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Plant Milkweed to Help Monarch Butterfly Populations Thrive

New research reveals that for every monarch butterfly that makes it to the species’ wintering grounds in Mexico, 30 milkweed plants are needed. With the population now in an alarming free fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is urging resident to plant any of a variety of milkweeds, each suitable to different garden designs and growing conditions. As a bonus, deer find milkweed distasteful. Several varieties of milkweed will add interest to the native garden and support monarch populations. Seeds and plants are available online and often at local native plant sales.

Rose Milkweed (Asclepius incarnata): gorgeous rose-pink flowers. Thrives in moist soil. Reaches three to five feet, so it’s perfect at the back edge of a linear garden or at the center of a circular rain garden. Very pretty when paired with fox sedge (Carex vulpinoidea) along pond shorelines.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepius tuberosa): a shorter plant with a bright pop of orange color. Thrives in dry conditions. About two to three feet tall. Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) is a nice companion plant with butterfly weed.

Fragrant Milkweed (Asclepius syriaca): heavenly smelling lavender-pink blossoms. Super easy to grow; can spread quickly. Grows two to four feet tall. Mix with little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) for year-round interest.

Whorled Milkweed (Asclepius verticillata): Petite at one-to-two-foot tall, the creamy white blossoms are especially pretty planted in drifts. Feathery leaves turn lovely golden-amber in late summer. Sideoats gramma (Bouteloua curtipendula) looks stunning with whorled milkweed.


Conserve Lake County will host its annual native plant sale May 12-14 at the Conserve Lake County office at Almond Marsh, 32492 North Almond Rd, in Grayslake. For more information, visit