33 Types of NATIVE Milkweed You Can Plant (2023)

33 Types of NATIVE Milkweed You Can Plant (2023)

“What types of milkweed should I plant in my garden?”

This may seem like a crazy question if you’re just getting started with native gardening. Why would you want to plant a weed?!

But milkweed isn’t a weed at all. Instead, it’s a flowering plant that attracts butterflies (think Monarchs), native bees, and other pollinating insects, which is an excellent thing!

This article will give you information about common types of milkweed in your area and which ones will be best for your garden.

You will notice a USDA Hardiness Zone for many of the Milkweed plants in the article. This refers to areas of the US where plants do best, based on temperature. Here is a map showing the hardiness zones of the United States:

Hardiness Zones in the United States range from 1a to 13b.

#1. Common Milkweed 

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Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 3 to 5 feet; up to 8 feet.
  • Bloom Time: June to August


Common Milkweed is the species most people think of when they hear the name milkweed. It’s a hardy perennial and one of the most common types of milkweed in the United States.


Milkweed gets its name from the latex or milky white secretions produced if the stem or leaves are broken. The leaves are oval, about six to eight inches long, and dark green.

The blooms of the Common Milkweed plant are clusters of tiny flowers on stems that radiate from the larger central stem. These clusters are called umbels. The fragrant flowers are greenish-pink, pink, or purple and give way to 4-inch seed pods in the late summer and early fall. Initially, the pods are green but slowly mature to brown. Eventually, they split open, revealing seeds and fluffy white material called coma that allows the seeds to disperse on the wind.


Common Milkweed is an incredibly important wildflower in the United States.

Over 450 native insects feed on the nectar, sap, leaves, and flowers. In addition, it’s an important food source for caterpillars of the Monarch Butterfly (Danuas plexippus). The adult butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on members of the milkweed (Asclepias) family.

Interestingly, all milkweed species contain cardiac glycoside compounds. Monarch Butterflies and other insects consume milkweed and store the compounds in their bodies. Potential predators have learned to steer clear of Monarchs to avoid this dangerous and bitter poison!


Common Milkweed is relatively easy to grow, and it’s one of the easiest ways you can help support Monarch Butterflies. You’ll need a place that receives full sun for planting. Common Milkweed does best in well-drained areas but isn’t picky about soil and can be grown in clay, loamy, or sandy areas. They tolerate poor soils and don’t need to be fertilized. It’s essential never to use pesticides on these plants since they kill species like Monarch Butterflies.


Common Milkweed can spread by seed, or underground rhizomes, which are root colonies. This means you can add Common Milkweed to your garden by directly sowing seeds or planting cuttings from an existing plant.


#2. Whorled Milkweed

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Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1 to 3 feet
  • Bloom Time: May to September


Whorled Milkweed is the most broadly distributed milkweed species in the United States.


This unique perennial is sometimes overlooked by gardeners who want to plant milkweed. Compared to other varieties, it has a narrow stem and spiky leaves arranged in a spiral pattern. When not in bloom, it easily blends in among grasses.

It blooms from May to September, forming flat-topped clusters of small greenish-white flowers on the end of each stem. The flowers attract various insects, including bees, wasps, butterflies, skippers, beetles, and flies.


Whorled Milkweed is still a welcome host plant for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars despite its unique appearance. Since this species is one of the last milkweeds to die back in the fall, it’s a great late-season host for Monarchs preparing to migrate south!


This delicate-looking wildflower can easily grow from seed, but it may not flower the first year. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Whorled Milkweed thrives in various habitats, including fields, pastures, roadsides, dry prairies, dry slopes, woodlands, and meadows. Unfortunately, it’s highly poisonous to livestock and is considered a nuisance weed in agricultural areas.

It grows best in dry soil of various types, including sandy, rocky, and clay soils. It can also be grown in moist, average garden soil. Keep in mind that it is an aggressive spreader by seeds and underground rhizomes, so you may not want to choose this milkweed if you have a limited area for gardening.


#3. Desert Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-11
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1.5 to 4 feet
  • Bloom Time: May to July


As the name suggests, this species is commonly found in desert regions. Desert Milkweed often grows on dry slopes and washes. The stems are yellow to green and broader at the base.


