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Red Milkweed

Asclepias rubra

Red Milkweed is an underused plant that is sure to add interest and diversity to any milkweed collection. Its beautiful lavender-pink flowers bloom for several weeks in early summer and the leaves provide food for hungry monarch caterpillars. Hardy in zones 6 through 9.

 

Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra) flowering in late spring

 

 

Pot size: 4.5 in. wide x 5 in. deep (32 fl. oz)

 

 

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Habit

  • Stems emerge in the spring and quickly reach 2 to 3 ft. tall
  • Clump forming habit with a thick carrot-like rootstock
  • In some years (more so in the wild than in cultivation) plants can stay dormant for the whole growing season. Scratching the soil away and checking to see that the rootstock is still solid will assure that the plant is alive and will emerge the following year.

    How to Grow

  • Sun to part shade – at least 6 hours of direct sun for best flowering
  • Moist to wet soil
  • We grow Red Milkweed in an artificial bog which has a high water table to imitate its natural habitat. Avoid planting near large, spreading plants, where they may be overrun and shaded out.

    Where to plant

  • Red Milkweed is a perfect companion to plant in pitcher plant bogs with slow growing carnivorous plants.
  • Wildlife

    Flowers are mainly pollinated by:

  • Large bees and bumble bees
  • Large butterflies, such as swallowtails and monarchs
  • Flowers provide nectar for:

  • Wide variety of beneficial insects
  • Hummingbirds
  • Larval host plant for:

  • Monarch butterfly
  • Queen butterfly
  • Milkweed tussock moth
  • Native habitat and range

  • Grows in wet pine savannas, sandhill seeps, and the edges of pocosins (evergreen shrub bogs)
  • Long Island to Florida; uncommon to rare throughout most of its range
  • Source and origin

    Plants grown from seeds collected on the edge of a pocosin in Jones County, North Carolina.

    Comments

    The common name Red Milkweed is not very accurate, as the flowers are more lavender-pink than red in color.

    Propagation

    Before seeds will germinate, they need to be exposed to a moist, cool period for at least three weeks, or work with nature and sow seeds in the fall so germination will occur in the spring. Here is an article we wrote on growing milkweed from seed.