growing season. When we bring plants in to overwinter we typically cut them all the way back and are spraying them with h202 all winter since that’s what we treat the soil with to prevent fungus gnat infestations. In continuous growing regions I would not bring in plants, but I would definitely propagate from cuttings disinfecting with h202 or even bleach if OE is a problem. Here’s some more info/questions regarding that topic:

      Growing Milkweed in Continuous growing Regions

  3. Hi, It looksl like you have comments from all over the countrty so I thought that I would puy my 2 cents in also. I live in Southern California in the coastal area. That really has nothing to do with my comment. One of the things that I noticed in your wonderful helpful list of mistakes and solutions is that it seemed to me that you were growing seefds in great free containers but I am not sure that there was any drainage holes in the bottom of the containers. That will add to the possibility of mold as well as the sourounding environment not having enough moving air and the pots nbot draining well. I too grow seeds inside until they survive outside. I have started using a heating blanket specifically for uysing under starter trays fo rseeds. That has help much. Yes I had to buyit, not free but helped me not waste my time. also I use the trays with pottice soil rather than any kind of peat pot because I discovered the peat pots that are purchased have a netting that makes it not so easy for roots to expand outside the pot as the plant matures in the ground. Specifically carrots and beets. 🙂 Another thing you could use is paper pots made from newspaper using a simple tool . Gardeners.com. This is just a thought is all.

    1. Thanks for your comments Kari…we do have drainage in our sowing containers but we’ve had some pretty rainy springs the past few years so we’ve had more mold issues…increasing drainage in the containers and using a lighter seed starting mix have helped. Thanks for the tips!

  4. MI made 2 big mistakes this past summer. One was failing to control the aphids and milkweed beetles that invaded our garden, the other was poor use of our existing plants.We actually lost about a dozen cats toward the end because we ran out of food. For the past several years, I’ve cut large branches when we find eggs or cats on leaves because I didn’t realize how long a new cat can survive on a single leaf.Thanks, Tony, for sharing that bit of advice with your readers!.From now on, I’m going to take very small cuttings, or just the leaves themselves and use floral stem tubes to hold them. Looking forward to 2018, Happy New Year everyone!

  5. Tony,
    I live in Central Florida, zone 9, and any frosts are usually over before the end of February.

    I am going to start my Asclepias Incarnata seeds under my grow lights. Can you give me your best guess as to how many months it will take to grow these plants to flowering size? I want to time the arrival of the majority of the monarchs.

    I very much appreciate your emails with lots of info about butterfly gardening and also learning from your mistakes.

    Thanks very much,
    Doris

    1. Hi Doris, from what I’ve heard, swamp milkweed does not perform well in continuous growing regions, but you can certainly try. A native species that should perform better in your region is aquatic milkweed:

      Asclepias Perennis Info

      With your extended growing season both species should flower the first season, but you might want to talk to others in your region who can share first-hand growing experience…

    2. Tony, I live in Burnett County wi. We are surrounded by wet lands, a slope of approx 100 feet to the wet land is covered with wild fern. Will milk weed grow and survive in amongst the fern?

      1. Hi Pat, it depends on how aggressive the fern roots are and how quickly the plants grow in comparison to the milkweed…it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a few seeds and see what happens…good luck!

  6. Hi Tony–

    I am new this year to your site, but for the past several years, I have Monarchs flitting around in the front yard, usually from about Noon till about 3PM. (these times change by an hour, depending on daylight-savings time). Last year, I planted some milkweed (Asclepias curassavica… tho every nursery here lists it only as asclepias), it did well enough to seed itself into many parts of the roses that are out there.
    Daily, I have been finding some seriously healthy looking caterpillars munching away, thru December. The milkweeds are well-chewed, but continuing to grow. I look forward to more self-seeding in the garden.
    Have found what look like two black caterpillar carcasses, hanging in some asparagus fern, and off a clay pot. Have never noticed a cocoon anywhere. Thought of trying raising Monarchs, but felt best to just observe for now. Suspecting somehow that the carcasses were never able to complete their transformation, and unsure of how to encourage more cocoons in the yard..or what/where to look for them.
    As for your desire for pineapple salvia, experience here in Hollywood says DON’T! You won’t believe how many grasshoppers will arrive, and then move on to whatever else they can find. We do capture in a mayo jar (some barely fit), and release them in another ZipCode.
    And wondering if we should worry about the PreyingMantis is an issue for Monarchs, since a neighbor and I share a few, and now we get to hope the hummingbirds are safe.
    Thank for the site.

    The Regent of Dorothy [as well as The Princess of Dorothy]

  7. I have a couple hundred tropical milkweed plants; will nurse them through the Winter and offer for sale in the Spring.
    When is the best time to prune them . With this cold front coming in, it is a little late to change course, but need to know your opinion please.

    1. Hi Alejandro, I don’t own a nursery/sell plants so I’m definitely not your best resource for best plant-selling practices. Perhaps a local or online nursery would be willing to share some info with you…that being said, tropical milkweed can really be cut back anytime and it grows back quickly.

  8. I was so put out that my brother in Paso Robles in September had so many cats and I had zero. Then in early November I had so many cats that I was running out of room. I ended up with 102 butterflies. Strangely 2 of the others developed with wings that looked like they had been really shortened, and not viable. The wings were about one inch long. I disposed of them. I had never had that problem before. Do you know what caused this problem?

  9. Thank you for this article Tony.
    This past year was my first year for my bee/bird/butterfly garden.

    My biggest blunders
    1) Not putting up a fence to keep the rabbits out. Oh I used rabbit repellants and fox and coyote urine granules, they might work for a few days and then I would notice plants sliced off. Weeks of work growing plants destroyed in a single night, this year I will be putting up a fence.
    2) Not noticing the moles or voles eating my Liatris ligulistylis. I planted about 40 Liatris ligulistylis and they were eaten by moles underneath and the rabbits above, I will have to plant them again in the spring. I did buy a couple of electronic mole repellers, that seemed to do the job, they were annoying enough the moles moved away.

