Milkweed is a drought-tolerant and deer-resistant perennial plant named for its milky latex sap. It is a great host plant for many beneficial insects including Monarch butterflies, bees, beetles, and lady beetles (ladybugs).
Other native milkweed species that are suitable for our climate are California milkweed (A.californica), woolly milkweed (A.vestita). woollypod milkweed (A. eriocarpa), and heartleaf milkweed (A. cordifolia), which is better suited to the Sierra foothills (2000 ft. elevation). The native milkweed species are not invasive.
Milkweed is the only plant on which the Monarch butterfly will lay eggs. If larvae hatch on your milkweed you might notice the plant's leaves being devoured by the caterpillar. Do not cut it back or pull it up. Once the caterpillar morphs into a butterfly the leaves will grow back.
Home gardeners can aid the Monarch population by adding milkweed to their landscape, pollinator garden, herb garden, or even a patio container. If you own a larger plot of land you might consider letting some of it remain wild, so that the wild nectar producing flowers are available not only for butterflies, but for other pollinators as well.
Milkweed commonly attracts a yellow aphid known as Oleander aphid. This aphid will not destroy the plant and will not infest nearby roses or vegetable gardens. It is plant specific: think of the Oleander aphid as food for the lady beetles. Avoid using pesticides or herbicides that might damage these breeding and feeding areas.
Milkweed is bitter flavored and unpalatable. It is recommended that you do not plant it near livestock as it can be toxic.
UC Master Gardeners of Butte County are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) system. To learn more about us and our upcoming events, and for help with gardening in our area, visit our website. If you have a gardening question or problem, email the Hotline at email@example.com or leave a phone message on our Hotline at (530) 538-7201. To speak to a Master Gardener about a gardening issue, or to drop by the MG office during Hotline hours, see the most current information on our Ask Us section of our website.