Asclepias speciosa, commonly known as showy milkweed, is a herbaceous perennial plant with erect stems reaching heights of 2 to 4 feet. It features lance-shaped leaves arranged alternately along the stems. The plant produces showy, spherical clusters of pink to lavender flowers, each possessing a unique intricate structure. Characteristic of milkweeds, it contains milky sap.
This species is native to a range of habitats, including meadows, prairies, open woodlands, and disturbed areas. It is adaptable and can thrive in a variety of ecosystems, contributing to its widespread distribution.
Showy milkweed prefers well-drained soils but can tolerate various soil types, including sandy or clay soils. It is often found in areas with medium to coarse-textured soils.
Asclepias speciosa typically grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet, forming clumps of stems with broad leaves, creating a visually striking presence in the landscape.
The flowering period occurs in late spring to early summer, with the spherical clusters of pink to lavender flowers attracting pollinators with their vibrant display.
Showy milkweed is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9, showcasing its adaptability to a wide range of climates.
Thriving in full sunlight, Asclepias speciosa prefers open, sunny locations, making it well-suited for garden settings with ample exposure to sunlight.
As a crucial plant for pollinators, showy milkweed attracts a variety of insects, including bees and butterflies. It serves as a vital host plant for monarch butterfly larvae, contributing significantly to the conservation of this iconic species. Beyond its ecological role, the plant adds aesthetic value to natural landscapes and is an essential component of biodiversity.
**In the Garden:**
Showy Milkweed adds an architectural element to the native plant garden, best for the back of the bed or as exclamation points in a meadow garden. With a deep taproot, they are well adapted to periods of drought and look great with other low maintenace native wildflowers and grasses. Wasps and bees are the primary pollinators who help by transporting packets of pollinia from flower to flower. The fall foliage is a bright yellow with horn-like seedpods that split open as they dry out, releasing 50+ seeds that float on the breeze. They don't spread via rhizomes and don't spread rampantly in the garden. Milkweeds are some of the last plants to emerge in the spring, so don't give up on them too early!
Showy Milkweed - Asclepias speciosa
Seeds require 30 days of cold moist stratification. Best results are either fall planting in the garden or in moist sand and kept in the refrigerator for 30 days.
Alternatively, the water germination method works well for this species. See link for more information on water germination.