Butterfly Food Plants

Monarch Caterpillar on Swamp Milkweed

With all the conservation concern about Monarch Butterflies, gardeners want to plant Milkweeds, the food plants for the Monarch caterpillars. Will Beaux Arbres have Milkweed plants for sale at the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale this coming Sunday?

And the answer is No, not this Sunday. Milkweeds are very much heat loving plants of summer and they are slow to emerge in the spring, waiting until the soil is thoroughly warm.* Our Milkweeds are just starting to poke above the ground. You will have other opportunities to buy Beaux Arbres Milkweeds, as we are going to be at the Westboro Farmers’ Market on three Saturdays later this spring. And, of course, there will be Milkweeds for sale at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s great annual sale of native plants, this year on Saturday, June 1st.

Beaux Arbres has added two new species of Milkweeds this spring. In addition to the popular orange Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and tall, fragrant Swamp Milkweed (A. incarnata), we have added Dwarf Milkweed (A. ovalifolia), seed from Manitoba, and Whorled Milkweed (A. verticilliata), from southern Ontario. Although neither of the new species is present naturally in the Ottawa Valley, the wide-ranging Monarchs are just as happy to encounter them here as they are in other parts of their summer breeding range. In fact, the narrow, thin leaves of Whorled Milkweed seem especially attractive to late-arriving mother Monarchs, who pass over the mature leaves of Common Milkweed. Both of these species spread into colonies, but they are much shorter than Common Milkweed and they may be just the thing for your garden if you have a sunny area of poor, dry soil.

We will be bringing some other essential butterfly host plants to the Rare and Unusual Sale. For the intrepid American Ladies (sometimes also called American Painted Ladies), Beaux Arbres is bringing Field Pussytoes, Plantain-leaved Pussytoes, and Pearly Everlasting, all with silvery grey foliage. For Black Swallowtails, we offer Golden Alexanders, with cheery yellow spring flowers. For the stunningly beautiful Baltimore Checkerspots, we have their only host plant: White Turtlehead. Now, Baltimore Checkerspots are homebodies, who do not easily find new plantings of Turtlehead, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know if you can attract this beautiful butterfly to your garden. American Ladies are strong fliers, who are good at seeking out food plants when you offer them.

✵ If you planted Butterfly Milkweed last year, do not give up on it. Butterfly Milkweed is one of the last to come up in the spring.

Swamp Milkweed

Categorized as Nursery

By Trish Murphy

Artist: botanical, still life, and natural history illustration. Garden designer: native plants and naturalistic gardens


  1. Hi Trish – Audrey just forwarded this on to me and I’d like to get on your distribution list for future articles if I could. Thanks. I’m really looking forward to having Michael here for the May 26 show – will you be coming with him? I’m trying to convert 2 large patches of previously mown lawn to natural planting so will really welcome advice. Hope to see you on the 26th. Sheila

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Sheila,
      You can follow the blog by clicking on the Follow button, on the blog pages and on the bottom of the Home Page. If you are a WordPress client, my blog posts will then show up in your Reader. If you aren’t, you will get an email notification.
      Alas, I won’t be able to come with Michael to your May 26th garden show. We are away on the 24th and 25th, for a family event, so I am back at the nursery on the 26th. We’ll meet sometime soon …


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