Identifying this species can be difficult as there’s some variation in the leaves. They grow in pairs on the stem and may be completely smooth or densely covered in cream-colored hair. They’re generally dull grayish or pale to dark green. Desert Milkweed blooms from May to July, forming rounded umbels or clusters of about 20 small flowers atop the stems. The flowers are white, cream, or yellow.

Desert Milkweed is quite adaptable and can be grown from seed in many home gardens. It needs well-drained sandy soils in areas with low organic matter. It should be planted in full sun. Like other milkweeds, its large taproot gives it excellent drought tolerance.


This species is a host plant for the Monarch Butterfly, Queen Butterfly, Clio Tiger Moth, and Euchaetes Zella Moth. The blooms also attract a variety of pollinators, including native bees.


#4. Butterfly Weed

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Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 2 to 3 feet
  • Bloom Time: May to September


Butterfly Weed is a showy member of the milkweed family. Sometimes called Orange Milkweed, this perennial wildflower features large flat-topped clusters of tiny flowers that grow 2 to 5 inches across. The blooms are brilliant orange or yellow.


Interestingly, its dark green leaves and stems don’t produce the same milky sap as other species of milkweed in the United States.


Butterfly Weed is an excellent choice for gardens and or wildflower meadows. The beautiful flowers are fragrant and are ideal for cut flower arrangements. They also attract native bees, butterflies, and honeybees to your garden. Butterfly Weed is also a host plant for Monarch, Gray Hairstreak, and Queen butterfly caterpillars.

This native flower is a great low-maintenance choice for the home gardener. Butterfly Weed’s deep taproots mean you’ll never need to water it once it’s established. In addition, this plant is highly drought tolerant and thrives in full sun. Butterfly Weed also does fine without any fertilization but grows best in rocky or sandy soil.


Unlike Common Milkweed, this species doesn’t transplant well and should be started from seed.


#5. Purple Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 2 to 3 feet
  • Bloom Time: May to July


Purple Milkweed is one of the most vibrantly colorful species of milkweed in the United States!


It produces a beautiful, rounded cluster of bright purple flowers. The flowers are fragrant and attract various nectar-seeking insects, including Monarchs and many other butterflies.

Sadly, this species of milkweed is considered endangered or of special concern in parts of its range. This beautiful wildflower is an essential host species for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars which feed on the leaves. Look for Purple Milkweed in open woodlands, ridges, thickets, meadows, prairie openings, stream banks, and wet meadows in the wild.


In the garden, it’s easy to cultivate in average, well-drained soil. It does well in poor-quality or dry soils and is very drought-tolerant once established. Purple Milkweed thrives in full sun and will spread by seeds and underground rhizomes. It often forms extensive colonies, so make sure you have plenty of space if you choose this milkweed!


#6. White Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: Up to 3 feet
  • Bloom Time: May to July


White Milkweed has distinctive, spherical clusters of about 30 small, white flowers. At first, the flower buds are green but turn white before blossoming. There are tinges of purple at the base, which is why this perennial is also called Redring Milkweed. The flowers are full of nectar and have a sweet fragrance that attracts bees, wasps, butterflies, and ants.


Unlike many milkweed species that prefer full sun, White Milkweed typically grows in open woodland and along woodland edges. However, in the garden, it thrives in areas with partial shade and creates a snowball effect with its gorgeous round clusters of white flowers.

Sadly, this milkweed species is endangered in parts of its range, but it can be cultivated from seed. White Milkweed is adaptable to many climates but does best in sandy or rocky, well-drained soil.


White Milkweed doesn’t typically form large colonies in a natural setting, unlike other milkweed species. Combined with its tendency to grow in partial shade, this scarcity means it isn’t a critical host plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. However, they will occasionally use it in a garden setting. Other insects like bees, tussock caterpillars, and local butterflies will also be attracted to White Milkweed.


#7. Poke Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 2 to 6 feet
  • Bloom Time: May to August


Poke Milkweed’s flower clusters are pendulous, hanging down from the plant like a weeping willow. They typically have about ten flowers, white with a green or lavender tinge. The leaves of the Poke Milkweed plant are dark green with purplish veins that stand out.


Unlike many milkweed species in the United States, Poke Milkweed is often found in partial shade.


This species can be grown in partial shade to full sunlight in the garden. It prefers soil with moderate moisture and rich organic material. It can be grown successfully in many home gardens and is easy to start from seed.