    I did plant swamp milkweed and Asclepias tuberosa but they both seemed to be ignored except by the aphids. I did notice a couple of monarchs but they did not stay around, had a great number of painted lady butterflies though in the fall. They LOVED the Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, this plant was by far the #1 favorite of bees/butterflies/moths in my garden.

    I planted a number of native flowering plants (including common milkweed Asclepias syriaca) from seed in my garden in late November (I live in southern MN), hoping they will cold stratify and survive the -20 F weather that is forecast.

    Tony, thank you the tip about cold stratifying in the clear plastic containers, I will give it a try.

    I also plan to plant some Mexican sunflower ( Tithonia rotundifolia ) in the hopes I will get more Monarchs this coming summer.

    I hope everyone has great success attracting the butterflies in 2018!
    Happy New Year!‎

    1. Moles eat insects (like grubs) and voles eat vegetation. I remember it this way M=meat, V=vegetation.

  10. Hi Tony,

    I made the mistake of trying to propogate native antelope horn milkweed that I dug up. For one, I didn’t dig out enough of the taproot. For two, I tried to propgate it in water just like one would with tropical milkweed. I did not work. What has worked is putting the native cuttings in a peat pot(brand: Jiffy) with seed starting mix (brand: Espoma) after dipping the cut stem in rooting gel (brand: RootTech). I actually did this a couple days ago and am already starting to see some green!

    I also learned that putting seeds in a damp paper towel in a baggy and placing them on top of my Xbox 360 did not work. I was thinking the warmth from the game system when it is running would guarantee germination, but all it did was create mold lol

    Cheers!
    Erin

  11. I used Cypress mulch in my milkweed garden for the first time this year. I applied it in the fall. You had a problem with acid from the pine bark. Do you know anything about Cypress? I broadcasted my common milkweed seeds and then worked them into the mulch.
    I avoid planting swamp milkweed because the leaves are so narrow providing little food for the Monarchs. Also Aphids love the plant.

    1. for me cypress is a long lasting mulch. it doesn’t break down quickly. that can be good or bad, depending on what you want the mulch to do
      zone 6, sw indiana

      1. I wanted the cypress mulch to keep the soil from drying out. I lost seedling plants last year because of it but now I am afraid that the cypress mulch could affect the seedlings like acid from pine bark.

        1. Hi Shirley, Greg is correct that it breaks down slower…we never had any issues with the soil PH when we used it.

  12. I have never had any luck putting planted seeds that needed stratification outside. I now sow them on wet paper towels, and put them in sealed plastic bags. The whole thing goes in the fridge for two months. After two months I plant the seeds and grow them on under lights. I find that I have much more success that way than outdoors especially with the erratic weather we have been having. One of my favourite pollinator plant are zinnias. They are easy to grow, vibrant and a great nectar source. More and more my garden has become full of native plants except for some like zinnias and a few others as they thrive and are a tried and true nectar source for my northern pollinators. Recently I have been researching nectar as I have discovered that not all nectar is the same! Apparently monarch butterflies need nectar that has amino acids – protein which is a high investment for a plant to put into its nectar. Lantanas and pentas are a couple that meet this need. Anyone else know of others?

  13. One thing that I have learned about germination of Milk Weed seeds is, the skin is very hard and thick. I have taken the seed that is ready to plant, placed it in a large jar with white sand, (the kind used for sand blasting) and used the sand to scarify the seeds, shaking for as long as it takes to scar the exterior of the seed. I also noticed that when you are done with the sand, it has become finer grained, so I don’t use it more than once. Start with new sand for the next batch. I then soak the seeds 24 to 48 hrs. before planting. I have been getting about 80% germination with this method with this technique. Hope this helps.
    Charlie Stewart

  14. Hello! I need major help with my Swamp Milkweed. I purchased a swamp milkweed (with pink flowers) from my local nursery this spring (2017) and planted it in my garden. I live in Zone 7a. It grew tall and attracted aphids. However, the leaves were always brown, I never got flowers, and the tubes were slumped over the whole time. Now it has white spots all over it. I can’t find anything that discusses these issues. Is the plant sick? I hThaad monarchs in the garden from the other plants but have no evidence that they took to the milkweed. Thank you!
    -Saddened Gardener at her first attempt with milkweeds, Nina

    1. Hi Nina, sorry it was a bad first experience. If the plant is done for the season, I would cut it back to the ground. I would also treat the soil around the plant with hydrogen peroxide in case there is a fungus. Hopefully, it will come back better next season:

      Milkweed Diseases

  15. Hello, I have had the same swamp milk weed and 2 butterfly bushes for over 2 yrs now and so far I have been lucky with the monarchs. Currently I have 20 transforming monarchs all over the front of my house. I have video of them going through the stages. Amazing .

  16. I planted swamp milkweed to attract monarchs… last year the plant was not very vigorous, but this year it reseeded itself and created a big clump. It attracts its fair share of butterflies and bees, but also a TON of wasps and hornets. Which has become an issue because it is fairly close to our patio!
    Will milkweed tolerate being transplanted? And what is the best time? I need to find a “safer” place for it.

    1. hi Ruth, I used to be wasp-phobic when I started butterfly gardening, but have found over the years that they really are not aggressive…my only issue is if they try to nest on our property….then it seems they get a majority of the caterpillars from the milkweed. Swamp milkweed is easy to transplant with no taproot…late summer/fall planting after the plant is not longer suitable for monarchs would be a great time to move them.

      1. Thanks for the info! I think I will transplant in fall. I had hoped to see mostly butterflies and happy bees there, that’s why I planted it near the patio. I have to admit I have never seen this many wasps and hornets in one place. While I am happy to provide food to all kinds of insects, my husband is slightly allergic and I don’t want to take a chance. I told him to walk around the other way, but that didn’t go over too well! 😉 I have noticed a lot of honey bees and bumble bees as well, but they seem to come in waves when the wasps are not there (I don’t blame them, some of those wasps/hornets are HUGE). I found another very nice spot in the garden where I am certain the milkweed will be very happy as well. There are several different kinds of milkweed in a wilder border in the backyard, so it will just be a continuation of a “theme” over there!

        1. I have learned that wasps and hornets are a new killer, anyone have knowledge of this? We don’t need those pollinators.

