Milkweed Plant Varieties – Growing Different Milkweed Plants

Image by Rabbitti

By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Because of agricultural herbicides and other human interference with nature, milkweed plants are not as widely available for monarchs these days. Continue reading to learn more about different types of milkweed you can grow to help future generations of monarch butterflies.

Different Types of Milkweed

With monarch butterfly populations having dropped more than 90% in the last twenty years because of a loss of host plants, growing different milkweed plants is very important for future of monarchs. Milkweed plants are the monarch butterfly’s only host plant. In midsummer, female monarch butterflies visit milkweed to drink its nectar and lay eggs. When these eggs hatch into tiny monarch caterpillars, they immediately begin to feed on the leaves of their milkweed host. After a couple weeks of feeding, a monarch caterpillar will seek out a safe place to form its chrysalis, where it will become a butterfly.

With over 100 native species of milkweed plants in the United States, almost anyone can grow varieties of milkweed in their area. Many types of milkweed are specific to certain regions of the country.

  • The Northeast Region, which runs down through the center of North Dakota through Kansas, then east through Virginia and includes all states north of this.
  • The Southeastern Region runs from Arkansas through North Carolina, including all states south of this through Florida.
  • The South Central Region includes only Texas and Oklahoma.
  • The Western Region includes all western states except for California and Arizona, which are both considered individual regions.

Milkweed Plant Varieties for Butterflies

Below is a list of different types of milkweed and their native regions. This list does not contain all varieties of milkweed, just the best kinds of milkweed to support monarchs in your region.

Northeast Region

  • Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
  • Swamp milkweed (A. incarnata)
  • Butterfly weed (A. tuberosa)
  • Poke milkweed (A. exaltata)
  • Whorled milkweed (A.verticillata)

Southeastern Region

  • Swamp milkweed (A. incarnata)
  • Butterfly weed (A. tuberosa)
  • Whorled milkweed (A. verticillata)
  • Aquatic milkweed (A. perennis)
  • White milkweed (A. variegata)
  • Sandhill milkweed (A. humistrata)

South Central Region

  • Antelopehorn milkweed (A. asperula)
  • Green Antelopehorn milkweed (A. viridis)
  • Zizotes milkweed (A. oenotheroides)

Western Region

  • Mexican Whorled milkweed (A. fascicularis)
  • Showy milkweed (A. speciosa)

Arizona

  • Butterfly weed (A. tuberosa)
  • Arizona milkweed (A. angustifolia)
  • Rush milkweed (A. subulata)
  • Antelopehorn milkweed (A. asperula)

California

  • Woolly Pod milkweed (A. eriocarpa)
  • Woolly milkweed (A. vestita)
  • Heartleaf milkweed (A. cordifolia)
  • California milkweed (A. california)
  • Desert milkweed (A. crosa)
  • Showy milkweed (A. speciosa)
  • Mexican Whorled milkweed (A. fascicularis)

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