Native Plant of the Moment: Showy Milkweed (Asclepias Speciosa)

After the guilt-inducing plant of the month series I did in the early days of the blog, I've now decided on a plant of the moment series. I'll highlight, at irregular intervals, a plant that really grabs my attention right now, and I'll tell you a little bit about it.

Asclepias speciosa, a California native milkweed, is not locally native because she prefers a little more water than we get here, but is actually widespread throughout California and the western US. I first planted A. speciosa in the side bed that has some late afternoon sun, and she's still alive there but not thriving. Then, 3 years ago when I removed the Euphorbia from the Mediterranean mounds, I decided on a combination of A. speciosa and Salvia spatacea (hummingbird sage).

Combined with Festuca californica, Stipa gigantea (a Mediterranean grass) and the dark green ceanothus, the view from the sunroom is pleasing.

Then, of course, there is the chance of butterflies. Monarchs like to lay their eggs on milkweed so the caterpillars taste bad and survive. I'm checking for butterflies and caterpillars, but so far, no luck. To attract butterflies, I'm working on having swaths of long-blooming plants such as lavender and salvias nearby. I've been told they are attracted to largish areas of color, and I'm cautiously optimistic. But even without the butterflies I'm quite happy. Can you say showy?

Even the leaves are not your average California native leaf, big and glossy, almost two inches wide. So, what's not to like? Some object to the rather long dormancy. By September, A. speciosa is nothing much to look at any more, and she doesn't start poking out her first leaves until April. In my garden, the Salvia picks up the slack so that's not a problem. I've also heard that she can be a bit of a spreader, but I'm hoping that in my fairly dry garden, that won't be a problem either. For now, I don't mind a little bit of spread, and I'm sure the butterflies won't mind either.


I was delighted to read about your milkweeds. I'm falling in love with mine at the moment too. I though it was never going to grow - actually thought I'd bought a dud- just an pot of soil! Then about 4 weeks ago it sprouted and has now blossomed. Good tip about attracting butterflies with other plants too.
Country Mouse said…
Having not seen the milkweed I planted three or four years ago for a looong time - I noticed a small sprouting just yesterday! I think I got the native one. Maybe ignoring it worked - eventually - we'll see if it does come back and thrive! I do like the look of the showy one too - I'll be interested to see how it behaves in your garden.
I planted quite a bit of milkweed, but so far the butterflies ignore it. The garden fennel is another story!