  17. I’ve been nursing along some orange and some yellow butterfly weed in a planter on the side of my house. They are a little delicate in this location for some reason (perhaps they don’t like the soil), but I keep hoping to establish them over several years and attract monarchs to them. No monarchs this year so far (I hear monarchs are low this year), but one of the plants started looking rather unhealthy–sections of the plant dying. Eventually I found that its leaves are getting covered with some other kind of caterpillar. They are small, black, fuzzy caterpillars–quite a lot of them. I don’t have a picture. Any idea what kind of moth or butterfly this could be and how destructive they are of the butterfly weed host?

  18. I planted 6 tropical milkweed about a month ago. They bloomed right away. But have seen nary a butterfly or any other insect on them. Mom, who lives across town , has same story. Is it the time of year or what? We live in Northern California 60 miles north of San Francisco. Thanks!

  19. I’ve made a huge mistake. A murderous one. I bought one butterfly weed & planted it, not knowing it is known to produce caterpillars of monarchs. I was concerned about my plant which seems to be dying so I removed all the caterpillars from it & killed some. Now after some research I realize what they are & will go to plant more so I can redeem myself. Do I need more than one plant or can one survive on its own. Will the caterpillars kill the plant?

    1. Hi Milisia, sorry to hear about your mistake, but glad you are getting involved in the effort to plant more milkweed for monarchs. I would suggest growing 3-6 mature plants. One is not enough to support more than 1-2 monarchs. They eat a lot! Here’s more info on starting a butterfly garden to support monarchs…caterpillars don’t kill the plants. If it’s perennial to your region, it should grow back:

      How To Start a Butterfly Garden

  20. I just bought a milkweed. It had 3 caterpillars on it…they ate the plant, it is stripped and the caterpillars are gone. where do the go??? I am new at this. Thank you

    1. Hi Linda, was that your only plant? If so, they crawled off to find more milkweed. If they were large enough, they crawled off to form a chrysalis. 3-6 plants on hand is a good goal to grow or purchase before raising monarchs. Otherwise, running out of milkweed is a common issue.

  21. Well, I think we haven’t failed it what we’ve planted, but we haven’t gotten great results. We live in Maine (zone 5b), and have echinacea, joe pye weed, and other butterfly-friendly plants in the yard. We also have a ton of butterfly weed planted. No hyperbole–in 3 years of good blooming, I have never once seen a butterfly land on our butterfly weed. No eggs, no caterpillars, no momentary sipping of nectar, nada. Is its reputation unwarranted? Thanks for any advice.

    1. Hi Holly, the season was pretty slow last year. Eastern Canada is having a banner year in 2017 so this could mean a good early migration for you depending on their southern path. July and August should typically be your best monarch months, so hopefully you will see some activity soon…

      As for butterfly weed, it’s a below average host plant, and an ok pollinator plant in our northern garden. It doesn’t measure up to common and swamp milkweed based on what I’ve seen.

  22. I live in southern California and supplemented my existing milkweeds with 4 new ones in the past 6 weeks from the local nursery. My backyard has plenty of monarchs flying around but recently I am finding that the caterpillars (once they are full grown) go off to make their chrysalises, sometimes form the “J” and then turn black and die. I find them in various places in my backyard. Of course this is very disconcerting. The nursery claims that the new plants were not sprayed with any type of fertilizer, insecticide, etc. Any thoughts on what is causing this and how to correct?
    Lyn

    1. Hi Lyn, turning black is likely due to bacteria/virus which could have been on the plants, or already in your garden. I suggest spraying down plants (without caterpillars/eggs) with a hydrogen peroxide mix which kills many pathogens and see if that makes a difference. More info about that in this post:

      Milkweed Diseases/Fungus In continuous growing regions, plants should be cut back yearly so fresh growth can emerge .you can stagger the cuttings so some milkweed is always available.

  23. Someting is wiping out my butterfly weed, eating them from the top down. Eating all flowers then the leaves, leavibg the stalks. This does not seem to be insecr driven and happens between 10pm and 4am. Any ideas?

    1. My guess is snails and/or slugs. They are nocturnal and have huge appetites.

      1. My guess is the milkweed tussock moth caterpillar. They are a moth and I tend to see more activity from them at night rather than during the day. As they get older, I see more of them during the day. During the day they hang out on the leaves in darker locations. I tend to pluck them off and drop them in soapy water so that I have enough milkweed for the monarchs.

        1. Thank you! I was collecting monarchs and found quite a few eggs and tiny cats. I thought they might be monarchs, but they were in a cluster and not singlets. They stay together. Now I have some of these and don’t know what to do with them. I don’t really want to raise moths.

  24. I am in Tampa FL. So the milkweed grows year round. I have a huge problem with my plants. I have plants 2 yrs old and I raised a dozen plants from seed this year. No my plants are turning brown. Even the new young plants. There are also some red bugs all over the plants I have not seen before. I’m ready to pull it all out! Thank you in advance for any help.

    1. If they’re red bugs with black spots and bigger then Lady Bugs, then Google Red Bugs – which are common here in Winter Springs, FL (so common we have Red Bug Lake and Red Bug Lake Road). They are also known as ‘chiggers’ as they’re nasty and can bite (tiny bites but bites all the same). They will kill your plants and not just Milkweed, so do your best to get rid of them…they’re worse then aphids.

  25. Hi ,, I tried growing tropical milkweed for the first time .. I had several pots with several plants in each pot .. They all seemed to be doing fine inside under the lights. … I moved them out into my little greenhouse and they seemed ok too … I then transplanted them all into larger containers where I planned to let them spend the summer and now all the leaves have gradually turned yellow and fallen off … The only parts that look ok are the very tips ,, will they rebound or are they done and what could I have done to cause this ?>? O.o … Oh ,, and I noticed that the roots were green O.o ?? I have lots of incarnata ,, syriaca and tuberosa … was hoping for some of the tropical stuff too this year 🙁 ….

    1. Hi Jeff, it sounds like the plants could have root rot. make sure they are growing in well drained soil and don’t over water…good luck!

