How to Save and Grow Healthy Milkweed in Continuous Growing Regions?

Poll Results and Discussion from Gardeners who Support Monarchs in Continuous Growing Regions

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably know I’m a Minnesota gardener. What you might now know, is that I am contacted about gardening/raising monarchs from enthusiasts across the country.

Two questions I get repeatedly are from those in warm regions. 1. How can I keep up with the demand for milkweed? 2. Why are so many monarchs emerging from their chrysalides weak/sick?. These questions are related so I’m here to start a discussion to see if we can start considering new solutions to these common issues.

I recently sent out a survey to my free newsletter subscribers and asked those in continuous growing regions to fill out the following survey. 742 subscribers accepted that challenge:

Question 1: Which species of milkweed plants are you successfully growing in your continuous growing regions (including Florida, southern California, south Texas, south Louisiana, Hawaii, etc…)


What the results SAY?

The results are startling you see the success that gardeners are having in continuous growing regions with tropical milkweed compared to all other varieties…in fact, Asclepias curassavica is the only milkweed species where gardeners had a success rate over 50%…in fact, it was over 60%!

What the results MEAN?

When you see these results, it’s easy to understand why more gardeners plant tropical, and why more nurseries carry it than hard to grow native species. Until people in these regions are able to grow other varieties with more success, the path to planting only native in these regions seems implausible.

Questions to consider?

1. Further polls should be conducted for specific regions- I realize I left out some crucial milkweed options here depending on the region, including Asclepias fascicularis (narrowleaf milkweed) which is widely planted in California, Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed) which is native to the western half of the US and Canada, as well as other lesser known natives specific to Florida, Texas, etc..

2. What can gardeners do to have more success growing  native milkweed species?

3. Are some of the non-native milkweed species good options for particular regions?

4. Which species (in addition to tropical) would gardeners be most interested in buying from a nursery?

5. How do success rates differ between starting with seeds and starting with plants?

6. When is the best time to start seeds in specific continuous growing regions?

7 .What are the most effective milkweed propagation techniques in specific regions?

More questions or comments? Please post them in a comment at the bottom of this post…

Question 2:Which species of milkweed plants have you unsuccessfully tried growing in continuous growing regions?

Continuous growing milkweed poll- unsuccessful milkweed species

What the results SAY?

The 3 milkweed species that gardeners seem to have the most success with when you compare results from the first two questions:

a. Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed)

b. Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed)

c. Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)

What the results MEAN?

While Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) is a reliable northern perennial and blooms prolifically in regions where it dies back in winter. It is not the same thriving plant in continuous growing regions.

Questions to consider?

This question is directly related to the first, so ponder those same six questions above.

Question 3: In your continuous growing region, do you grow milkweed in containers or planted directly in the garden?

growing milkweed in continuous growing regions poll- direct planting, containers, or both?

What the results SAY?

The majority of continuous growing gardeners plant in containers and directly in the garden

What the results MEAN?

This means many of you will have more options for growing healthy milkweed, as we will discuss in an upcoming poll question.

Questions to Consider?

a. What are the pros/cons of container plants?

b. What are the pros/cons of planting directly in the garden?

Question 4: Is running out of milkweed for monarch caterpillars a problem in your continuous growing region?

Growing milkweed in continuous growing regions poll- running out of milkweed emergencies

What the results SAY?

Running out of milkweed for caterpillars is a serious problem in continuous growing regions

What the results MEAN?

There’s a good chance (at some point) you’ll have caterpillars wandering around your garden with no viable food source.

Questions to consider?

a. What would happen if all the monarchs survived in continuous growing regions?

b. Is it benefitting or harming the ecosystem if you try to to save all the monarchs in your garden?

Question 5: Do you cover milkweed to let plants mature before hosting monarchs?

Continuous grwing milkweed and monarchs poll- do you cover milkweed plants in your garden?

What the results SAY?

The vast majority of gardens in continuous growing regions are open 24/7/365 for monarch eggs and caterpillars.

What the results MEAN?

Milkweed plants in continuous growing regions can be reused and overused all season long.

Questions to consider?

a. How are overused plants contributing to monarch diseases in continuous growing regions?

b. What would be the benefits of covering milkweed plants?

c. What would be the downside of covering milkweed plants?

Question 6: If you cover milkweed plants, how do you cover them?

How to Save more milkweed in continuous growing regions? Cover your milkweed to keep it healthy and allow it to mature so it can eventually benefit more monarch caterpillars.