Poke Milkweed is an excellent addition to any butterfly lover’s garden. It’s a host plant for the caterpillars of Monarchs, Great Spangled Fritillaries, Tiger Swallowtails, Skippers, and Pearl Crescents. Its blooms also attract various other bees and butterflies.


#8. Green Comet Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1.5 to 2 feet
  • Bloom Time: June to September


Green Comet Milkweed flower clusters form in the pocket created by the upper leaves. They’re made up of 20 to 80 small, pale green flowers. Interestingly, the yellowish-green leaves of this species vary in shape depending upon their habitat. Plants from moist sites tend to have rounder leaves, while plants from dry sites have long, narrow leaves.


In the wild, this species is often found on shaded roadsides, savannas, and prairies with moist to dry soil. In the garden, you can grow Green Comet Milkweed from seeds. It grows best in light to moderate shade but will tolerate full sun. Medium-dry to dry soil is best. Green Comet Milkweed doesn’t need rich soil and will tolerate sandy or rocky soil with low organic matter.


This species is a good choice for low-maintenance gardens as its long taproot allows it to tolerate drought well. Unlike many other milkweeds, this species is easy to prevent from spreading. It doesn’t form the large colonies typical to other milkweeds, so it’s an excellent option for smaller gardens!


The Green Comet Milkweed’s copious nectar and sweet fragrance attract many pollinators, including honeybees, native bees, and butterflies. It’s also a host plant for Monarch Butterflies, though it can be more challenging for monarchs to find because of its scarcity and preference for partial shade.


#9. Showy Milkweed

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Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1.5 to 3 feet; occasionally up to 6 feet
  • Bloom Time: May to September


As the name suggests, Showy Milkweed features flashy pink and white umbels or clusters of small flowers. The flowers are fragrant, and individual flowers look a bit like crowns. In ideal conditions, Showy Milkweed may grow as tall as 6 feet!

As a garden plant, Showy Milkweed has the benefit of being a less aggressive spreader than most other milkweed varieties in the United States. It can be grown easily from seed or the cuttings of an existing plant. It’s very drought tolerant and can be grown in a wide range of soils.


Like other milkweeds, Showy Milkweed attracts native insects and Monarch Butterflies to your yard or garden. Monarchs will visit the flowers for nectar and lay eggs on the plants, which are host plants for the Monarch caterpillars. It will also attract beautiful Queen and Viceroy butterflies to your property!


#10. Green Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 10 inches to 2 feet
  • Bloom Time: April to September


In the wild, Green Milkweed can be found growing on prairies, roadsides, clearings, ditches, and disturbed roadsides. It thrives in dry areas with limestone soils and grows in large clusters.


Typically, one Green Milkweed stem will produce a single cluster of small flowers. The flowers are white or yellow-green with a purple tinge. Larger plants may have multiple clusters on one stem.


Green Milkweed can be easily grown from seed in home gardens. It is tolerant of light shade but does best in areas that receive full sun. Its large taproot gives it excellent drought resistance. Sow it in areas with well-drained sandy or rocky soil for best results.


This is one of the first species of milkweed in the United States to die back in late summer.


This makes it less appealing to Monarchs and other moths and butterflies as a host plant than other species. However, it is still sometimes used, and resident butterflies and other pollinators frequent its flowers for nectar.


#11. Aquatic Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-11
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1.5 to 2 feet
  • Bloom Time: May to September


Aquatic Milkweed can only grow in areas where the soil is continuously wet! Therefore, it can be found in floodplains, waterway margins, marshes, cypress swamps, ditches, and wetlands in the wild. This perennial is easily identified by the large pink spot at the tip of the unopened flowers.


Aquatic Milkweed produces umbels with about 25 flowers. The flowers are typically white or light pink.

Although it has fairly specific requirements, Aquatic Milkweed can be grown in home gardens in the right climate. It needs full sunlight and continuously moist soil. It’s an excellent choice for planting around water features and wet areas.


This species is a host for Monarch, Queen, and Soldier Butterfly caterpillars which eat the plant’s leaves. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are also attracted to the plant’s fragrant flowers.


#12. Antelope Horns

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Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1 to 2 feet
  • Bloom Time: March to October


Antelope Horns, also known as spider flower, tends to sprawl toward the ground instead of standing upright. The stems of this milkweed are green-tinged with maroon and densely covered in tiny hairs.