      1. I live inHouston, in the 90’s all summer and have been raising Monarchs for 30 yr
        It takes about 50-60 Asclepia plants to feed all the larvae I get. Best results: lots of water, twice a day, a bright place or even filtered light, but little direct sun b/c of the heat. Too Many enemies outside so I hatch the eggs inside and raise them totally inside.
        To keep outside plants free of aphids and thrip, I check them daily, by hand and water in a spray bottle. I actually squish them by hand and wash off the remains. Those are my worse problems. One aphid can become thousands in a couple of days. Don’t use any chemicals.

      2. No,, the roots look really good other than being green like new shoots … they are firm roots. I guess I will not try to start them indoors again ,, they seemed to act as if it were fall and they just dropped all their leafs once I put them outside (perhaps a bit early) The incarnata ,, tuberosa and syriaca grow just fine here and I have lots … I might try the tropical stuff again some time but will put the seeds in the pots and let them sprout in the spring themselves … . Thanks 😉

  26. Tony, last summer, I was able to transplant milkweeds plants that I discovered growing wild in a field near my home. This year many of the plants are growing abundantly in my yard. Recently I was reading an article, that stated that the dogbane plant is often mistaken for milkweed. How can I tell the difference between dogbane and the common milkweed plants?

  27. Hello Tony,
    Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge when it comes to butterflies and plants! I’ve learned so much from your site!
    My question is in regards to vining plants and trellises. I am in zone 6ish, suburbs of Detroit (Go Tigers!). This season I am adding common hops, which I sown the seeds last fall in pots and have at least one healthy 6″ sprout. I also planted a Dutchman pipevine plant, directly in the dirt last fall, which is about 2′ now along my fence. Lastly I ordered a maypop vine that just came last week that is only a few inches. My problem is that I only have one good size trellis for the time being and am I’m not sure which of these plants grows the fastest And should be planted with the 6′ trellis? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
    Happy Butterflying!???

    1. Hi Matt, I would probably go with the pipevine. It should grow the fastest as a returning perennial and it has the best chance of getting use as a host plant in your region. Maypop has beautiful flowers but it attracts a lot of wasps. We have not grown hops before and I’m not sure how often it is utilized as a host plant. Good luck!

  28. Hi Tony,
    Thank you for such a great website! I have been starting tropical milkweed with good germination success. However, once I transplant them to bigger pots (using more of the same potting soil that they were started in) they seem to dry up and die. I have been watering them using your recommendations for hydrogen peroxide, with CFL lights at 5000 degrees Kelvin. I have also taken them off of the heating pads. Is there any recommendations for helping them to make the transfer? I’ve tried more water, less water, they just don’t make it.
    Thank you in advance for any ideas!
    Greg

    1. Hi Greg, when you put them into bigger pots where are you placing them…outdoors or under the same grow lights? if you are placing them outside, put them in a shadier location to start with so they can acclimated to the sun. Yes, you should remove the heat source after the seeds germinate.

  29. I brought up some seeds from a native milkweed from down on our Lower section of property, and planted them in our garden in the fall. They came up and our Monarchs loved them – to the point that the caterpillars ate the whole dog – gone plant!
    How do I get my milkweed to grow if the caterpillars eat them before they get very big?

    1. Hi Tara, some people put netting over plants or even put them in mini greenhouses/tents outside. Those little cats are voracious feeders and one caterpillar can consume an entire milkweed plant within its two week life cycle.

  30. Hello! I started my butterfly garden in early May, and so far several good things and bad things are happening.
    Good: I have 8 caterpillars on 3 milkweed plants, so I’m assuming butterflies are coming
    Not so fun: I bought foxglove, lavender, delphinium, butterfly weed, forget me not, and lupine seeds and tried starting them in plastic cups. I have a bit of forget-me-nots and some lavender beginning to grow but not much from anything elses. The lupine takes 20-30 days so I’m not too concerned, but the delphinuim was supposed to start earlier because of when I planted it (sometime in April with q 14-18 day germination rate). I have green on the soil in some of the cups, is it hurting the plants and can it be removed? Any tips on how to get the other seeds to start? I used potting soil.

    1. Should I attempt to clean the frass off of the tropical milkweed in the garden? Will it make a difference if they’re outside?

      1. Hi Anissa, most of the frass will typically fall from the plants outdoors, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    2. Hi Anissa, it sounds like you have moss in the cups, which is not a good sign for germination. At this point, I would try planting directly in the garden. Sometimes, I’ll put seeds in one section of the garden, and then move them to their desired spot as they germinate.

      For future reference, using sowing containers in early spring is a good way to get seeds started that can’t be winter sowed. We put some containers out (in Minnesota) in early March. Here’s how to set up sowing containers…it’s too late to do this now:

      Winter Sowing Directions

  31. i just bought 5 butterfly weed, asclepias tuberosa, about 16″ tall, from a good nursery that specializes in butterfly plants. i planted them in full sun in the afternoon and they’re thriving. should i feed them and if yes, what and when?

    i tried them last year in a little bitty size and they didn’t make it over my nj winter, so i’m giving them a better head start and keeping my fingers crossed this year.

    any ideas?

    1. Hi Barbara, are you sure they didn’t make it? Butterfly Weed is typically pretty hardy, and they come up a bit late compared to our common and swamp.

      You can fertilize with a general all purpose fertilizer. These are some we’ve used over the years:

      Butterfly Garden Fertilizers

      PS..we used to have our butterfly weed in full sun. We transplanted to partial shade 3 years ago and the plants seem much happier. Something to think about if your plants aren’t thriving after a couple seasons…good luck!

  32. I live in Southern California, it’s super hot and dry over here…in the 90’s almost everyday and sometimes triple digits. I have three tropical Milkweed. I have around 4 monarch caterpillars but I have a plant problem. The bottom leaves are constantly turning yellow and I don’t know why. The top leaves and flowers are in good shape but those bottom leaves worry me. I maybe over watering since it’s so hot I tend to mist them everywhere day.

    1. Hi Crystal, I agree that overwatering may be the issue. I would cut back a little and see if that makes a difference. it sounds like your plants are in good shape otherwise, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. good luck!

