To be or not to be (together)….that is the question. Milkweed is the only game in town for hungry monarch butterfly caterpillars. It’s suggested that milkweed be planted in patches of at least 6, so that caterpillars won’t run out of their incredible shrinking food source. However, that doesn’t mean these milkweed patches need to be deserted islands within your garden.
1. Verbena Bonariensis with Any Milkweed Variety
Verbena grows up to 6′ tall and branches into spiky purple prongs. The stalks are thin, and the flower heads small, which makes this an excellent see-through plant. Plant them anywhere, in and around your patch, without blocking sunlight from other plants.
Get more info about verbena here.
Some milkweed varieties that might look good with verbena are Asclepias purpurascens (purple milkweed), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed), Asclepias viridis (spider milkweed), and Asclepias curassavica (‘silky gold’ tropical milkweed).
Buy purple or spider milkweed here
2. Blue Tweedia with Dwarf Butterfly Bush
Monarchs on the west coast and in New Zealand will eat tweedia leaves (Oxypetalum caeruleum), but the jury’s still out on whether monarchs will deposit eggs on it in other regions. There aren’t too many flowers that exhibit this pretty blue hue, and no other milkweed does.
I’ve paired ours with ‘ivory’ buddleja buzz butterfly bush. Buddleja buzz also comes in magenta, velvet, sky blue, and purple. Both of these companions grow well in containers. Other compact butterfly bush varieties would look good too.
Find Buddleja Buzz ‘Ivory’ on our Butterfly Flowers Page
3. Purple Salvia with Butterfly Weed
The contrasting colors of purple and orange blend together in a strikingly beautiful way. This photo below is possibly Salvia nemorosa ‘cardonna’. The more compact ‘may night’ cultivar is a darker purple salvia that would also be a good choice.
If you like hummingbirds, black and blue salvia would make a great butterfly weed companion too…lots of grape options!
4. Mistflower with Shorter Milkweed Varieties
When I originally posted this, it was with a hybrid mistflower variety. Sadly, it has not become widely available, although I suspect it has hybridized with the wild ageratum (Concoclinium coelestinum) in our garden. We also grow Texas mistflower (Conoclinium greggii), and overwinter a single plant indoors in case it doesn’t survive our harsh winters.
In our northern region, I prefer wild ageratum because it comes back in spring (by seed) and flowers all season. For those in warm regions, Texas mistflower may be a better option for supporting your monarch needs.
Asclepias asperula, verticillata and viridis are short, native milkweed varieties that would make fine companion plants…really, most any milkweed species would pair well with this because this is a ‘background plant’ that is easy to remove, and a top monarch attractor…we also threw some contrasting red clover into the mix this season.
Find shorter milkweed varieties on our milkweed resources page
Find Blue Mistflower Here
Find Texas Mistflower Here
Find Red Clover alternative here Here
5. Butterfly Weed with Tropical Milkweed
Since many milkweed species serve as host plant for caterpillars and nectar source for butterflies, milkweeds also make good companion plants for each other.
Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) has pretty yellow or orange flowers while tropical milkweed comes in orange/yellow, ‘silky red’ or ‘silky gold’. There are, at least, a couple beautiful combinations with those options. Perhaps ‘silky red’ tropical with ‘hello yellow’ butterfly weed?
Tropical milkweed can also be potted annually and moved around to complement the butterfly weed.
6. Swamp Milkweed with Swamp Milkweed ‘ice ballet’
Asclepias incarnata ‘ice ballet’ is a swamp milkweed cultivar with white flowers that grows a couple feet shorter than the regular variety. Place it in front so it receives plenty of sun.
Get more info on Swamp Milkweed on its Plant Page
Buy swamp milkweed and the ice ballet cultivar on our milkweed page
7. Whorled Milkweed with Spider Milkweed
Pair an early blooming milkweed with a late one. Asclepias viridis (spider milkweed) is a spring blooming milkweed with thicker leaves that a hungry cat can appreciate. Asclepias verticillata (whorled milkweed) has tiny pin-shaped leaves that aren’t likely to satisfy large monarch caterpillars. Both are shorter milkweed varieties that top out around 3 feet.
Purchase Spider and Whorled Milkweed Here
8. Mammoth Sunflowers with Balloon Plant
The dark green leaves of the ballon plant and the vibrant yellow of sunflowers contrast beautifully. If you are growing ballon plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) annually, you’ll definitely want the sunflowers as your back border. In perennial zones, you may want to experiment with placement to see which plants grows faster…and taller!
Find Mammoth Sunflowers in our Butterfly Flowers Directory
Get More Info on Balloon Plant Milkweed