Simply The Best Natives-Swamp Milkweed


“May Your Life Be Like A Wildflower, Growing Freely In The Beauty And Joy Of Each Day.” ~Native American Blessing



Each year, I look forward to the emergence of my Swamp Milkweed.  Common Milkweed is just blooming by the time Swamp Milkweed is developing flowers.  Asclepias incarnata, as they are called, are native to the Northeastern and southeastern United States all the way west to Texas and Louisiana, and up to North Dakota as well as Eastern Canada. It will bloom in July and August, with flowers of pink and white, in Zones 3 to 8.

DSCN9112It grows in clumps unlike Common Milkweed, which has one plant and one flower growing in groups.  Swamp Milkweed can be found it wet areas like swamps, wet meadows and prairies, ditches, marshes, and along the edges of ponds, lakes and streams.  This herbaceous perennial is part of the Milkweed Family (Asclepiadaceae), and has many common names besides Swamp Milkweed……Rose Milkweed, Rose Milkflower, Swamp Silkweed, and White Indian Hemp.

The large blooms are made up of small, usually deep pink flowers, clustered at the top of the stem, which holds narrow, lance-shaped leaves.  Sometimes they will flower white naturally in my garden.  Flowers bear a subtle vanilla scent.  And the sap of Swamp Milkweed is less milky than other Milkweed species.



amandaAs I profile this wonderful native plant, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme, and Diana@Elephant’s Eye at False Bay for her Dozen for Diana monthly meme. And I am joining forces once again this year with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to buy native plants for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.  Check out their Spring 2016 catalog.




Growing Conditions

This exceptional wildflower prefers sun, but will grow in some part shade.  And it tolerates well-drained soil as well as wet clay.  But it much prefers moisture retentive soil.  Once established, do not move them as they have long taproots which help the plant live in heavy wet clay.DSCN5523

Swamp milkweed usually grows 3’ to 4’ tall, and has no serious insect or disease problems.  Most milkweed may have aphids.  If aphids seem to be weakening the plant, then spraying them with a hose is the best remedy.

Foliage is slow to emerge in spring, and flowers appear in mid to late summer.  After they bloom, thin pods are produced that split open in late summer to late fall, releasing silky seeds that blow in the wind.

Swamp Milkweed grows easily from seeds sown in fall or spring.  You can also start seeds indoors.  It is best to sow seeds directly outdoors in late fall as they require cold stratification.  You can also divide plants in late spring as leaves are emerging.




Benefits to Wildlife

DSCN9114Pollinators love this plant’s nectar, especially moths, bumble bees and honey bees.  Hummingbirds and butterflies can be found visiting the flowers too.  Swallowtails, Fritillaries, Monarchs, Hairstreaks, Buckeyes and Skippers are some of the butterflies you will see frequenting this plant.

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and Queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus) especially depend on Swamp Milkweed for nectar, and as a food source for their hatched eggs.  The sticky sap of milkweed has toxins that provide protection for the butterflies that use this plant as a food source.





Swamp Milkweed is beautiful in the garden as it usually blooms just after the Common Milkweed.  It tolerates clay andDSCN8826 wet soil, so using it in Rain Gardens and low wet spots is perfect.  It will naturalize, but I have found it to grow slower and be less aggressive than Common Milkweed.  It is also an underutilized plant in gardens.  Best spots for it in the garden are sunny borders, stream or pond banks and in butterfly gardens.  Mine are found along the pond, and in my bog area/rain garden.
One use I never considered was as fresh-cut flowers.  It is said they last a long time in a vase.  Not to mention the seed pods make a wonderful addition to a vase.  I’ll have to try both in a vase this year.
Even though this plant is poisonous, it is edible when cooked.  But I don’t think I will try it.




Folklore and Tales 

DSCN5051The genus name, Asclepias, is derived from the name of the Greek god, ‘Asklepios’, who is the god of medicine and healing.

Asclepias incarnata has had many medicinal uses and herbal remedies associated with it in the past.  Some of these have included a cure for lung and digestion ailments.

Milkweed’s common name comes from the white sap, that resembles milk, that seeps out when the plant is cut.  

The Latin species name, incarnata, is said to mean pink flesh-colored, for the color of its bloom.