  33. Hi Tony and thanks for the reply and kind words. I moved the garlic to a pot figuring I could move it around as needed. We’ll see how it works.

    Thanks again!

  34. Hi Tony – After reading some articles over the years about the decline in the bee population I decided to try and help with some helpful plants. This year I also took a direction to help with Monarchs and other butterflies. I’ll say that in doing some research your site is the most thorough and helpful, so thank you for the effort you put into this!

    I moved some plants from my existing perennial garden at my home in Southeast Michigan and added some Incarnata, Curassavica, Aster, Hyssop, Bee Balm and a Butterfly Bush to the mature Phlox, Alliums, Roses, Daylilies, Lilacs, Carnations and Hosta in the area. It’s only been a few weeks and have only seen one Monarch one time the day after I put the Milkweed in but hoping they’ll find the garden eventually.

    Along with the plants that I did keep is an heirloom hard neck garlic plant which I’ve kept because some variation of it has been in my family for about 40 years and because the stalks or scapes are pretty cool looking.

    The garlic is only a few feet away from the Milkweed and was curious if the scent might keep away any butterflies? I can’t smell it but obviously my sense of smell is not as sensitive as insect’s. If need be I can certainly move it but the garlic does seem to like it where it’s at.

    Would appreciate your thoughts and thanks!

    1. Hi Dave, garlic is supposed to repel those pesky oleander aphids, but I haven’t noticed butterflies having issues. We get lots of tiger swallowtails and red admirals on our ‘summer beauty’ allium and I’ve seen monarchs sipping nectar from our allium tuberosum plants. This season has started slow for many…I hope things pick up this summer!

      PS…sounds like you are putting a great garden together, so focus on that while you’re waiting for more butterflies

  35. So, check me out on this?
    ..
    Aphids live on milkweed and are harmful to milkweed and/or butteflies?
    ..
    Ladybird beetles (or ladybugs) eat aphids.
    ..
    I do not know what milkweed beetles are. Are they the same as ladybugs?

    1. Hi William, aphids suck the sap from milkweed and a large infestation can negatively impact the health of your plants. Ladybugs eat aphids but they can also eat monarchs eggs and small caterpillars. I welcome them in the garden, but would think twice before introducing them in mass.

      Check out Bernie’s link above for more photos/info on milkweed beetles, which are not the same milkweed inhabitant as ladybugs. Hope this helps, Tony

  36. I received a packet of swamp milkweed seed from a class I attended on saving Monarchs and Milkweeds. I have lots of them coming up-they said there were about 30 seeds per pack. I gave over 1/2 away to a gal who did not attend but interested and have LOTS more than 30!

    I have 2 questions on them. They are staying quite small-only 2″-3″ inches tall yet-are they like a semi-perennial and bloom 2nd year?

    And also I have noticed several where the top 2-4 leaves are wilted and drooped over-like something might be attacking them. But I do not see any worms, etc. Also saw someone mention milkweed beetles-it that the reddish guy w/ black spots and antennae’s? Are they dangerous to the Monarch eggs? Thanks Tony-love all the info I can gather from your sites!

    1. Hi Jo, be patient with swamp the first season as it gets roots established. they typically bloom in season 2. By year 3 or 4, you can divide roots in spring to create more mature plants.

      Milkweed bugs are herbivores, but milkweed beetles will eat small eggs and caterpillars. However, they are eaten by birds in your garden, so I wouldn’t remove them all.

    2. Milkweed stem weevils could be the problem. If you cut the stem between the dead leaves and it is hollow or dark with frass, this might be the issue. Cut these pieces lengthwise to see the creatures. Cut the live stems back until it is not hollow and green in color and dispose of the contaminated stem pieces. Tiny holes on the stems at the dead leaves are signs a weevil may be in the stem. Weevils like the upper most stem just before it splits into 3 in the tuberosa milkweed.

  37. Steve, why do you say tropical milkweed is invasive? I say it isn’t. It does not put out underground “feelers”. and it dies in the winter. I have a lot of Tropical milkweed in my garden in Texas, and have never found it near my home where it is not expected. Non native doesn’t necessarily mean “invasive”. Tropical milkweed is just the best plant for monarchs to thrive on, and the easiest to grow. If you want to avoid it, fine, but don’t lecture to those of us who who are trying to save the monarch population. I keep trying to grow native, I have had no luck. But still I have planted two of my four raised beds in native this year again. My two beds with Tropical are still the star of my production.

    Just curious, do you tell orchid growers that they are not good stewards of the environment? Orchids are certainly not native to North America.

  38. I just can’t get my seeds to germinate period. If and when I do get some roots from the cuttings as soon as I plant in soil the die. Help?

  39. Tony, do you practice seed-auditing?

    Can you say with 100% certainty that no non-native seed you produce EVER leaves your property without your knowledge?

    The fuzzy line between garden and wild areas exists only as a rationalization for our human needs… pretty flowers, longer season… or, dare I say, profits from readers ordering non-natives based on your advice.

    Sorry for saying so but there’s a long history of us humans screwing up nature and saying “Don’t assume there’s a problem!” I mean geez, take zebra mussels in Minnesota lakes! When the big boats pumped bilges in the Great Lakes, they said it was safe! After all, no one had shown there was a problem. OOPS. Once we knew introducing non-native zebra mussels is a major problem it was decades too late.

    Please push NATIVES. Otherwise, you sound a lot like the managers at those shipping companies. Lessons are repeated until learned.

  40. Hi Steve, just because a plant is non-native doesn’t mean it should be automatically deemed unworthy and invasive….that’s counterproductive to both your garden and the struggling monarch population.

    Monarchs are a migratory tropical species, so there are a wide variety of milkweed and nectar flowers that will support them, as well as other pollinators in your local ecosystem…I know this from my first hand experience and also talking to other gardeners across the country that have been willing to explore new ways to support monarchs and other pollinators that are experiencing dangerous declines…that being said, I am not suggesting that non-natives are a suitable option for unmonitored habitats and prairie restoration. The information I present is intended for garden habitats.

