Asclepias curassavica (Tropical Milkweed)
Asclepias crassavica is an excellent addition to any Butterfly garden. It is a favorite host plant for Monarch Butterflies and a great nectar source for all Butterflies. Milkweed is the only plant that the Monarch Butterfly lays their eggs on. The female lays her eggs on the underside of the Milkweed leaves, and 3-8 days later they hatch into larva or caterpillars. Caterpillars go through five major, distinct stages of growth and after each one, they molt, growing larger and developing their distinct banded appearance. All the while they are munching on the leaves of the Milkweed plant. For an interesting glimpse into the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly, check out this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AUeM8MbaIk
Asclepias crassavica has leaves that are arranged oppositely on long stems, are oblong shaped, and end in narrow pointed tips. Their beautiful blooms grow in clusters of 10-20 miniature flowers. Depending on the variety, the flower’s range in color from a golden yellow to scarlet red to a rich deep red. This plant does best if planted in full sun to part shade, in well-drained soil. They grow 2-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide, blooming from late spring to fall. After their bloom cycle is complete they produce interesting seed pods that when dry, break open and release seeds that are attached to soft, silky fibers. When released, the light-weight fibers (with seeds attached) blow on the autumn winds, seeking out new places to grow.
One problem that plagues the appearance of Tropical Milkweed are Aphids. For some reason Aphids LOVE Tropical Milkweed! But have no fear, Aphid control is as simple as spraying the plants with a burst of water from the hose. This will dislodge the Aphids from the stems and leaves of the plant. Whatever you do, DO NOT spray your Milkweed plant with any pesticide/insecticide. This will kill both Butterflies, Caterpillars and other beneficial pollinators visiting your Milkweed. We at Clearwater Color Nursery never have and never will spray our Milkweed with pesticides/insecticides.
Many scientists strongly suggest pruning Tropical Milkweed to about 3” tall in the fall (by November 1st) to discourage Monarchs from establishing winter-breeding colonies, and to encourage them to finish their fall migration. Cutting back the Tropical Milkweed will also help to eliminate Ophryocystis elektroscirrha also known as “OE” that might be present on the plant. “OE” is a protozoan disease that infects Monarchs and other Milkweed feeders, often resulting in Butterfly crippling or death.
It is recommended that the Milkweed be re-cut every few weeks during the late fall, early winter as the leaves re-sprout. In late winter, early spring go ahead and allow the leaves to re-sprout. It is important to note that the cut stems and/or broken leaves of the Tropical Milkweed exude a poisonous, milky sap that can cause skin irritation and eye injury. Please use caution by wearing gloves and eye protection when pruning back your Tropical Milkweed.
We at Clearwater Color Nursery are growing Asclepias curassavica ‘Red Butterfly’, and the ‘Silky’ series in 6 packs, 4”, 4.5” and 1 gallon containers. Give us a call or check out our website at www.cleawatercolor.com for more information about this plant or any other plants we are growing.