This milkweed species gets its name from its relatively distinctive seed pods. The curved, upturned pods are thought to resemble antelope horns. When viewed from a distance, these plants resemble a field of antelope. The leaves are narrow, up to 8 inches long, and fold inward along the middle vein. Look for the whitish-green or purple flower clusters during its long blooming season.

Like other milkweeds, Antelope Horns’ flowers attract a variety of pollinators. Large native bee species regularly visit the blooms. The plants are also hosts for Monarch, Soldier, and Queen butterfly caterpillars.


This species is relatively easy to grow from seed. Antelope Horns need full sun to thrive and prefer sandy or rocky soil with little organic matter. It’s a great low-maintenance choice, and it thrives without any fertilization and little watering due to its large taproot.


#13. Narrowleaf Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-10
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1 to 3 feet
  • Bloom Time: June to September


Narrowleaf Milkweed, sometimes called Mexican Whorled Milkweed in the United States, is often seen growing in large groups. It has a much more delicate, grass-like appearance than Common Milkweed.


It’s most conspicuous when it’s in bloom, from June through September. The blooms are upright clusters of about 20 small flowers. The flowers are variable in color, from greenish to pink, white, and even purple. The thin, spiky leaves are arranged in a spiral around the stem. Beginning in July, seed pods replace the blooms. The seed pods are narrow, thin, smooth, and long. They split down the side and release wind-borne light brown seeds and coma when mature.


In the wild, Narrowleaf Milkweed is typically found in the dry climates of plains, foothills, valleys, and roadsides. In the garden, it can be started from seed and is a great low-maintenance plant. It thrives in areas with full sun and is drought-tolerant.


This species is a host plant for the caterpillars of Monarch and Queen Butterflies and Isabella Tiger, Clio Tiger, Hitched Arches, and Euchaetes Zella moths Various other pollinators like bumblebees and wasps also visit the plant’s blooms.


#14. Swamp Milkweed

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Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-6
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 3 to 5 feet
  • Bloom Time: June to October


As the name suggests, this moisture-loving perennial is typically found growing wild on creek banks and ditches or in openings in swamps, bogs, marshes, and other wet areas. So if you’re looking for a plant for the wet spot in your yard, Swamp Milkweed is a perfect choice.


This species thrives in wet, mucky clay soils. It’s great for planting around ponds or streams on your property. This species requires full sun to thrive and spreads through both seeds and underground rhizomes.


Like other milkweeds in the United States, the blooms are clusters of smaller flowers. The light pink, purple, or white flowers of Swamp Milkweed will attract various species of native bees and butterflies to your garden. It’s also a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars.


#15. California Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-10
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1.5 to 3 feet
  • Bloom Time: April to July


The California Milkweed is a perennial herb with a unique, wooly appearance. The dull grayish-green stems and leaves are thickly covered in white hairs.


The blooms of this species are pendulous, drooping clusters of about ten small pink or lavender flowers. The wool-like hair found on the stems and leaves is present everywhere but the flower head.

In the wild, California Milkweed grows on dry slopes, canyons, chaparral, or woodland foothills. It does well in hot, dry conditions. California Milkweed should be grown in full sun because it doesn’t tolerate even partial shade. Due to its large taproot, it’s extremely drought tolerant once established and thrives in a wide range of soils, including sand and clay. It does best in well-drained soil.


If you’re looking for a plant that will tolerate hot, dry weather and attract pollinators, California Milkweed might be perfect! Its flowers attract a variety of bee and butterfly species. California Milkweed is also a host plant for Monarch Butterfly, Queen Butterfly, and Clio Tiger Moth caterpillars.


#16. Sandhill Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-11
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1 to 3 feet
  • Bloom Time: March to June


Sandhill Milkweed in the United States has a pretty unique growth habit. Its Latin name “humistrata” means low growing or sprawling, which is a perfect description for Sandhill Milkweed, which grows flat or nearly flat along the ground. It’s often found within or adjacent to open forests and grows in areas with very dry sandy soils that receive full sunlight.


This species produces clusters of about 30 flowers. The cream, white, or light pink flowers give way to smooth, erect seed pods 3 to 6 inches long. When mature, they split and release brown seed and white coma.


Sandhill Milkweed can be propagated from seeds or cuttings and is relatively low maintenance. It should be planted in areas with dry sandy soil that receive full sun or nearly full sun.


