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Connecticut Garden Journal
Connecticut Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Charlie focuses on a topic relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests, and more.

Connecticut Garden Journal: Milkweed

Asclepias tuberosa
Martin LaBar (Flickr / Creative Commons)
Asclepias tuberosa

Everyone is interested in growing gardens to support pollinators and butterflies. One of the stars of many pollinator garden is the milkweed. Monarch butterflies have an exclusive relationship with milkweed as a food source, so having this plant in your landscape with help them and many pollinators.

It's best to grow native pollinator plants that are adapted to your sun, soil and exposure conditions. But not all natives are alike. Take milkweed, for example. Much of the milkweed we see growing wild in pastures and along roadsides is the common milkweed. Although a good pollinator and butterfly plant, it can be invasive, quickly taking over and crowding out other pollinator and butterfly attracting plants. Luckily, there are some alternatives to the common milkweed that are available at Connecticut native plant nurseries such as NATIVES and Earthtones.

The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a common plant in nurseries, has beautiful orange colored flowers and is a good addition to any garden. The swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) has deep pink color flowers and grows best in partly shaded wet areas. Purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) has magenta colored flowers and thrives in sun on dry soils. The whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) has white flowers and thrives in part shade on dry soils. Select the right milkweed for your conditions.

When growing your pollinator garden, plant small groups of milkweed, deadhead spent flowers to encourage more flowering and prevent seeds from spreading and even consider growing milkweed plants in pots.

Check out the Upcycled Pollinator Planter Challenge in Windsor to get ideas.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.

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