Featured Plant: Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

In recognition of Earth Day 2013, Prairie Nursery is donating 5% of sales of Red Milkweed and other select Monarch favorites to Monarch Watch, a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program based at the University of Kansas that focuses on the monarch butterfly, its habitat, and its spectacular fall migration.

In its native environment Red Milkweed (AKA: Swamp Milkweed, Marsh Milkweed, Rose Milkweed) is found growing in floodplains, wet meadows, and near the edges of ponds, lakes and streams.  It also grows very well in average, well-drained garden soil. We have a huge specimen, here at the Prairie Nursery farm, that has flourished on a pretty dry site. Full sun is best and some light shade is tolerated.

Red Milkweed plants form a stately bunch of upright stems with long narrow leaves and heads of fragrant mauve-pink flower clusters, composed of many small intricate blooms. At 3′ – 5′ tall a single large clump of Red milkweed makes an excellent focal point in a garden. Put to good use in rain gardens, this Asclepias is also used in shoreline restoration, shoreline buffers, detention basin and bio-swales.

The flowers of Asclepias incarnata are attractive to all kinds of butterflies. The female Monarch Butterfly lays eggs, exclusively, on plants in the Asclepias family, and Red Milkweed is known to be one of the best attractors. Monarchs feed on the flowers and lay their eggs on the plants. The emerging caterpillars then feed on the leaves.

Below is a photo taken at a friends vegetable garden, with Red Milkweed growing among the Asparagus.

Red Milkweed occurs naturally throughout most of the U.S., and much of Canada.


  1. mary (Post author)

    Yes – Thanks, Jason, for the additional notes!

  2. Jason

    I love this plant! I’ll add two more virtues: the flowers have a sweet vanilla scent, and it does not spread aggressively (forms clumps and self-sows moderately.

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