How to Take Care of Milkweed Plants

Written by jessica jewell
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Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a perennial herb that usually flowers in light purple and sometimes white. For years it has been used for various reasons, including medicinal purposes and as an attractant source for Monarch butterflies--from which the butterflies get their poison to defend against predators. Due to its various uses, its hardiness and adaptability to various soil conditions, the milkweed is a popular plant in many gardens and landscapes. After proper planting and propagation, there are some simple techniques to adequately care for your milkweed plant to make sure that it lasts for many years.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Garden shears
  • Watering hose
  • Pesticide
  • Garden gloves

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  1. 1

    Clean the soil around the milkweed plant regularly, especially if there are large patches of weeds. Weeds can be especially harmful to milkweed plants and must be properly killed before planting and also when the milkweed has fully bloomed. Clean the area with a garden hoe or rake and make sure the soil is firm around the plant.

  2. 2

    Water your milkweed plant regularly. Do not flood the soil, however. After watering, the ground should be muddy or wet to the touch, but you should not see a visible layer of water on top of the soil. Because the milkweed is well suited for dry and rocky conditions, you should not overwater the plant, as it could damage the root system, or even kill it.

  3. 3

    Shear away the milkweed pods as they develop, though be careful not to directly touch the milkweed sap from the pods. This will help more pods grow, which will attract more butterflies, one of the main reasons for having a milkweed plant.

  4. 4

    Trim the branches of the milkweed plant as they begin to get heavy or large. The milkweed can grow quite rapidly, invading other plants in the area, so regular trimming will help the milkweed continue to grow and keep it healthy for many years.

Tips and warnings

  • Milkweed can become infested with various insect pests throughout the year. Usually these pests will die out quickly. If you are growing your milkweed just for an ornamental use in your garden, then you can spray a simple pesticide on the milkweed plant once a year to kill the infestation. However, if you are using the milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies, do not use a pesticide as it will not only deter the butterflies, but could potentially kill the Monarch caterpillar larvae .
  • Do not touch the sap from the milkweed as it is toxic and can cause damage to your skin and eyes. And while the milkweed is used for various medicinal and food extracts, do not eat or attempt to make medicinal remedies from the milkweed without the guidance from an expert, as the milkweed is extremely poisonous without proper rendering.

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