These insect shade tents look like a good option for saving healthy milkweed for monarchs:


a. Tight mesh keeps out small parasites like flies/wasps (if you’re keeping eggs/caterpillars inside)

b. Mesh allows good air flow

b. Allows muted light with some shade

c. Allows water to enter and nourish plants

d. Can be Staked Down

e. Portability


a. Bottomless design could allow entry by lizards, frogs, spiders, ants or other predators that could rise from ground level

b. Some predators can chew through mesh

c. If you want monarchs to pupate on the roof, you would need to put plastic over the top to block water entry

Check out this tent option in 3 different sizes to fit your milkweed growing needs

If you want small flying pollinators to enter (which also allows more predators) check out an option with larger holes:

Tents with larger holes for pollinator entry

The solutions that make the most sense for you will depend on whether your goal is to simply grow milkweed before offering it to monarchs, or using an outside enclosure to protect growing monarchs.

Check out these ideas by community members for helping their milkweed grow in peace:

Chicken wire covered with Tulle Fabric and secured by hose- Solutions for growing milkweed in continuous growing regions
Chicken Wire Moat by Gary S

Gary says this helps his milkweed seedlings establish themselves in Florida.

Find Chicken Wire Here

4 Tier Greenhouse with 8 cutout openings covered by screen- growing milkweed in continuous growing regions
4 Tier Greenhouse Solution by Ann C

“I bought a 4 tier greenhouse and designed it to help the monarchs.  I cut out 8 openings and covered them with screen.  I was successful in raising 10 healthy caterpillars.”

Check out an assortment of tiered Greenhouses here

Bottomless 4x4 mesh tents for growing milkweed in continuous growing regions
Bottomless 4 by 4 mesh tents | Mary N

“This was my set up last year. I have since moved the tents to a vacant field next to my house for more sun exposure. The problem is the tents do not have a bottom floor. I was actually raising caterpillars in these tents as well. There are two different mesh sizes on the tents. Unfortunately, The wasp could still bite the caterpillars through the larger mesh that were walking on the sides and top of the screen to molt. Searching the Internet I found a tighter mesh. The tighter mesh protects the caterpillars from the wasps. but does not allow as much rain or water to go through. So I use the larger mesh tents for the recovering milkweed.”
“The other problem is that the frogs were getting under the tents and eating the caterpillars (I live on a pond) and then the snakes would go in to eat the frogs. ?  So I bought screen material and made a floor for the tents that I used for rearing. Each tent holds about 50 plants and I would put about 60 3rd instar caterpillars in each tent. I transplanted my milkweed to square pots and bunched all the pots together so there was no space between the plants.”

Find 4×4 bottomless mesh tents and other similar options here

Use wire screen, tulle, or 5 gallon paint strainers over a tomato cage to protect milkweed and/or monarchs
Covered Tomato cages for Milkweed by Karen M

“Here’s a photo of one of the covers I’ve made from inverted tomato cages with screen “wire” stapled in place. I set the plant & pot plus cover on a flat surface to keep my caterpillars from escaping–I use these for both Monarchs & Black swallowtails–to keep any from escaping (& the latter from being eaten by birds). These are easy to do & cheap.”

Tomato cages seem like a fantastic solution and they come in many sizes. You could also use paint strainers to cover the plants:

5 gallon paint strainers to cover containers

Tomato Cage Support

DIY pvc piping with clothespins to hold tulle in place.
PVC Piping to Protect Milkweed | Azucena G

“The homemade enclosure is made out of cut PVC, rebar inside of PVC to hold it from flying off and screen material held by clothespins.”

How to Grow More Milkweed for Monarchs...with your Umbrella Table Screen?

An umbrella table screen might be a perfect solution you already own for letting container plants recover from monarch munching…

Find an Umbrella Table Screen Here

These are just a few potential solutions for growing milkweed in continuous growing regions and I will be adding more as I discover new solutions. Bottomless options or those with larger holes will allow more predator entry if there are monarchs inside, but will still allow you to grow healthier milkweed.

Question 7: After one batch of monarchs devours milkweed in your continuous growing region, do you clean/disinfect plants before the next eggs are deposited on the plants?

Milkweed Continuous Growing Regions Poll- cleaning or disinfecting milkweed plants?

What the results SAY?

Most people in continuous growing regions are not cleaning/disinfecting plants on a regular basis.

What the results MEAN?

