Plant of the Month for December, 2011
Do you want to encourage Monarch butterflies, but hesitate to grow our native perennial milkweed because of its invasive roots? Jean Gardiner brought this great alternative to our attention and provided the following description.
Asclepias curassavica is native to southern Florida, therefore, acts as an annual in Ontario gardens and so is not invasive. While it is an introduced species, the plant is so similar botanically to our native milkweed that it attracts and provides excellent food for Monarch butterflies and their larvae.
Asclepias curassavica Common names: Mexican Butterfly Weed, Bright Wings, Tropical Milkweed
Diana Pooke, ORG&HPS member
This milkweed is charmingly different from our native Asclepias syriaca having brilliant red, yellow or orange coloured flowers that bloomed from August until frost in our garden. The two to three-foot plant is similar to most milkweeds with opposite leaves, a milky sap and characteristic flowers. However, in addition to more brilliant colours, A. currassavica has narrow lanceolate leaves and the banana-shaped pods are much narrower than our native milkweed but contain the species parachute-like seeds. It is easy to grow in full sun to partial shade in almost any soil condition. It is a proven Monarch butterfly magnet, and also is reputed to be attractive to hummingbirds. Dr. Clement Kent of York University showed slides of his wildflower garden to the Toronto Master Gardeners. His red milkweed plants were smothered with dozens and dozens of Monarch butterflies.
There will be seed in the ORGS &HPS Seedex of the yellow cultivar. If the weather stays warm there may also be seed of the red variety. Sow the seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost. They will germinate in about one to two weeks at room temperature.
We'll try to have some seedlings available at the Super Plant Sale on May 6, 2012
Thanks go to Jean Gardiner, Diana Pooke and Rob of www.robsplants.com for their help this month.