Milkweed, why?

I've given the milkweed patch in my garden a few years to start attracting swarms of monarch butterflies, and because this is common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) which spreads from its roots... has taken over the entire "prairie" portion of my garden. I let it because it's easier for the butterflies to spot a large patch, right?


The spreading wouldn't be a huge problem if the patch were working, but I've never seen a single monarch caterpillar anywhere, any year -- including this one. Every year I say "maybe I'll give it another year". Why?

If you're not familiar with common milkweed, it's not a small plant.

These are 6' (1.8m) tall at least, maybe a bit more.

A few weeks back I finally made my decision: out they come!

I first cleared the pathways...

...then made my way into the beds. Most of these pulled out quite easily, but some were tough.

I left a few here and there because they have great blooms, nice big leaves, and I like the height, but probably 75 stalks went into the compost pile:

That's just one wheelbarrow load of them. Look out for the milky sap, as it can cause irritation if it gets on your skin. (I got some on my arms but didn't have a noticeable reaction.)

When I was finished, I knew I had made the right choice.

Look, you can see a garden again!

And I can't believe I left this vignette blocked from view for months:

I love those two bamboos together! (Indocalamus sp. 'Solidus' is the tall dark green one, and Pleioblastus fortunei is the smaller variegated species.)

I've learned now: if the plant isn't pleasing, it doesn't matter how beneficial it is -- don't let it into your garden! (or at least do it on a very limited scale)

I have seen monarchs flying around at times, so I wonder if the caterpillars are being eaten while small? 


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Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax!  – (August 6, 2018 at 12:37 PM)  

I enjoyed this post because I have never seen a monarch butterfly in real life but know they like milk weed. I've never known what milkweed looks like - and now I do.

Alan  – (August 6, 2018 at 2:04 PM)  

Lucy: this is just what one type of milkweed looks like. There are others that look more garden-worthy.

Lisa  – (August 6, 2018 at 7:37 PM)  

It does look so much better. And I agree with you - if it's not working, out it goes! I have swamp milkweed and tropical milkweed growing in my bog and butterfly weed in several beds, but we do see lots of monarchs and caterpillars. But I still keep the plants manageable - it's a give and take!

chavliness  – (August 8, 2018 at 10:06 AM)  

Maybe if you planted the "uncommon" milkweed they'll come?

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