Is Milkweed Invasive?

Sunny_Dee(6a KCMO)January 12, 2012

Hi all! Using winter to do my garden planning for the spring.

I was wanting to "pretty-up" my veggie garden with a small flower garden to the side. I was thinking a butterfly garden b/c of the swallowtails that were on my dill and carrots last year and I wanted to help the Monarchs.

I was looking at Milkweed pics and noticed the seed pod. Looks like it disperses in the wind. I do NOT want any added weeds in my veggie garden. How invasive is Milkweed in your experience?


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I have four kinds of milkweed:

asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) a native plant with bright orange flowers that you might see growing in fields occasionally. Very pretty and not invasive as far as I know. I wish mine would reseed.

asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) also native - grows along roadsides, has large leaves and pinkish purple flowers, not as showy as Butterfly Weed and much more aggressive. It spreads by runners. I don't think you would want to plant this one.

asclepias viridiflora - grows in our hayfield and stays smaller than Common Milkweed. The flowers are sort of greenish so it's not showy at all. I think it's a native of Missouri also.

asclepias curassavica - (Tropical Milkweed), grown as an annual here and not native. The flowers can be orange, red or yellow. I have never gotten any volunteers so I don't think it would be invasive here although it might be down south.

Of those four, Monarchs are much more likely to lay eggs on Tropical Milkweed. It's a great plant. Butterly weed is too but I don't find caterpillars on it very often. It blooms a long time. They all have pods with seeds that float in the wind but it takes them awhile to mature so it's pretty easy to remove the pods before they get a chance to reseed.

I am told Monarchs like Swamp Milkweed also but I don't have that one.

It's hard to beat zinnias for swallowtails to nectar on if you have room for some of those. There have been a few discussions on which ones the butterflies like best in the Butterfly forum.

I've been garden planning too. I ordered a few seeds today from Jung's. We got some snow last night and today and it's making me want some spring weather.

Here is a link that might be useful: Butterfly Forum - Zinnias

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 11:09PM
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When i was a boy on my dad's farm, we considered milkweed as a weed. The seeds are spread by the wind. I would not plant them in my garden. I cut too many out of our crops.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 8:54PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

There is also climbing milkweed which is invasive but I like it because the small flowers are fragrant. Monarchs like it. I have the pink milkweed and don't mind it. It does spread but so far has not caused me a problem. It seems to send runners and pop up a distance from where it was planted. Monarchs like it too.

Vines take over at my place nothing is worse than the cinnamon vine - yam - air potato - horrible invasive vine.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 10:39PM
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I added two more kinds of milkweed this year that I started from seed in early spring, swamp milkweed, and purple milkweed. Neither one of those should be too agressive I hope.

I remove seed pods from all my milkweeds so they won't spread to our hayfield. The pods take a long time to mature so it's pretty easy to stay on top of them.

I hope I have identified this correctly. I think it's common milkweed (syriaca). It sent up several stalks over a six or eight foot area that were taller than me this summer. This is the most agressive milkweed for me. I've tried digging it out and spraying it with Roundup but it still comes back. Monarchs prefer the others so I'd like to get rid of it. This may be the one you had trouble with on your farm Darrylvk. It grows bigger if it's in a cultivated area rather than competing with grasses in a hayfield. Here's a photo I took of a leaf from mine.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 7:10AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I probably have that one that spreads for you in good soil. My soil is rocks. It does spread but it is hemmed in at my house by a Bradford pear and walnut tree and that is not a really good area anyway for fussy plants. I like the weird dusty pink flower and the fact it doesn't die. Mine gets covered with cats and the leaves look ratty.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 11:02AM
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joeinmo 6b-7a

I would plant it, the habitat for Monarchs is shrinking dramatically, one of the big reasons is loss of Milkweed pants.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 11:40PM
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I don't think the orange one is invasive. I've collected seeds and planted, never had one germinate. The pods have dozens of seeds each and yet, there really aren't that many orange ones growing in the wild.
I also have the tropical milkweed. I've had it self seed, but only a few plants from that method. I find these easy to grow from seed.
I have the pink wild one also. It's planted in a bed that stays pretty dry, so it has not spread yet. If it did, OK by me as nothing else grows there.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 11:30AM
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Ann - Welcome to Gardenweb! I would agree about orange milkweed not being invasive. I'd love to see a whole field of it sometime but it's usually just dotted here and there if I see it at all. The type in the photo above is much more agressive and sends out runners underground that come up several feet away from the original plant. It would take over in a perennial garden. That's the only one I know of that is so agressive.