If OE protozoan parasites are present on plants, a high % of butterflies will be unhealthy.

What is OE and how does it affect monarchs?

Is Tropical Milkweed Killing Monarchs in Continuous Growing Regions?

Questions to consider?

a. Since monarch females can spread OE spores on the bottom of milkweed leaves, what are the best ways to effectively clean/disinfect a plant?

Question 8: If you clean or disinfect garden milkweed, what techniques do you use?

Continuous growing milkweed and monarchs poll- how to clean milkweed?

What the results SAY?

Of the minority of people who clean/disinfect plants, most cut back milkweed stalks and/or rinse plants with water.

What the results MEAN?

If water doesn’t effectively remove disease spores, it’s easy to understand why OE is so problematic in these regions.

Community member Ramona H. uses a garden sprayer with a bleach solution. You could also fill these containers (or spray bottles) with a hydrogen peroxide solution

When using containers, you can lay plants down for easier under leaf access:

To rinse or disinfect milkweed plants in containers, lay them down on the ground or hanging off a table so you're also able to clean underneath milkweed leaves to prevent monarch diseases.
Cleaning Container Plants by Ramona H

Perhaps laying containers so they hang off on a picnic bench or table might work better, in case there are OE spores on the ground?

Find a Garden Sprayer Here

Find a Spray Bottle Here 

If you use bleach you might also want to wear gloves and a mask for safety . I’m not sure how necessary these are if you are careful, but I know some people who use bleach take these precautions:

Disposable Gloves for handling bleach

Disposable mask for avoiding toxic bleach fumes

Questions to consider?

a. Can rinsing plants with water effectively rinse away OE spores from milkweed leaves, stems, etc.

b. How effective is a bleach solution for killing OE spores?

c. Is bleach potentially harmful to monarchs eggs/caterpillars or other wildlife?

d. How effective is a hydrogen peroxide solution for killing OE spores

e. Is hydrogen peroxide potentially harmful to monarch eggs/caterpillars or other wildlife?

f. What is the most effective technique for cleaning a plant?

Question 9: If a landscape or gardening company offered a paid service for covering/disinfecting garden milkweed plants in continuous growing regions, would you be interested?

Continuous growing milkweed poll- local milkweed services?

What the results SAY?

almost 40% of the respondents would at least consider some type of service in continuous growing regions for milkweed care.

What the results MEAN?

There is an opportunity for local landscape companies to offer services to specifically deal with growing and caring for milkweed.

Questions to consider?

a. What type of services would be most helpful to those growing milkweed that want to support healthy monarchs

b. For local service companies, what services could you provide?

There are many options to consider for saving more milkweed in continuous growing regions and keeping it clean to support a  healthy monarch population. When adding monarchs to outdoor protected plants things can get a little tricky because of persistent predators, but this is not an impossible challenge to overcome for the creative gardener/monarch enthusiast.

If you want to boost their numbers even more, bring a few inside and follow/tweak a good system for raising healthy monarchs indoors.

Anyone who took this poll can now view the summary charts and text responses from the forms page

For anyone that would like to view the results in more detail, check out the google spreadsheet results

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted a survey and contributed their ideas. If you have other questions or comments, please post them in a comment below.
Share the Joy of Butterflies

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  1. SOS! I have been raising monarchs for over 2 years and I was sure I had used weed and feed before. I have milkweed growing now all over my yard and now the leaves I pick for them are killing them. Even though I wash them off, I believe the chemical has gone up though the roots. Please someone tell me how to fix this! I’m so upset! There must have been over 15 now that have died and I hardly find any babies on my plants at all!

    1. Hi Terry, if you think the plants have been exposed to systemic pesticides, I would cut them back so new growth can emerge. If there are any survivors, I would find a new milkweed source for now…good luck!

  2. I live in Minnetonka, it’s been a cold spring, I know, but my milkweed is showing no signs of life! I have common milkweed and several Asclepias milkweed bushes. I was told by a local garden center they are not hardy for our zone??? They were great last summer, released 24 butterflies! Do I need to replace them yearly?

    1. Hi Laura, common milkweed is a hardy perennial for our region…this should be the week a lot of things start to pop with warm temps. good luck!

  3. Aphids are an essential part of the food chain. Lady bugs as well as many other very beneficial insects (on up the food chain) are dependent on them. Destroy the aphids, destroy the natural food chain. Allowing the aphids to stay unharmed will increase your populations of beneficial garden insects (and who knows what else… maybe even mammals.) The little damage they do short term is nothing compared to their long term beneficial effect on the eco-system. Without them there would be major environmental problems. Think about it! Cosmetically they may detract but environmentally they help.

