May 14, 2012

Purple Milkweed Blooms Create a Buzz

Purple milkweed (asclepias purpurascens) attracts bees and other pollinators.
A Monarch Butterfly host plant. May 2012
The first milkweed to bloom in my garden is ascelpias purpurascens, a native wildflower. Blooming and returning reliably this purple milkweed was purchased and planted four years ago. To date, there are only two seedlings that have volunteered nearby. Unlike common milkweed (ascelpias syriaca), this one isn't an agressive self-sowing perennial and I'd actually like to see more of this asclepias variety.

Being deer and rabbit resistant, the only issue I've had has been with the orange and black milkweed bugs eating the blooms. I pick those bugs off the flowers and send them packing.

The large globe blooms attract pollinators and the leaves are food for the caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly—though they seem to like the thin-leaved swamp milkweed (asclepias incarnata) when choosing plants in my garden for egg-laying. There have been times when I've had to move Monarch caterpillars from the swamp milkweed to the leaves of the purple milkweed!  I tend to think this is because of the location of the milkweeds, with the swamp being among lush plants that serve as good places for the chrysalis and metamorphosis.

The veins in the long leaves of purple milkweed are a deep raspberry color like the large blooms. The sturdy stems are not weighed down by the blooms, standing straight in the garden, up to three feet in height and two feet in width. It is easy to tuck this one into a small space.

Hardy in zones 3-9, purple milkweed prefers a bit more moisture when planted in full sun (as in my garden). Though, in my garden, it is planted in a rather dry area, but the roots are shaded by neighboring perennials such as nepeta and agastache.

This is my favorite milkweed in terms of ornamental uses in the garden as well as being out of the ground in time for the early migrating Monarch butterflies.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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