    I am also not suggesting that people stop planting native milkweed. I am suggesting that if you grow both in a garden setting that it’s possible to attract and support more monarchs throughout the season.

    I believe part of the education we should all be shooting for is how we can better attract/support more monarchs in a time when farmland and wild prairie habitats are no longer the viable options they once were. Prairie restoration is important, but as the (human) population continues to rise, returning to the prairies of yesteryear is not a viable long term solution.

    Good luck to you and your son raising monarchs this season. It is an amazing experience and I hope you will have the opportunity to raise many!

  41. What the blazes are you thinking, using Non-native – tropical! – species in Minnesota??! Milkweeds and monarchs have enough problems without aiding the establishment and spread of invasive species. That is the true mistake here.

    1. Steve, we have 16 varieties of milkweed growing in our garden, both native and non-native. They all serve a valuable role attracting /supporting monarchs (and other pollinators) in our butterfly garden. The most invasive variety (by far) is native common milkweed (asclepias syriaca), but we happily grow it to support more monarchs.

      1. My 6yr old and I thank you for an abundance of great info here, much of which we’re using as we get ready for our first attempt to raise monarchs. Part of the education I’m shooting for is respect…. Being responsible to clean enclosures and handle cats correctly, for example.

        There is nothing respectful about helping tropical species spread to the Midwest.

        “Invasive” to a human concerned with human convenience and lifestyle means it spreads faster than the human likes, to places the human does not want it to go.

        In contrast a knowledgeable fan of WILD butterflies should put NATIVE milkweed species ONLY at the top of their “respect checklist”. The migration evolved before tropical milkweed found its way to distributor’s catalogues, after all. If we want to strengthen the wild population, then the wild cats will take care of themselves PROVIDED we take care of the pre-European wild plant communities. Please consider replacing species-of-convenience with natives.

  42. Hi Tony,

    This was the first year we grew a Mexican sunflower so I had to find the tag to make sure that I gave you the correct name. We planted Tithonia Rotundifolia (Torch). The tag said that it would grow 48 to 60 inches tall, but ours was planted in full sun and reached about 80 inches tall, or a little more than 6.5 feet.

    1. that’s the right variety…they typically go crazy for them. I wouldn’t give up after one season. swallowtails like them too and hummingbirds.

  43. Hi Tony,

    Thanks for the great website. We live in Michigan and have found that the monarch butterflies love our Ice Ballet and Cinderella swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). We love the milkweed, but we were getting a few to many volunteers or plants from seed, so we started to thin the herd. What a mistake.

    Where we live, the swamp milkweed starts growing around May 1, and by June 30th, the plants are three feet tall (if not taller) and ready to bloom. When the monarchs arrive, the females butterflies start to look for the most tender, tastiest leaves to lay their eggs on. They will lay eggs on the plants that are ready to start flowering, but given a choice, at least in our garden, they find the volunteers to be ten times tastier than the mature plants. We even watched a female ignore a three foot tall milkweed and do an army crawl through our sea holly plants, the most diabolical plant in our garden due to their spiny toothed leaves, just to lay eggs on some volunteers.

    I know milkweed can take over your garden if you let it, but you might be surprised how many more caterpillars you can have if you let a few of the volunteers grow.

    I also have to give a thumbs down to butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). We have never had any caterpillars on it, and I know it’s not scientific because the sample size is just one (my backyard), but it only grows to around two feet high and given the choice, the monarchs in our yard seem to like to be around three feet off the ground or higher visiting purple coneflowers, Mexican sunflowers, milkweed, butterfly bushes, Joe Pye weed etc. Very rarely if ever do I find a monarch nectaring on the lower flowers of our butterfly bushes or Mexican sunflowers.

    However, a big thumbs up to tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). Not only do the monarchs like them, but they are tough as nails. We are halfway through October as I type this and not only are they still growing, they are still flowering!

    1. Hi Brian,

      some great observations! Yes, monarch females often prefer the volunteers. I always let some swamp milkweed seed, and this year I even let some common seeds pop (haven’t done that for 4 years!).

      I agree with your BW assessment, but I still keep a small patch and have one “hello yellow” cultivar too. They’re definitely not monarch favorites but they both got a few eggs this season.

      We got lots of eggs on swamp, but none on our ‘ice ballet’… it was a great nectar flower though.

      Did you get “dwarf” Mexican sunflowers? In my experience, they didn’t attract any pollinators, while the monarchs go crazy for the tall ‘torch’ variety. You may also have an undesirable variety of butterfly bush, because most report it’s a butterfly garden favorite…it is in our garden too. These are some top monarch plants in our garden:

      Top Butterfly Flowers

  44. Hi, Tony, Thanks for posting all this good info and your ‘lessons learned’ about gardening for Monarchs. I have ‘butterfly gardened’ for years here in Ohio and I heartily recommend this avocation to all gardeners. Having those lovely creatures flitting about adds a unique loveliness and uncommon interest to any garden. If I may, I do have a couple more ‘lessons learned’ to share with novice butterfly gardeners, especially in our region:

    1) I’d be extremely wary of the ‘common milkweed’. It multiplies by underground runners and can become terribly invasive in a fertile garden. Best used in a ‘wild garden’ or along a woods. Same thing for ‘milkweed vine’. I have suffered because I was unaware of these ‘garden thugs’.

    2) Swamp milkweed (A. incarnata) is available in several varieties (white, different mauves, etc.) which bloom at slightly different times so it’s nice to offer a range of them. They can be started from seed but often require ‘cold stratification’ to germinate. I plant mine in a masses of 5 to 10 in an out of the way spots because of the aphid destruction is kind of ugley and also so the birds don’t find them so easily (to protect the caterpillars).

    3. While the monarchs seem to like the A. incarnata or the tropical milkweeds better here, A. tuberosa does work sometimes as a host plant. The good thing about this milkweed is that it is a very good nectar plant for something like 23 kinds of the butterflies found here in Ohio. And it’s perennial so that if it’s situated in a hospitable setting it’s very easy to grow. It doesn’t require much water or fertile soil.