    1. So when the plant stem is cover in yellow you just leave them? Also what about the milkweed bugs.

  4. I actually have a question about artificial light for milkweed plant and monarch eggs. I live near a butterfly farm that sales “Caterpillar Castles” every year which consists of an annual milkweed plant at about 2 feet tall in a pot with 2 monarch eggs already on the plant and netting to keep over the plant until the Monarchs have emerged and wings have dried (then we can remove the netting, plant outside and be good to go). They highly recommend keeping the plant indoors until it is time to release the butterflies but the problem is my house does not get enough sunlight through the windows during the day for this. What kind of artificial light would you recommend me to use during this time? I really don’t want to mess this up because my 3 year old daughter is beyond excited to experience the full life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Hi Samantha, we keep plants outside and raise on stem cuttings so sickly plants are never an issue. I would keep them in a room that gets some light through the windows. Dark rooms can slow down metamorphosis. More info on the cuttings process here:

      Feeding Caterpillars with Stem Cuttings

  5. It’s difficult to discuss the issues around OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) in sedentary monarch populations with any certainty, at least in terms of prevention, without also discussing the effects of migration on those populations. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the sedentary monarch populations in Southern California, South Florida and Texas may experience regular mixing of DNA from migrating monarchs that visit those populations, either on their way to or from overwintering grounds. There is also mounting scientific evidence that Eastern monarchs have just as high a percentage of OE as those in the Western sedentary populations, but that the weaker and deformed individuals perish during migratory flights, and therefore do not mate with healthy individuals. In addition, it may also be the case that some individual members of sedentary populations do, in fact, migrate to overwintering grounds. If so, both of those factors would suggest that migration is a major factor in moderating the level and intensity of OE, even in so-called sedentary populations.

    I live in North San Diego County, and I test every monarch butterfly that ecloses on my “ranch.” I use a powerful, biological stereoscopic microscope to do the testing, and I have to share this amazing fact with you: Some of my butterflies show heavy loads of OE, while others are 100% clear – even when raised from eggs hatched at the same time, on the same plants. It may very well be that genetics are playing a huge role in whether or not a given monarch butterfly tests positively for OE. There simply has not been enough research on this in sedentary populations, particularly because raising monarch butterflies in numbers sufficient to give meaningful controlled testing is not a priority in the scientific community.

    Finally, I will say that many people in the community of monarch raisers say that they are releasing “hundreds of healthy monarchs,” but when pressed to explain how they determine health, they admit that they are not using serious microscopes to view samples, or otherwise submitting the samples to scientific institutions for analysis. In many cases, well-meaning raisers are using $20 digital microscopes that are not capable of registering the presence of OE spores, and as a result, they see no spores through the eyepiece, or on their computer or mobile device screen, and therefore assume that the samples are free of OE.

  6. Hi Tony,

    I’ve been reading your blog for quite sometime. My apologies for this being completely off topic, but I’m in need of some advice. I have three asclepias tuberosa plants in my front yard. Last week I discovered at least 4-5 1st instar cats on each plant! (I’m located in Memphis, TN, by the way).

    However…. ALL but one have been killed by paper wasps (I’m sure the last one will be gone when I get home after work today). I’ve caught them in the act several times, so I know they are the culprit. They seem to constantly patrol the plants.

    Any ideas how to deal with the paper wasps? Without using netting or bringing them inside? I don’t understand how monarchs can even survive if in addition to climate change/pesticide use/lack of milkweed, they also face predators like wasps. It really puts their plight into perspective for me. It has been disheartening to watch all of these cats disappear- and in a very gruesome way.


    1. Hi Eva, wasps can be relentless. Some ideas on how to stop them here

  7. If my milk weed is ate to the shoots what should I do? Should i cut the shoots to the ground or will leaves reemerge? Ty for your site you have really educated me in all things butterfly and its encouraging me as this is my first year starting a butterfly garden.

    1. Hi Patty, in southern regions it’s suggested to cut back at least once a year to avoid pathogen build up, but this can be done toward the end of t season. If you woant, you could always spray defoliated plants down with a hydrogen peroxide mix

  8. I wonder if mowing the milkweed in a rotation helps reduce pathogens? It seems so here in northern NY. The Milkweed that just runs rampant gets kinda ratty looking by mid-season, so we have found that mowing some patches just before egg laying starts results in fresh healthy milkweed mid-summer. It certainly LOOKS nicer, and I wonder if this is a good way to control pests such as stink bugs too.