This milkweed species is a host to Monarch and Queen Butterfly caterpillars that feed on the plant’s leaves. Sandhill Milkweed flowers also attract various pollinators and are a favorite of native bees.


#17. Zizotes Milkweed

Growing Information:

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-9
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 1 to 1.5 feet
  • Bloom Time: March to September


This species is also known simply as Zizotes or “hierba de zizotes.” It’s the least hardy species of milkweed in the United States and requires a warm climate to survive.


The greenish-white flowers of the Zizotes Milkweed are notable for their long, slender hoods, which extend up and over the central column making this species easy to identify in bloom. The individual flowers look like tiny champagne flutes!


This species can grow in the wild in prairies, fields, desert grasslands, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and ditches with sandy or rocky soil. At home gardens, Zizotes Milkweed can be grown from seed. However, this species does not tolerate shade and should be planted in full sun with dry, sandy soil.


This milkweed species is especially notable because it can survive periodic droughts and even occasional mowing. As a result, it’s an easy way to incorporate pollinator-friendly, native plants into your landscape. In addition, like other milkweeds, this species is an important host plant for the caterpillars of Monarchs.

#18. Clasping Milkweed

Asclepias amplexicaulis. (2023, July 1). In Wikipedia.

Clasping Milkweed is a fairly rare species. It is named for its characteristic leaves, which wrap around or clasp the stem.

Clasping Milkweed has thick waxy leaves, which are an adaptation to their habitat. They hold extra moisture, allowing the plant to survive severe droughts. Clasping Milkweed grows in prairies, open savannas, meadows, and other natural areas with few or widely spaced trees.

Unlike most other milkweed species in the United States, Clasping Milkweed features just a single rounded cluster of about 25 large, fragrant flowers. The individual flowers are usually pinkish or purplish with some green or cream in them with petals that are bent backward.

Clasping Milkweed has very specific habitat needs. This perennial grows best in full sunlight in areas with dry, sandy, or gravelly soil and little competition from other perennials.

#19. Four-leaved Milkweed

Four-leaved Milkweed, also called Whorled Milkweed, gets its name from its leaves that grow in whorls of four around the middle section of the stem. The individual leaves are pointed at both ends and egg-shaped to lanceolate.

While not rare in the United States, it is a lesser-known and harder-to-find milkweed species! Unlike many of its more common cousins, Four-leaved Milkweed is a forest-dweller. You can usually find Four-leaved Milkweed growing in open, dry, rocky woodlands, slopes, and ridges.

In May or June, Four-leaved Milkweed blooms with 1 to 3 rounded clusters of pale pink or white flowers from the tip of the plant. The flowers may be upright or drooping. The flowers give way to smooth, green seed pods.

#20. Tall Green Milkweed

  • Asclepias hirtella

Also known as Prairie Milkweed, this single-stemmed perennial grows up to 3 feet (1 m) tall. Like other milkweeds, the leaves and stems have white, latex-like sap.

Tall Green Milkweed has flower clusters that look a bit like green pom-poms. Each plant typically produces clusters of 30 to 100 tiny, greenish-white flowers, more than most other milkweed species. The flowers form along the length of the stem.

You’ll likely find this milkweed species in the United States growing in prairies and other open habitats like rocky glades, roadsides, sandy wetland edges, pastures, and abandoned fields. Tall Green Milkweed thrives in areas with full sun and well-drained soil.

#21. Prairie Milkweed

  • Asclepias sullivantii

Also called Sullivant’s Milkweed or Smooth Milkweed, this perennial grows from deep rhizomes. Look for a plant with one to three dome-shaped clusters of pinkish or purplish flowers.

In some areas, Prairie Milkweed is listed as threatened. It originally grew in native tallgrass prairies, which were largely destroyed with the spread of modern agriculture.

Today, you’ll find Prairie Milkweed growing in meadows, prairies, and other open areas in the United States. It does well in moist areas like river bottomland but cannot tolerate degraded soils. Many of the remaining patches of Prairie Milkweed grow in preserved patches of tall grass prairie that grow along railroads.

#22. Fewflower Milkweed

Fewflower Milkweed grows to a surprising 3 to 5 feet tall and features stunning clusters of fiery orange flowers. These tall, narrow plants are tough to spot and almost invisible in their native landscape until they bloom!