Milkweed also has other uses especially making tough cords from stems and leaves.  The Pueblo Indians used fibers from the leaves to make fishing lines and thread.





swamp milkweed collage


Do you grow Swamp Milkweed or any Milkweed?  What is your favorite plant for butterflies?





In A Vase On Monday 



My large Belleek vase was crying out for some of the peonies that have grown large and stunning in my garden lately.  I posed this vase next to our wedding portrait in an almost matching Lenox frame that was a wedding present.





These unnamed peonies were displayed with loads of Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis).





And a few large Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) leaves, offset the vase perfectly as they cradled the peonies.  The vase is a 2001 Romantic Rose Vase, from Belleek, specially made for St. Patrick’s Day in the US market.  I don’t use this vase often but when I do, I make sure it is a substantial arrangement.





This old china dish fit perfectly in my lovely basket, so I went about finding flowers to float in it.  I wanted an additional vase for the table.





floating roses

So in went the first roses from ‘William Baffin’, a pink Knockout and a lone soft pink peony that was so light in color.  I love the effect.

I am joining in with a few memes this week as I prepare these vases:  Cathy@Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday, Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles 2016 and Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.



Next up on the blog:  

Monday brings another look at what has happened during some June nn-logomoments in my garden.

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her blog, Rambling Woods.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Monday. 

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2016.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.   

88 Replies to “Simply The Best Natives-Swamp Milkweed”

    1. I have been experimenting with floating more flowers, and I just love it for a vase….glad you enjoyed this one. It is a favorite of mine, Christina.

  1. The vase itself is perfect – and the arrangement lives up to it! What a nice idea to use peonies & roses floating (and smiling!) up at you. The ones you have chosen almost suggest waterlilies!

  2. Hi Donna, Swamp milkweed is really lovely! I haven’t had much luck growing it, though. It will grow for one season and not return. Maybe I need to try it in full sun, clay, rather than where it was in part sun, loam. I have both types of soil in my gardens. I have butterfly weed and it does pretty well, and also common milkweed. Last year and also this year (so far) the common milkweed has come up but no blooms. That’s a puzzle to me. No blooms does not deter the monarchs from egg-laying though so that’s a good thing. They also spread very well via their underground network and pop up all over the place. Interesting! Enjoy your gardens this summer! (We had our first cucumbers last week and there are some green beans on the vine too!)

    1. That may help the Swamp Milkweed….and they love wetter conditions too so they love my rain garden area. How strange that your Common Milkweed has no blooms but as long as the monarchs don’t care that is great. I have hundreds of flowers this year but no monarchs… ;(

      My garden is growing but still just picking lettuce and peas…and now garlic. Soon the beans will flower as will all the squashes, cukes etc. I do have tomato flowers too which is wonderful. The plants have only been in for a month and are about 1.5 ft high. Enjoy, Beth!

  3. Hello, your milkweed is beautiful. I like the pretty color. I tried planting common milkweed and it did not grow. 🙁

    Happy Monday, enjoy your new week ahead!

    1. Common Milkweed can be hard to get started but once they do, watch out! Scattering seed in late fall may get you a few to get started. Have a great week…I always have loads of seed so let me know.

  4. The milkweed flowers are so lovely, I get to enjoy the related Hoya flowers this time of year indoors. I’ve tried a couple of times to grow regular milkweed, I’ll have to try some swamp milkweed in the damper part of my yard. I found I can overwinter tropical milkweed in pots here so finally have some blooming milkweed outdoors in summer, but no Monarchs locally to enjoy it, as yet. Your Belleck vase and matching portrait frame are lovely together, what a sweet wedding portrait, Donna.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the vase and wedding picture Hannah! Absolutely try this milkweed in your wetter garden areas….it si a beauty!

  5. Lovely arrangement, pink and chartreuse is one of my favorite color combinations.

    I have a new milkweed this year – Hairy Balls, have you seen this one? I am too far south for the pink one. This one has just set buds so I am waiting.

  6. Hi Donna
    My clump of red milkweed keeps getting smaller, fighting to survive, as is the white variety I have. I even harvested seeds last year and pressed them in the soil around the plants.
    My favourite for butterflies is pearly everlasting and just last week I was showing photos to a FB gardening group of it covered in American Lady butterfly larvae. Wouldn’t you know it, two days later a big fat robin comes strolling out of the patch and not one caterpillar left!

