I would like to plant milkweed to help the Monarch butterflies. I have read...

Asked October 7, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

I would like to plant milkweed to help the Monarch butterflies. I have read that Asclepias Syriaca is the best type for Maryland and have a source that sells small plugs. I have approximately 1/8 of an acre to plant. My question: what time of the year should I order and plant the milkweed? Thanks

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

Planting milkweed is a terrific idea. We'd suggest a wider variety of plants though. First off, there are three varieties of milkweed which are native to our area. The Asclepias syriaca or Common Milkweed that you mention, and then also A. Incarnata or Swamp Milkweed, and A.tuberosa, know as Butterfly Weed. A misture of these would be better, and perhaps best yet for all kinds of pollinators as well as visual impact, perhaps a native mix including those mentioned along with Joe Pye Weed, Tall Sedum and Solidago. This mixture has the added benefit of adding more plant/insect diversity to your landscape, but also protects you from having a monoculture, which if for some reason your sole planting of one type of plant were to fail, you would not lose the whole garden area.
We would check with your plug supplier for timing of planting. Most often milkweed seed is planted in the fall, but plugs may be different.
If/when you plant or seed, it will be important to control whatever is growing in that area at present, especially grasses, vines, invasives and poison ivy, etc.
Here is some information on the process of starting a wildflower meadow:http://www.mdturfcouncil.org/admin/uploadfiles/tt-70.pdf
This publication is terrific: http://www.nps.gov/plants/pubs/chesapeake/pdf/chesapeakenatives.pdf
Additionally, a regional seed resource which specializes in conservation landscaping (which is what you are doing) is Ernst Seed:http://www.ernstseed.com/