However, Fewflower Milkweed still features the tell-tale white sap of the milkweed genus. Like other milkweeds in the United States, it’s an essential source of food for Monarch, Queen, and Soldier caterpillars that are specially adapted to feed on milkweeds’ toxic sap.

This delicate perennial grows in swamps, wet pinelands, coastal prairies, ditches, and fresh and brackish marshes. It does well in areas that are seasonally inundated with water.

#23. Longleaf Milkweed

Longleaf Milkweed is a slender, unbranched perennial. As the name suggests, the leaves are often much longer than other milkweed species. The leaves also help set this species apart as each plant has a large number of leaves, so many that they’re not easily countable at a glance.

Usually, Longleaf Milkweed blooms in the spring, but occasionally, you’ll see it blooming in summer or early fall. The flowers form in clusters at the top of the plant’s stem. The individual flowers are greenish with white corollas tinged with purple.

Longleaf Milkweed grows in the United States in bogs, moist to wet flatwoods, and prairies. It prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Unfortunately, Longleaf Milkweed is rare or extinct in parts of its former range.

#24. Broadleaf Milkweed

Glance at a Broadleaf Milkweed from a distance, and you may think you’ve spotted a cabbage plant rather than a milkweed! Their large, rounded, thick, dark green leaves give the plant its name and distinctive appearance. But both the leaves and the stems contain the milky sap that helps identify any milkweed species.

Clusters of cream, pale green, or yellowish flowers form along the stem and are often almost hidden by the leaves. The flowers give way to pairs of erect, large, smooth seed pods. The seed pods mature from green to brown and split open to release flattened brown seeds, each attached to a silky pappus that the wind disperses.

Broadleaf Milkweed in the United States grows along trails, railroad right-of-ways, roadsides, and in desert scrub, pinyon-juniper woodlands, disturbed areas, and overgrazed pastures. The plants’ large, thick leaves help them to thrive in full sun and dry soil.

#25. Oval-leaved

© Sean Frey

This lesser-known milkweed plant can be tricky to spot in the United States! The slender, unbranched stems do not grow very tall, making them blend in with the surrounding plants. Look for it growing in dry soil in prairies, savannas, dry riparian terraces, and open pine woodlands.

As the name suggests, Oval-leaved Milkweed has opposite, oval-shaped leaves that are a little broader at the base and narrow to the tip.

Oval-leaved Milkweeds usually flower between May and July. Typically, the flowers are white with some pale green or pinkish-purple tones and often fade to yellow with age.

The flowers give way to narrow, spindle-shaped pods. These erect pods mature to brown and split open along one side to release brown seeds with silky pappuses that are spread by the wind.

#26. Horsetail Milkweed

  • Asclepias subverticillata

This milkweed has a delicate, feathery appearance, with narrow leaves forming in whorls. You might spot Horsetail Milkweed blooming throughout the summer, between May and September. Look for clusters of little white, greenish, or purplish star-shaped flowers.

The flowers give way to slender, erect seed pods. The seed pods split open upon maturity and release brown seeds with silky pappuses that disperse on the wind. The Zuni people traditionally gathered these seed pods and spun the fibers of the pappuses to make clothing.

You can find Horsetail Milkweed in the United States growing in sandy or rocky plains, mesas, desert slopes, and along roadsides. Like other milkweeds, the Horsetail Milkweed is an important larval host plant for several butterfly species.

#27. Humboldt Mountain Milkweed

In addition to Humboldt Mountain Milkweed, you may hear this species called Phallid Milkweed, Jewel Milkweed, Prostrate Milkweed, or Cow-Cabbage. Some of these names reflect its unusual appearance. ????

Humboldt Mountain Milkweed is a low-growing or drooping perennial with large, thick, heart-shaped, cabbage-like leaves. The flower clusters at the top of the stem look like jewels in the desert. Look for flowers that feature rose-colored hoods and white or yellowish-green petals that are bent downward. You may spot this plant blooming between April and June.

Humboldt Mountain Milkweed grows best in the United States in areas with full sun and dry rocky or sandy soil. You can find it on talus slopes, roadsides, canyon bottoms, arid plains, and sandy and rocky washes.

#28. Rush Milkweed

Also called Desert Milkweed.