    1. Hi Daisy, milkweed dies back in the winter so pathogens don’t build up on plants in northern regions. stink bugs are just another predator on the growing list. Og course, some predation is necessary to keep numbers manageable:

      Monarch Predators

  9. I want to ty for your blog, I’m learning alot. This is my first year growing milkweed in NW FL and I thought the point of growing it was to attract butterflies. I saw butterflies swarming it at the store so I bought 2 plants. About a week later I noticed 2 tiny catapillars and didnt think much about it. Well a few days later those 2 tiny caterpillars had multiplied into about 12 fairly large ones btw the 2 plants. The plants were nearly destroyed so I removed the catapillars and put them in a tree to give them a change of scenery. Shortly after this, I had this nagging thought that I should read more about milkweed. I quickly learned that these catapillars were likely monarch caterpillars and they would starve without the milkweed. So i ran outside and fished as many catapillars out of the tree and back onto the straggly plants. I felt sooo terrible! I got nearly all of them back thank goodness! I bought more milkweed of a different variety (silky yellow?) And these little guys are muching away happily and love it. I dug up 200sqft of lawn and planted milkweed and native southeast wildflowers this yr and seein these little guys is so exciting. I just wanna plant milkweed everywhere now.

  10. Hi Tony,
    I live in Tampa, Fl and bought 6 types of milkweed seeds, started them under lights in flats .
    Success rate was very high.
    I now have them in a canvas like garage that you can roll up the door and keep it open with velcro attachments , it also comes with zippers to close completely.I just have the door hang for ventilation and keep butterflies out until they mature.
    My next step is to put up a screened gazebo , repot the milkweed and keep them in there until they mature.This should allow them to get some direct sunlight.
    I have alot of tropical milkweed all about , and alot of happy Monarchs.
    I have had run ins with OE but not that bad . cut back the older milkweed or pulled out.
    What do you do with the hydrogen peroxide? Do you spray it on the leaves with eggs on
    them? can it be sprayed on the cats? and if so what ratio?
    I”m planning on raising the plants to sell. and add to the garden.
    The tropical milkweed is really the only milkweed they sell around here. except for special yearly events that the vendors sell at.
    What is my best bet to keep the OE down?

    1. Hi Judy, we don’t treat plants like this in Minnesota. h2o2 kills pathogens, but not if this holds true for OE specifically. This is why people in continuous growing regions are encouraged to cut back foliage and milkweed stalks periodically. An organization in Florida should (hopefully) conduct more research on this topic…

      More info in this post on milkweed diseases

  11. Hi Tony, Thanks for your great newsletters. I read them all and learn a lot. I live in northern San Diego county, California and last year I successfully raised and released over 400 healthy Monarch butterflies. I had a mix of tropical milkweed and butterfly milkweed, in the ground. The tropical milkweed seemed to be inundated with aphids most of the time, so I have removed those plants this Spring and sticking to A. tuberosa now — so far no aphids (although I know that won’t last). I released 35 healthy Monarchs in January and February 2019, but my 100+ healthy, clean, blooming milkweed plants are currently just sitting there! I haven’t seen a Monarch since about two weeks after my last release! Last year at this time, my yard was visited by Monarchs all day every day and I was paying kids to help me bring in all the eggs. I have had 20 mesh cages set up at a time for hatching eggs and growing caterpillars. And now I just watch and wait. Any ideas where the California Monarchs are?

    1. I live in Malibu, California, and I believe the recent fires that raged through our community destroyed a great deal of their natural habitat. I haven’t seen a monarch butterfly since around last September. All the chrysalises I had in my indoor cage at the time never emerged to become butterflies as a result of the toxic ash that made its way into my house. Our Malibu Monarch Project, of which I am a member, wasn’t able to take an overwintering count as so many eucalyptus trees were burnt or destroyed.

      1. Another common issue I hear from those in the far west is a high occurrence of parasitic flies. 2018 was not a good year from western monarchs. Let’s hope the contributing factors improve this season…

    2. Hi Marianne, 2018 was a rough year for the western population. The numbers were way down, possibly due to several factors including the fires, drought, and parasitic flies/wasps. Check out journey north for western monarch updates.