    1. Oh those robins….I have Pearly as well but have not noticed caterpillars….I wish! My clump, of Swamp Milkweed, in the rain garden looks like it has spread after 6 years of letting it self seed….it does take forever to grow and spread, and some years the clump is smaller.

  7. Love this post. Your entry about your native bogweed has got me wondering if it is grown here…a little more study required by me. Your arrangement of peonies and greenery really suit your vase.

    1. Definitely check to see if this milkweed grows there…it is a wonderful plant. I agree the peonies were perfect for my vase….I was glad they were so splendid this year.

  8. what a great post. i didn’t know you could eat swamp milkweed. is it the same for the common milkweed? loved all the uses of the milkweed too. it’s always so interesting to see what wildflowers and other plants can be used for… your arrangements are beautiful. i love peonies. my neighbor has some growing and i occasionally take some pictures of them. thanks for stopping by my blog today. hope all is well. have a great day~

    1. Oh I did enjoy my visit….milkweed is toxic but at least this variety can be cooked but I don’t think I’ll try it. Glad you enjoyed the peonies too!

  9. All this discussion about milkweed, certainly not a native in the UK but I think I have heard people talk of having Asclepia so I must check it out in due course. The heart shape mosaic that follows your vase and wedding photograph looks so effective and the green of the alchemilla is a great contrast with the peonies. The peonies seem very upright – do they always hold their heads high?

    1. There are some Asclepia that might grow there Cathy and they are wonderful. The peonies this year were splendid as we did not have loads of rain when they were blooming….I do have a few wrought iron supports for my peonies so they do grow big and heads high. Glad you enjoyed the post, vases and mosaics.

  10. Some of my fondest childhood memories include playing with dried milkweed pods in Vermont and watching the seeds and their silky fur emerge from them. When we moved to Alaska, there was no milkweed and, while I’ve tried growing it here, it never really takes off for me. Maybe the garden is too crowded for it’s liking. I had swamp milkweed in a pot in my pond for several years but it’s no longer around for some reason. Your arrangements are beautiful!

    1. I have wonderful childhood memories too Peter of those milkweed pods…we used to pop them open in fall before they were ready and play with the silky seeds. So glad you enjoyed the arrangements!

  11. Hi Donna! I used to have common milkweed, but it disappeared after a couple of years. Yours is lovely!
    I do love peonies, and your bouquet and pictures are great! Love your wedding picture!!!

    1. Oh that is too bad Tatyana about your Common Milkweed. Mine keeps growing and spreading more so than this Swamp Milkweed but both are a treat. I am pleased you enjoyed the vase and a sneak peek at our wedding pic!

  12. Interesting to read a out the Swamp Milkweed as it is practically unknown here. We have a distinct lack of butterflies this year, but normally the Centranthus attracts them. Your vase is stunning Donna! I love the peonies with Alchemilla, and the vase itself too. 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed this native to my garden Cathy….I really am pleased how this vase came out…I think it is one of my best.

  13. The flower is very attractive….tho poisonous, I would be like you, never try it even if they tell me it’s okay once it’s cooked.

    When I was a kid, I used to go out in the fields and pick the seed pods and empty them of the seeds, take home the ‘shell’…spray paint them and glue on glitter and decorate them for the Christmas Tree.

    1. Oh Anni I had forgotten about making the Christmas ornaments from the milkweed seed pods…that was such fun!

  14. Such an interesting plant, the Swamp Milkweed. I should definitely find more plants that attract butterflies.
    Your vase is lovely and I like especially the photo where there’s your beautiful wedding portrait too.
    Have a lovely new week, Donna, and see you soon!

    1. Thanks so much Sara…I like the spot next to our wedding picture to put vases…it gets great light! Have a wonderful week too my friend!

  15. In prior years I’ve grown the tropical milkweed but, mindful of the concerns that it can interfere with (delay) the monarchs’ migration when planted here, I’m trying a substitute this year: Asclepias cancellata, a South African variety. Despite being planted just a week before our horrible heatwave hit, it didn’t even blink so this may be the start of a beautiful relationship. (Eek – it sounds as though I’m paraphrasing yet another movie line!)