    4. By far the easiest milkweed to grow here is the tropical A. currasavica which is not ‘native’ and behaves as an annual here in Ohio. My monarchs love it. A. curassavica sometimes reseeds itself in the garden and I start more seeds early in the spring indoors. Red and orange varieties are more attractive than the yellow.

    5. Whether you grow A. incarnata, purpurascens, tuberosa or curassavica, be sure to collect and dry seed heads in the fall. Then you can share seeds and baby plants with friends. Fun.

    6. A fabulous monarch butterfly attractor in my garden here in Southwest Ohio is the Liatris ligulistylis aka Meadow Blazingstar. This liatris is not readily available in garden centers but is available online. Googling for it will bring up some amazing photos showing how much the monarchs like it here in the Midwest. Save the seeds–they are valuable and hard to find.

    7. For very good advice on how to start seeds and grow a butterfly garden I recommend googling for ‘Dave’s Garden’ or ‘Garden.web’ and finding the Butterfly Forums. There are many great butterfly gardeners posting with a wealth of information on these two sites..

    Again, thanks for sharing all the monarch info. Happy gardening. Jay

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments Jay! I have a couple of quick replies:

      1. I agree with your common milkweed warning, but there are ways to keep it at bay and I share these on my common milkweed page. It supports many many many monarchs early in the season and I wouldn’t dream of getting rid of it. I do take precautions to control it though:

      common milkweed page

      6. Our liatris ligulistylis is just blooming now and it’s a huge monarch attractor in the late summer. It’s slow to start from seed, but if you fall plant plants or divide plants in fall you’ll have flowering liatris next season:

      liatris ligulistylis page

      7. The websites you listed are good resources, but facebook has even more posts and info.

  45. This is a learning experience for me as it is my first year. I have common and swamp milkweed in my garden. I keep hearing have plenty of food for the cats, so I ordered small plants. I have them on my deck. As I started to use them for food I found eggs and small cats just hatched. Yesterday the first cat attached itself and formed its chrysalis. I have thirteen cats now. Have not seen many butterflies here in northern Illinois. Will see what August brings. Thanks for your website!

    1. Hi Judy,

      it sounds like you are doing everything right so far. Besides milkweed plants, nectar flowers will entice more monarchs to visit your garden. There have been lots of sightings in Illinois so I’m hopeful you’ll see some soon!

  46. I have butterfly weed planted and although an extremely popular plant for honeybees the monarchs haven’t used it. How does purple milkweed rate as a monarch host plant? Which types of milkweed would you recommend planting to provide blooms throughout the Ohio growing season?

    1. Hi Chris, butterfly weed is a good nectar source for lots of pollinators but definitely not a preferred monarch host plant. Swamp milkweed is a popular host and nectar plant for monarchs. It has a long bloom period and also attracts lots of other beneficial pollinators.

      Purple milkweed looks similar to common milkweed, but it grows shorter, is less invasive, and the flowers are a more vibrant purplish color. They are more difficult to establish though so don’t expect instant results.

      Tropical milkweed is non-native, but it flowers/seeds its first season and is a prefereed monarch host and nectar plant. It can also be grown in pots.

      Check out my milkweed resource page to see more options.

      1. Thanks, excellent info. I checked out your milkweed resource page and some other links and now feel I have a good understanding of gardening with milkweed for monarchs. Keep the great articles coming!

        1. Chris we’re in NW Ohio, if you have fb look me up, Roberta Stoneburner Collins, maybe we can help each other with some info. There’s a lot of groups for this on fb as well.

  47. Hi everyone! I am really new to butterfly gardening. Last fall I purchased some milkweed plants and different nectar flowers that the nursery said will attract butterflies. The biggest mistake I have made so far is planting too close. I already am going to have to thin some flowers out. I haven’t seen many Monarchs this year, but have had a lot of bumblebees and hummingbirds. Yesterday and today have been the most exciting for me as I found my first monarch caterpillar! And today I found about 15 tiny monarch caterpillars! Very cool! Anyway, thanks to everyone who posts information. I am learning a lot and loving it!

    1. Hi Amy, welcome and thanks for sharing. I think ALL of us have made the overcrowding mistake at some point. However, this one is easily fixable by either thinning them out like you said or transplanting in late summer/fall when its cooler. As long as you get most of the root, the plants have a good chance to survive. And, even if they don’t…they weren’t going to work where they were planted anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose by trying. Congrats on your new monarch babies!

    2. I’m so excited for you Amy! Can’t wait for a yard full off butterflies myself, and would love some of those hummingbirds!!

  48. Even after a snowy, cold winter, my milkweed/butterfly weed, here in SE {Levittown}, PA has reseeded in amazing numbers. I have given so many seedling away hoping to spread the wealth. Unfortunately, still no Monarchs again for the second year in a row. So sad.

    1. Hi Mary, you are doing everything right on your end. The monarchs numbers have been low on the east coast this season. Hopefully you’ll see some soon…

      1. I’m finally starting to see Monarchs around, hopefully soon they make it to my yard! We live in NW Ohio.

  49. How do you treat aphids on your milkweed? The aphids have kept the milkweed from blooming on one plant. 🙁

      1. re; soap for aphid control. Insecticidal soap is out as I have had cats killed feeding on a plant I treated with it, even after rinsing and waiting weeks before adding the cats. So speaking of household soaps, which brands will work to spray on my milkweed?

        1. Hi Ruth, I am not sure which brands of soap people recommend for mixing their own aphid-killing concoctions, but I will research this and see if it makes a difference. Someone just wrote me saying they have sprayed skim milk to get rid of aphids. I’ve also updated my aphid post with a couple more ideas recently. Idea 9 has a short video:

          How to Stop Aphids from taking over your Milkweed

    1. I think of aphids as orange bubblewrap; they pop very nicely.

  50. Hi Herb,

    I have had problems with giant milkweed up north too, although I think I bought bad seeds. I am going to start them indoors late next spring, and immediately direct plant them outdoors.

    Next time you see two monarchs on the ground, check to see if it is two males. Sometimes territorial males will dive bomb other males and take them down to the ground.