  12. Hi, thank you for this wealth of knowledge. I live in southwest Florida, and have had a lot of success with tropical milkweed. I am wondering if I want to grow swamp milkweed or butterfly weed, do I have to do the cold stratification process? Also if I do keep using tropical milkweed, what do I need to do to make it safer as far as cutting back. Thank you.

    1. Hi Scott, I’m not sure how well swamp milkweed will grow in your region…aquatic milkweed might be a better option, but you can always try. A. tuberosa doesn’t neeed cold moist stratification and seeds can even be started in water:

      Asclepias Tuberosa Butterfly Weed

      Any milkweed that grows continuously in your region should be cut back 1-2 times a year to avoid the build up of pathogens that cause monarch diseases.

  13. I have a chrysalis that has formed, but it is misshapen because most of the skin did not peel up when it should have. It seems to be developing and Alive, should I try to remove the skin at this point. It is over a week old.

  14. Just got hooked on butterfly gardening. Planted many wildflowers in February and produced many flowers. I have not had much success starting milkweed from seeds as yet. purchased one Showy milkweed plant which is now about foot and half tall.

    Also have one tropical milkweed plant which is surviving and one with gold flowers. I have only
    seen 3 or 4 Monarchs so far here in Arizona. Now have mucho Asclepias incarnate seeds in fridge to plant in June. Most will go into pots. Hope to be more informed this time next summer. Have been following Mr. Lund on YouTube for lots of good info on Monarchs. I am really concerned about the OE factor. Lets save the Monarchs!

    1. Hi Ray, congrats on your new garden. I would get those seeds started ASAP as the sweltering heat of summer is not the best time to establish seedlings…good luck!

  15. Hi! First, thank you so much for the wealth on info found on this site. We have just recently started a butterfly garden and have Monarchs in every stage from egg to a newly hatched butterfly, still drying its wings! It’s been an amazing experience for us to watch the cats go through the entire process. I am concerned though, as last night we had one go to J stage and then this morning I observed it beginning to pupate. It was contracting and a small green part was emerging. We missed this part of the process with our last cat, so I attempted to take some photos. In doing so, I very gently moved the container that the cat had attached itself to. Since then, he hasn’t continued pupation. He stopped contracting and still has only a small part of the green showing and his skin is just barely retracted. My question is, could the movement of the container have disrupted him enough to stop his transformation to chrysalis, or do you suspect it was something else that could have caused this? I’m so disappointed that we won’t have this one go through the complete transformation to butterfly, and I definitely want to try and avoid this in the future if possible. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Bobbi, moving the container gently would not cause the monarch to die….when this happens, it could be due to parasites (if this was the case you would see fly maggots/red pupae fall to the floor OR that milkweed was treated with an insect growth regulator. It’s hard to say for sure, but those are the likely suspects.

  16. I gave my daughter & her spouse some milkweed for their new secret garden and we have created a Monarch monster. Right now they have over 50 cats and 30 chrysalises and eggs to numerous to count. I think their secret is all the fruit trees and plants that are blooming right now in Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach, Florida and the fact that their garden is secluded and protected and has such a wonderful mix of all kinds of plants including so many citrus and other fruit trees and flowering fruit plants & shrubs.
    I had caterpillars early on in January and February, but have had none since March. My garden is more of a full sun, right out in the middle of everything butterfly garden. I am hoping to expand the butterfly more as the year goes on. Would also like to start a night moth garden.
    I have enjoyed reading the results of the survey. I did not participate since I just moved to Jax Bch the end of last year so didn’t really have much to contribute.
    I would be interested to know what you recommend for treat the Milkweed with and proportions you mix to treat it with. Also is it better to water in the morning and afternoon instead of late evening & at night? I think I read somewhere that the Monarchs are very susceptible to cold & wet and can die from, I guess, hypothermia?

    1. Hi Milly, congrats on the secret garden success! The survey was designed to start new conversations about these problems in continuous growing regions, but there are not any definitive answers at this point…just ideas. Personally, if I lived in these regions I would probably try experimenting with hydrogen peroxide before bleach, because hydrogen peroxide is actually good for plant health. As for watering, I would not worry about monarchs getting ‘too cold’ in Florida. Watering in the morning is better so excess water has a chance to evaporate during the day…too much moisture can cause fungus. Here more info about using hydrogen peroxide in the garden:

      Hydrogen Peroxide in the garden

  17. What is OE? Is it the virus withe black spits the milkweed can get? I live in Los Angeles

      1. I think I missed what you rinse the milkweed with to remove OE . Can you repeat the instructions? Thank you so much for your blog. Thoroughly enjoy it!

