Milkweed for monarchs in western pa questions

Asked February 25, 2014, 7:19 AM EST

Hello! I would like to grow milkweed in my backyard for monarch butterflies but have a few questions. First, is this a good idea? With research, it seems growing the wrong kind can have negative results for the environment. Is it too invasive for a residential backyard? What specific species should I get, and any reputable supplier? Should I start from seed soon and plant in summer? Any insight would be helpful and greatly appreciated! Thank you!! Ellwood city area.

Beaver County Pennsylvania master gardener program butterflies milkweed horticulture

1 Response

I'm glad you want to help the Monarch butterflies. It is a good idea to grow their host plant, the milkweed. You will also want to grow other great nectar flowers as well. I found that large Zinnias and coneflowers are great for nectar sources. You need to have a lot of nectar flowers so that the butterflies will want to stay around.

I live in Zone 6 (near Harrisburg) and usually don't see Monarchs until August. I feel the best milkweed varieties are those that are native to our area. You should try a few varieties (there are about 100 varieties). The Swamp Milkweed prefers a medium to moist soil condition and grows in Zone 3 - 8. The seeds of this variety require cold stratification in order to germinate. Here is a good link for instructions on cold stratification

The Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca is also a native in zones 4 -9 and is hardy. This can be invasive if planted in a fertile garden where there is no competition with weeds. In nature, this milkweed will grow along highways and is competitive with weeds so it stays in check.

If you plan to start with seeds, you will begin about 4 - 6 weeks before your last frost date. Milkweed likes warm weather so don't plant out too early and be sure to harden the plants off before planting.

Here is another link that you may find helpful:

Here are some suppliers in Pennsylvania:
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve – – 215.862.2924
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery – – 610.395.2570
Meadowood Nursery – – 717.566.9875
Mid Atlantic Natives – – 717.227.0924
Northeast Natives & Perennials – – 215.901.5552
Redbud Native Plant Nursery – – 610.358.4300
Sugarbush Nursery – – 610.856.0998
Sylva Native Nursery and Seed Company – – 717.227.0486
Yellow Springs Farm Native Plant Nursery – – 610.827.2014