Rush Milkweed is a unique species that grows many stalks from a single root crown and appears naked for most of the growing season! Like many desert perennials, Rush Milkweed only grows leaves after rain.

Thankfully, Rush Milkweed doesn’t need leaves to obtain energy. This horsetail-looking perennial can photosynthesize using the greenish-white tissue that covers its stems.

Amazingly, these plants can produce flowers and seeds with or without rainfall. Small clusters of about ten distinctive creamy white or yellow flowers form atop the bare stems. The flowers’ corollas are folded back to expose five tiny column-like structures with little hooks at the top.

#29. Heart-leaf Milkweed

As the name suggests, Heart-leaf Milkweed has large, heart-shaped leaves. The leaves are oppositely arranged and usually bluish-green in color. Like other milkweeds, splitting a leaf or stem will release a milky white sap.

Sometimes, you may hear Heart-leaf Milkweed called “Purple Milkweed.” This fitting name refers to the several clusters of dark red or purple flowers that form on two-year-old plants.

Native Americans managed and harvested this milkweed for its fiber to make rope and clothing. Archeologists found a 40-foot-long deer made from about 7,000 feet of Heart-leaf Milkweed that would have required harvesting over 35,000 plants!

Today, you can find Heart-leaf Milkweed growing in the United States in dry, rocky areas in deserts, plains, woodlands, chaparral, and evergreen forests. It will grow in the mountains up to about 6,560 feet.

#30. Plains Milkweed

© Jared Shorma

This little milkweed is a creeping perennial that usually grows less than a foot tall. At first glance, Plains Milkweed may look more like rosemary than milkweed! It has small, thin, linear, whorled, or dense alternately-arranged leaves growing up its stems.

Look for Plains Milkweed in the United States in dry, rocky, or sandy prairies or grasslands. Between July and September, globe-shaped clusters of small pink-to-white flowers form at the tip of each stem and sometimes in the axils of the upper leaves.

In addition to being a larval host plant for Monarch, Queen, and Soldier Butterflies, Plains Milkweed is also an important nectar source for various moths and butterflies, including Clarks Sphinx Moths, Milkweed Tussock Moths, Carus Skippers, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, and Falcate Metalmark Butterflies.

#31. Savannah Milkweed

© Jason Ksepka

Savannah Milkweed is one of the smallest milkweed species in the United States, reaching just 0.5 to 1 foot tall! With its small size and greenish-yellow flowers, it blends in well with other herbaceous plants and is easy to overlook, even for dedicated naturalists.

Insects find it quite attractive, though! It’s a larval host for Monarch, Queen, and Soldier butterflies. The blooms appear from late summer to early fall and are also a favorite for pollinators like bees, wasps, and butterflies.

As their name suggests, this milkweed grows in savannahs, prairies, and open pineland habitats. It thrives in full sun to partial shade with moist, well-drained sandy soil.

#32. Pineneedle Milkweed

Asclepias linaria. (2023, September 19). In Wikipedia.

Pineneedle Milkweed is one of the larger milkweed species in the United States, reaching a surprising 5 feet tall!

As you probably guessed, it’s named for its thin, soft pine-needle-like leaves. These narrowly linear leaves are alternately arranged up the entire stems. It forms small clusters of creamy white or greenish-white flowers at the tips of its stems.

Researchers have found that this particular milkweed species is especially helpful for the Monarch Butterfly. Its leaves contain high cardenolide levels, which helps the Monarch Butterfly fight off the OE parasite (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha).

#33. Woollypod Milkweed

Asclepias eriocarpa. (2023, April 22). In Wikipedia.

Woolypod Milkweed is one of the most poisonous milkweed species in the United States!

This may not sound like a good thing, but it’s excellent for Monarchs and other specially adapted butterflies that use the toxins in the plants to ward off predators and parasites.

This erect perennial flowers from late spring to mid-fall. The flowers form in large, elaborate clusters near the top of the plant. The clusters are comprised of many pink, white, or cream-colored flowers.

True to its name, the flowers give way to large seed pods, which have a thick covering of woolly hairs. These seed pods split at maturity to release seeds that will be carried away on the wind thanks to their silky pappus, a parachute-like attachment.

Woollypod Milkweed thrives in full to partial shade in dry or well-drained soils. It’s quite drought tolerant, and you may spot it growing in open woodlands, rocky hillsides, deserts, and other dry areas.


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