        1. Hi Barbara, for raising purposes I only rinse with water under the faucet (in Minnesota). There is also info here about soaking cuttings in bleach and treating garden plants outdoors. we really need more studies on this to discover the most effective solutions.

      2. Hi Tony,
        I was one of those hard heads that thought putting entire plants the cage with the caterpillars was the way to go. That was until I experienced the worst outbreak of OE of the century !! Caterpillars were dying, chrysalises were oozing, and if butterflies did exit from the chrysalis, most of them were so deformed, I had to freeze them ! What a disaster. Almost made me want to give up this hobby. Until I educated myself. I began decontaminating the eggs, the plants, and the cages. I began placing leafs and cuttings only in the cage. I clean the cage twice daily. I now have a wonderful batch of 15 fat, healthy caterpillars in my baby cube. I am so happy now, and I would NEVER put another entire plant in with my cats. Another thing with this bad practice is, there is no way to clean the frass, there will be mold, and it just keeps the cats dirty, which causes disease.

        1. Hi Natasha, I’m happy to hear instead of giving up, you made some changes and are now having success…congrats!

  18. We have collected over 30 cats so far and released (5) monarchs. We have another 20 chrysallis waiting to hatch. We are in Houston, TX. Bought (18) new Milkweek plants in addition to the 12 that came back. Planted many seeds and have many tiny milkweeds trying to grow. oh so slowly.

  19. Much to my horror the rabbits ate all the blossoms and leaves from 1 asc. curass., but left the other 5 plants alone. I am protecting the rest with chicken wire. This a.m. I saw a big (1 1/2″) unknown yellow butterfly circling the milkweeds, yea. My milkweeds seem to grow too slowly. Lots of flowering plants/trees around my house.

  20. Hi Tony,
    I live in South Florida and really appreciate your website. I have been providing my Monarchs Tropical Milkweed plants from local nurseries for several months. My involvement in minimal, mostly putting new pots where needed for the hungry cats and cutting back plants as needed. I have had good success. Here’s the problem: I had been getting the Tropical Milkweed plants with red/orange flowers, but in a pinch brought home a few Tropical Milkweed plants with yellow flowers. When I bought them, the person at the nursery said the only difference was color. By the next morning I had a dozen dead cats. When I called the nursery about this, the manager said everyone knows you cannot mix the two colors because it will kill the cats. Really? In all of my research about doing this, I have never seen that info anywhere. In fact, I see info that suggests providing a variety of milkweed in the garden. Please advise. I am so sad.

    1. Hi Emily, ‘silky gold’ tropical milkweed is fine for caterpillars and we have fed our caterpillars with it many times. unfortunately, it sounds like your new plant was probably treated with pesticides. I would only buy from nurseries you’re sure grow pesticide-free milkweed. You can also find good options for shipping online:

      Suggested Milkweed Stores

  21. Tony

    Thanks for your poll work. For the good of many, I want to thank you for getting involved in polling your readers!!!!

    You have a resource available to only a very few for understanding the whole picture (milkweed, population, modifications/changes in locations, diseases, predators, etc). We need a lot of data.

    Gary Zuck

    1. Hi Gary, I’m hoping some of the info here (I’ve added a bit more since the post was published) will at least spark a few ideas about alternative solutions for growing more milkweed and supporting healthy monarchs. It would be ideal if scientists/enthusiasts who live in these regions would research these issues further and come up with some viable solutions that will have a positive impact on monarchs in continuous growing regions.

  22. I belong to a community garden in central Florida. We are in the process of planting
    pollinator plants around the garden fence. We will be use the information presented here in deciding what to plant.

    It would be great if this information is available in PDF format for sending to other garden members.

    1. Hi Al, keep in mind this info is compiled from those in your region as well as other continuous growing regions like California. It’s more of a conversation starter and a call to more research in specific regions. I will link an xcel file on the page for download soon for those that want an easier format to view the info…

  23. One other thing. I live in south central PA. Our milkweed dies off in the winter and it starts all over again in the spring. I am waiting to see how this years crop turns out. I stratified the seeds but I did not plant them in winter containers. I will wait see what to see how this years milkweed crop turns out. As I previously reported, I did not see many Monarch over the summer but I feel successful since I am sure the butterflies I released are the last instars of the summer and the Monarchs are flying south to Mexico.

