Cutback Milkweed?

MandM55(9 FL)August 6, 2013

I am in East Central Florida and I have tropical milkweed. I have noticed that it is becoming leggy, blotchy and just looks bad. Should I cut this back? Will it grow back?

Thanks again for any help.


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wifey2mikey(7a Tulsa, OK)

I cut mine back as I'm feeding the caterpillars I'm keeping... and yes it does put out new growth and gets more "bushy" rather than tall and leggy. Hope that helps.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 7:29PM
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Try also growing White Vine (Sarcostemma clausum) for the Queens. It will grow well in poor rocky soil and full sun.
It is native to Florida and will attract all three Danaus spp down there (Monarch, Queen, Tropic Queen).

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 8:55AM
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It is so funny that you are posting this question ! I have always wonder because it looks so sad by August. So this year I have cut my milkweed back completely in hope that the milkweed will be fresh when the migration hit South Carolina in the Fall ! Keeping my fingers crossed .. Good luck with yours

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 1:49PM
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four(9B (near 9a))

Please tell us, you two. What did you get after chopping the tropical?

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 5:07PM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

Cutting back should not be a problem because in your area it will regrow from ground level and is considered a perennial. Cutting it back helps regenerate it.

Tropical milkweed has been growing in Florida for over 70 years. Now scientists want us to get rid of it. Now, when Monarch numbers are declining. This same tropical milkweed grows in Mexico as a native, which is a hop and a jump across the gulf from Florida. I say good luck with getting us to stop planting it when it has been planted along the Caribbean islands since the 1860s. African and tropical milkweeds are why there are Monarchs in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Spain, etc.

Monarchs seek it out because when they use it there is less OE and less parasites.

And, it is the major crop of Butterfly Breeders for rearing Monarchs. Unless the USDA/APHIS restricts the commercial breeding and shipping of Monarch butterflies then Monarchs fed on tropical milkweed and shipped and released in Eastern and Western States is not going to disappear.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 2:14AM
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The suggestion of growing a native milkweed was excellent!

Tropical milkweed is non-native to North America including Mexico, and the growing of Tropical milkweed has been proven to be a contributory factor to disease in the Monarch.

The unnaturally long if not year round growth of Tropical milkweed in mild regions encourages formerly migrating populations to over-winter and breed year-round, at the time of year when OE spores are heaviest on the b'flies, the soil, and on the plants Monarchs visit for breeding and for nectar. The OE spore is spread around in flying, in mating and egg laying. I checked some eggs under a microscope that were laid on brand new tender growth in early November, and the eggs were covered with OE spores.

I cut my native milkweed back in Sept-October this year, and of the 50-60 Monarchs I raised indoors from eggs and young instars, only 2 were disease free when emerging as butterflies, the rest were heavily infested with OE and had to be euthanized. I grow native milkweed, but 95% of the community is growing Tropical milkweed. So I won't grow any milkweed next year due to the diseased population around me.

This post was edited by on Wed, Dec 18, 13 at 18:14

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 6:09PM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

Asclepias curassaica is native to Mexico. It is not native to the United States and Canada.

Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed) is considered naturalized in the United States and Canada. Tropical milkweed was first noted as being in Florida back in 1942. Dr. Urquhart noted in his book that it was being used by Monarchs in the Caribbean in the 1860s.

With regard to breeding activity in the United States during the winter, Richard Funk back in 1968 wrote about finding Monarch larvae in Yuma, AZ on December 26, 1965 on Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed, which is a native species of milkweed, but not native to the Yuma area. It was growing in someone's garden. There are other native milkweeds that are natives and that grow year round in areas where it does not go below freezing. Many coastal states are just the right temperature for plants to survive and for Monarchs to survive and for some to breed on native milkweeds in the United States.

I agree that tropicals should be cut back in the winter, but I do not agree that they should not be planted. Tropical milkweeds do not stop the migration and do not harbor disease if cut back in the winter. Monarchs would not migrate from Mexico where tropical milkweed is a native in many Mexican states and grows and flowers year round, if that was the case.

My advice to people is plant as much tropical and native species of milkweed as you can. Natives often take 2-3 years to become established.

I also grow Asclepias physocarpa. This summer I found that some caterpillars that were eating common milkweed and looking sickly when put on A. physocarpa livened up and doubled their weight within days of being introduced to it. A. curassavica and A. physocarpa are more toxic than many of our native milkweeds and therefore provide more protection for Monarch butterflies.

I took a picture of one of the Monarch caterpillars on A. physocarpa to document how healthy it looked; unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to take a picture of it before I changed milkweeds.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 9:43PM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

North America is a continent, see the website below for a map of North America. Mexico is in North America.

Information on Wikipedia is submitted by volunteers and also edited by volunteers. The information on Wikipedia is not always correct.

Here is a link that might be useful: Map of North America

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 9:13AM
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