    Your peonies are scrumptious. The herbaceous definitely won’t grow here but I retain a small hope that, in time, that Mediterranean variety that produced its first bloom this year, will eventually produce many blooms.

  16. Oh that would be great if the peonies and milkweed grow for you! And I love old movie quotes Kris…I am a huge fan of movies from the 30s and 40s especially!

  17. A lovely plant but not one I’m familiar with here in the UK although I am aware of its beneficial properties for butterflies, especially the Monarch.

  18. Very interesting to read about the Milkweed and your Peonies are gorgeous! Well worth bringing out your special vase for them.

  19. Loved reading about the Swamp Milkweed. Very lovely. Here in Colorado our soil is clay like but not wet. I’ve always wanted to try growing some kind of milkweed. I love you vase, so pretty with those Peonies.

    1. I will catch up with you and your garden this week Diana…I have seen your green puffs milkweed…a garden friend in CA is growing it. Very interesting milkweed.

  20. Your garden is beautiful — and milkweed is such a great plant host for butterflies — the beauty is an added bonus. The vase and nearly matching frame is absolutely perfect (as is of course the perfect couple inside that lovely frame).

  21. Hi Donna

    The swamp milkweed is such a pretty color pink! I planted some milkweed seeds in a planter and they have been attracting a large and beautiful all yellow butterfly every day, but I have not seen any monarchs as yet.
    I like Belleek and also have a few vases in my collection. Your wedding photo is beautiful. My peonies bloomed for the first time this year but I was away in NYC for 10 days and sadly missed them. This year the wild cottonwood trees in our area have been sending our cottony seed spores in abundance –the first time I’ve seen this int he 3+ years we’ve lived here! They float in the air like dandelion seeds do.

    1. Oh that is too bad you were away for the peony bloom but glad to hear your garden is seeming to be doing well….we have an Eastern Cottonwood in the neighborhood that is sending fluff all over now too!

  22. My first visit to your blog, Donna and I just want to say how stunning your peonies and roses are. Milkweed isn’t a plant I’ve come across before, it certainly doesn’t grow in my part of Normandy, it’s very pretty I’m sure I would have noticed it.
    Have a great week.

    1. How lovely Maggie to have you visiting….Milkweed is native to North America so you won’t see it there….glad you enjoyed your visit!

  23. There’s something very festive about your vase this time, I like the combination of flowers. Thanks for the info about Ascelpias. Just planted A. tuberosa this year. All A. are so useful for insects and pretty too, so hope it’ll grow for me.

  24. I’m still waiting to see if the common milkweed seeds I planted last fall will bloom. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting milkweed to grow here, which is rather ironic since it used to be an invasive pest for most farmers. But the swamp milkweed I planted from seedlings last year is doing well–hope the butterflies find it!

    1. I had the same experience but once the Common Milkweed took off it did invade faster than the Swamp variety….good luck Rose!

  25. Great writeup for the milkweed! I would definitely add this one to the garden if I had a spot with more moisture to keep it happy.
    The peonies look perfect for the Lenox. Both add together for such an old fashioned, traditional feel!

  26. Oh I wonder if milkweed is available over here. Will have to find out. I like the way the colours of your flowers compliments the colours of the vase. What a beautiful bride you were Donna.

  27. I agree this is an excellent native flower for the garden. I have quite a few of them, both the straight species and the cultivar ‘Ice Ballet’. I love the fragrance and the flowers. A very easy care plant.

    1. Sounds lovely Jason…I have had a naturally occurring white from the species plant but not sure if it will come back…hope so!

  28. Your captures of the milkweed are jut stunning! These are one of my favorite subjects, either in bloom all covered with bees and butterflies or all seedy and fluffed out in the fall. Thanks for all the great information too! Your mosaics of the floral arrangements are beyond gorgeous!

    1. Lea yours are stunning…I am hoping to see these orange milkweed soon….mine flower much later than the pink ones but I adore their blooms.

    1. Mine took a couple of years to take hold so I am glad you are going to keep trying…once they start growing, you will have their beauty forever!

  29. Very nice vase, Donna. I like its decoration, very soft.
    This plant Swamp milkweed I’ve never seen here but I think it should grow here as well. Interesting story of the plant!

  30. It’s a beautiful plant. With my glacial sand (well-drained with a vengeance), I stick with the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, which is happy to seed itself around.

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