  24. Last year I planted Common Milkweed in my garden that I obtained from an area about to be mowed. I also sowed Common Milkweed seed in the same area. I had several plants grow but looked pretty scrawny. I also planted some Butterfly Weed seed in the same area. It also grew pretty scrawny. I only saw a few Monarchs during the summer which disappointed me. I looked on the milkweed daily and saw no signs of eggs or cats. I knew of other milkweed patches near my home and had been checking them. I was again disappointed that I could not find any eggs or cats. We went on vacation at the end of July and returned the first week of August 2016. My grandson and I checked the garden and we located several cats on both Common and Butterfly weed. We collected them and placed them in a small green house I had purchased. One that I removed the plastic covering and replaced it with a mosquito netting to give them ventilation. I moved the structure into my sunroom. I placed the cats in a small plastic container with milkweed leaves. I collected milkweed leaves from the other patches in the neighborhood and fed them. I collected and released 35 Monarchs from August 8th to September 24th. I also gave my grandson two cats to take to school and they were also released. I only experienced the loss of 3 chrysalises during that time. Today is April 22, 2017. In the past week and I have sowed Common Milkweed seed and Butterfly Weed seed in one area and I had planted three Swamp Milkweed plants in my garden. I am still waiting to some life. Last summer I also collected swallow cats from my neighbors parsley plant. I kept them in my garage and now I have them in my sun room. In the past two days two Black Swallowtails came out of Chrysalis. I released one yesterday and there is still one to be released in the net container

  25. This year I have had 100% survival rate on cats brought inside as eggs and raised on cutting from my garden and a 90% survival rate on cats brought insideand raised from cutting. None of the above have yet progressed beyond chrysalis so far, but I am hoping they will all survive. I’ll answer some of your questions on your survey.

  26. Dear Tony : I’m soo happy !! This year it has been very good for My monarchs and Queen Butterflies. I already released around 30 Monarchs and 20 Queens !! And right now I have an invasion of Monarchs laying eggs over my Giant milkweed ! A[so I have about 25 caterpillars ready inside the cage( I bought from you ) to become chrysallis !! I been enjoying my season very much !! Thanks !!

  27. I started my milkweed indoors in October of last year did nothing special just planted and watered once a week. Then early this year put some outside and left some indoors and when the weather stared to warm up put them all outside. In the last month I went from nothing thinking they were dead to so far about 35 out of about 110 sees have come up. I have prepared space for them and will be transplanting them soon. From Southeastern Ohio

  28. As a grower, I learned that many growers will add an insecticide to their plants to prevent insect damage before the get them to market.
    I make it a point to bring any Plants That I don’t grow myself, keep them isolated from my garden for a week two. I don’t want to expose my established Garden to any chemicals or insects to what ever someone else may have put in them.

  29. Did I miss something! I live in central Florida and have plenty of Milkweed, of course the tropical Milkweed, but have no other option. I have started. Group here, now up to 20 people and growing. Up to now I only knew to cut back all Milkweed twice, to ward off the dreaded OE problem. Your Email talked about cleaning the actual plant. Is that a safe option?
    Thanks for any help in advance
    P.s, we are all trying to raise cats from eggs, hoping this will give them a little more help

    1. Hi Jo Ann…your point is part of what this post is addressing. Tropical milkweed is by far the easiest to grow in your region which is why you plant it and why it’s so easy to find at nurseries. There are potential issues with disease because tropical milkweed is a continuous growing plant. I’m hoping that people start to realize this isn’t a plant vs. don’t plant discussion, but an opportunity to discuss how to grow other species with more success, and how to make tropical milkweed a safer option for Florida (and other continuous region) butterflies. Yes, bringing in eggs makes a difference if you are thoroughly rinsing milkweed.

  30. Tony- this is one of the best articles yet! We are in Cypress, CA and having a GREAT year so far. Have released about 35 in the last 3 days and have about 50 more waiting to hatch. It’s to the point that we are not bringing the Cats in until they are about to “J”. We have 3 cages going now. Thanks for so much great info.

    1. Hi Jacque, I’m glad you find the info here helpful. I’m hoping it can start discussions that will make a positive impact for both the eastern and western populations…

  31. Thank you so much for creating the poll and publishing the results, very educational! Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks Carol, I’m hoping it will start a discussion on what can be done to grow more milkweed in these regions and produce healthier butterflies.

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