  51. What is not working in my garden is growing giant and swamp milkweed from seed. They are very hard. I don’t think they like the heat. I still have a few and this morning one had a caterpillar on it. I almost had a fit. With all the common milkweed I have the little sucker went on the rare one.

    I have three in the cage right now. They seem to be slowing down. I have to get outside early and check the plants because by about 10-11 a.m. the big wasps are patrolling looking for lunch. So far this year 17 females and 2 males. And lots of sex. Yesterday twice I saw my new females on the ground in the throes of love-making. Good thing there was noting around to eat them while they were helpless.

    I still kill about two dozen milkweed beetles a day and the plants seem almost free of them. At the moment no aphids either. A little bit of good news. All murder done with my fingers.

    Not many strangers in the yard this year. I rarely see a Tiger and the Zebras have not shown up yet. A rare Sulphur or two come to see the Cassia. Lots of gulf frits, but of course I have three big passion flower vines.

    As always, you can use any of this you like.

    1. herb, what is a milkweed beetle? Could you describe it please?

      1. The Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus) is a red longhorned beetle with black spots that chews off the tips of milkweed leaves. This is a different feeding pattern from that of monarch caterpillars, which unless they are large or starving, munch on the sides of the leaves, leaving the hard central leaf vein intact.

        It’s important to know the difference between the feeding patterns if you are searching for monarch caterpillars. If you know the difference, you can save a lot of time during your search.

        The following website describes this beetle: http://www.cirrusimage.com/beetles_red_milkweed.htm

  52. Tony
    Have you ever cut branches off the Tropical Milkweed to winter over in the house?
    What are tips for that??? When do you do it and what do you do????

  53. My biggest mistake was forgetting to tell the new house pest controller to only spray around the part of the house where the butterfly garden isn’t. Apparently, he saw the Monarch caterpillars munching away on all of my milkweeds along with the Oleander Aphids contentedly sucking away on the same plants. My bad, not his fault.

    I now have to wait at least a couple of months before the insecticide breaks down and disperses. I’ve washed off the leaves with a fine spray, but there still seems to be some residual. At least the adults are still flitting about, but attempts at hatching viable offspring have been put on hold. I do notice the aphids coming back, so I’m assuming that the caterpillars will soon return.

    1. Hi Andy, sorry to hear this…it can be difficult to “spot treat” your yard with pesticides. I also know of instances where a neighbor’s spraying has led to the death of caterpillars. I guess the aphids coming back is a good sign…sort of 😉

  54. I had no idea that rabbits would eat milkweed. I mean all types of milkweed: common, swamp,tropical…..I should have installed a fence around the butterfly garden!

    1. Hi Noreen, I feel your pain! Rabbits have actually eaten some of our butterfly weed this season, and the deer mowed down our swamp last season. Someone needs to send them a memo that they’re not supposed to like it!

      1. try spraying your plants with a milk/water spray. you will need to reapply on new growth, but otherwise it last for a couple of months and seems to work very well at keeping plants intact. Cheap and environmentally friendly 🙂

        1. Thanks Linda, do you still get monarch eggs/caterpillars on the milkweed leaves? Monarch females check milkweed leaves with their feet, and my concern for putting any foreign substance on the leaves is that it will deter them from using those plants.

  55. Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is gorgeous in summer, 2-3 feet tall and covered with clustered, bright orange flowers! It’s a wonderful, bright addition to front edges of perennial gardens; monarchs appreciate it’s flowers, too! But – I have never seen any eggs nor caterpillars on its leaves – never! So, this year I am saving seed from a beautiful, ragged-leaved, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) that monarchs tell me they love by laying eggs on it and their babies have chewed to tatters!

    1. Hi Ann, you are discovering one of the milkweed secrets that many leave out when telling you to plant milkweed. Butterfly weed is one of the worst host plants for monarchs and they usually bypass it to lay eggs on other varieties. We have gotten a few eggs on ours this year, but they definitely prefer common and swamp when you compare native milkweeds. Good luck with your new common patch!

      1. That’s so surprising to me. I planted three asclepias tuberosa and within weeks had dozens of cats, so many that I had to go buy more plants! I ended up with a mix of those and a. curvassica and they seem to like them equally. I wonder if it’s a regional thing? I’m in San Diego so maybe the western Rockies migration has different taste?

        1. Hi Sheri, I recently posted an article about mixing the native tuberosa with tropical. So many people get hung up on one or the other when the two can complement each other like they do in your garden.

          http://monarchbutterflygarden.net/7-companion-plants-for-milkweed/

          Tuberosa does get used as a host plant, and if there aren’t other options I’m sure sometimes it will get lots of eggs. However, I’ve talked to many gardeners about this over the years and its use as a host plant pales in comparison to other varieties. However, there are always exceptions to the rule in gardening so if it’s working for you, carry on!

          As for western monarchs having different taste palates, I think milkweed selection probably has more to do with which varieties have fresh and healthy foliage. I think butterfly weed usually gets fewer eggs because the leaves are rough.

        2. agree I live in San Diego and on 2 plants of the tuberosa, I had at least 16 to 20 caterpillar on it. They ate it to the bone. I had to rush and buy more.
          My problem is I had spiders that kill most of them
          Looking forward to learn how to protect them from predators and want to get a variety of plants in my garden that will attract a variety of butterflies and also humingbird.
          Do you have a section of choices of plants specific to San Diego CA.

      2. Thanks for that info. I just bought swamp milkweed and looking forward to playing with it in my garden!

        1. Hi Kat, swamp is both a good host plant and excellent nectar flower for pollinators. I hope you (and the butterflies) will enjoy it.

      3. Can you tell me which milkweed is the best for the butterflies and the caterpillars? I, too, have the orange milkweed. I want to plant something that will welcome the caterpillars..

        Please advise..

        Thanks!!

        1. Hi Melissa, my advice is to try several milkweed varieties. Monarchs are likely to use whichever variety is in its prime. With just one milkweed variety, you’ll have a narrow window of opportunity where the milkweed leaves are at their freshest. Common, swamp, and tropical make good milkweed additions to most gardens, depending on your region. Here are 25+ Milkweed options to consider:

          Milkweed Ideas for North American Butterfly Gardens

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