I have used the Winter Sowing method to start orange milkweed and it worked quite well. I was thinking that the seeds didn't require winter stratification though so I'm not sure that was what caused your trouble. If you're collecting seeds on your own, I have noticed the pods take a long time to mature. The seeds should be brown if they're ready.
Winter Sowing is basically starting seeds outside in vented containers during winter and removing the lids when the seedlings germinate in the spring rather than starting them in the house. Gardenweb has a forum called "Winter Sowing" if you're interested. It's a great way to fight off winter blahs.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 6:57AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

We are getting close to the Solstice which I think is a starting date for winter sowing. I have some jugs saved and have potting soil in the barn - dry. In the past my potting soil has been frozen hard and hard to find in stores in the big bags especially in late winter when I want to start tomatoes in doors. Lowe's still has their potting soil easily available, but by Feb it may have ice and snow on it. I wish I had some orange milkweed seeds saved because drought tolerant is the way to go these days. I am thinking of getting some columbine and maybe gaillardia seeds.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 5:37PM
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Thanks, Christie and Helen. Actually, I'm back after a several year absence. Just got busy with other things. I couldn't remember my p/w, so got a new name (I used ChanceyGardener before). Christie, you sent me some plants that I still have, even after a move...some frosty morn sedum, some lamb's ear (forgot variety)and something else, although I can't remember what at the moment. So, thank you again for sharing. I used to winter sow, might have to get into that again.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 9:55PM
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Welcome BACK then Ann lol. It's a lot of trouble having to keep track of passwords for different things isn't it.
The lamb's ears was probably Helen Von Stein. That's the only variety I can remember growing. It's tough stuff. As Helen said, drought tolerant is the way to go. The last two summers that we've had sure make a person appreciate plants that don't need a lot of water.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 6:23AM
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Yes, Christie, that's the one-Helen Von Stein. Agree 100% on drought tolerant for any replacements!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 8:12AM
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Milkweed is completely edible and from what the experts say it is pretty good.

I will probably try some if I have any I can find.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wild Foods

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 3:17AM
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Welcome Rogersan! That's a good article - very detailed. I was aware the new spears are edible but haven't tried them. I didn't know you could eat the flowers and seed pods. We'll see if I ever get the nerve to try those someday.
Samuel Thayer has written a couple of very detailed books on harvesting and preparing wild edibles. I have checked them both out from our library. I liked the second one better. The first one had a lot of plants that would be found around water which I don't have on my property so there were quite a few plants that weren't familiar to me and ones that I wouldn't be able to find unless I looked very hard. The second book had more plants that I would know where to find. The article you linked says "Forager's Harvest" so I wonder if it might be from one of his books or his website.
Common milkweed is pretty easy to start from seed if you have an out-of-the-way spot to plant them. If you plant them yourself, then you know you're harvesting the right thing.
In our area, I'm pretty sure Monarchs aren't laying eggs yet when the spears come up in the spring. I don't think it would affect the Monarchs at all to collect plants to eat. And I'm certain it wouldn't kill the plants. You can dig those things out with a shovel and still not kill them.

The website below has seeds. It says plant height three feet but mine was easily twice that tall last summer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Prairie Moon Nursery - Asclepias Syriaca seeds

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 9:01AM
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I grow Swamp Milkweed in Huntsville, Al. I find it to be a magnet for Monarchs. Unfortunately, it is VERY invasive in good soil. A note about the Monarch situation: Last spring, my milkweed was covered with Monarch eggs. It is now mid-June 2013, and I have seen neither Monarchs nor eggs. Sad. I am a digital photo butterfly collector. I have found that there has been a general loss of butterflies over a decade. Since all my photo names contain a date, a peruse of my files tell a story. Once by this date I would have many photos. This year I have none.

Here is a link that might be useful: Born Free Butterflies

This post was edited by alsearsa on Wed, Jun 12, 13 at 15:34

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 3:32PM
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