What species Milkweed plants do I want to plant in Otter Tail County for...

Asked February 27, 2014, 2:59 PM EST

What species Milkweed plants do I want to plant in Otter Tail County for Monarch butterflies? We have grassy areas (not mowed) some swampy lake shore areas, and dry lake shore area.

Otter Tail County Minnesota

2 Responses

Milkweed is the only plant that Monarch caterpillars eat. Monarchs aren't the only insect that benefits from this plant, as many other butterflies, bees and pollinating insects depend upon the flowers for food. Current agricultural practises have drastically eliminated this plant from fields and roadways but just recently various state DNR's have been sewing milkweed seeds in an effort to bring the plants back to a level that is beneficial to the insects. They need our help!

Milkweed is in the Asclepsis genera and while most of the varieties are tropical, there are approximately 110 species in North America alone! This plant is adapted to nearly every kind of environment so it shouldn't be hard for you to find ones that will be happy in your garden, alongside the roadway, in or near the swampy area - I even had one growing out of a crack in my concrete driveway.

The easiest, and cheapest way to grow milkweed is from seed. This is a perennial plant with deep roots. Once established Milkweed produces tons of seeds. You may have to do a lot of weeding in order to keep them under control. This is best done before the plant sets it's deep roots - they are hard to dig out once they've matured.

Here is a great website from Wisconsin that pictures and explains lots of different varieties - and provides a source for their seeds.

Thanks for your question - please contact AaE again if you need further information.