|with pedulous umbels that are similar to allium (source|
But, there's a but, Asclepias exaltata is a moisture loving plant! Where I garden the soils are generally dryer (summer), heavier and more neutral than where poke milkweed is naturally found. Is this enough of an issue to make me turn a deaf ear to the siren call of this beautiful wildflower?
I don't know, so I'm going to research Poke milkweed before I sail away!
|R W Smith photographer|
The unique flowers give way to beautiful elongated seed pods in late summer. Poke milkweed is taller than its relatives and is less likely to take over your entire garden like Asclepias syriaca/common milkweed. Once established its deep taproot will make it nearly impossible to transplant successfully, so it’s best planted where it will be happy, and left undisturbed.
The photos below are from the Minnesota Wildflower website.
|Look at that plant in the shade|
|Provides a Monarch larval food source in the shade!|
All sources mentioned that it grows best in moist soil and several suggest that it's happiest in moist soils along with cooler temperatures. All of the sources say it flowers nicely in dappled sun and some, say it will flower in full shade. One grower suggests keeping it out of the direct sun or the leaves will yellow. Illinois Wildflowers says the plants must be protected from prevailing winds and grown in rich loamy moist soil with good drainage.
All agree that it has a strikingly sweet fragrance when in bloom and the seed pods are cool. Several gardeners said that bunnies ate their plants to the ground.
Common Names: Tall Milkweed, Poke milkweed
Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family)
Perennial Native Wildflower
Bloom: Jun, Jul, Aug
Color: White, Pink
USDA Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
US Regions: Midwest, Northern, Northeast, Southeast
Distribution: AL, CT, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV Canada: ON, QC
Light: Partial, Shade
Soil: Sand, rich loam
Moisture: Seems to require moderate moisture.
Benefits: Pollinators, Butterflies,
Habitat: Woodland plant, grows best in dappled sunlight in the understory in loamy soils with moderate moisture. Taprooted.
Deer Resistant, but not bunny resistant
Germination: Requires stratification cold/wet for 4 weeks. Seeds are not expensive and are available on the internet.
Uses: Attracts Pollinators, Honeybees, Butterflies and bunnies
Good wildlife value
In conclusion: Butterfly lovers with shady gardens are in luck! Especially, if you have a moist, shady garden in the eastern United States and Canada. If you have a dry shade garden and want to water this plant during dry periods you, too, can grow A exaltata. Forget growing it in the deep south, it's too hot. If you have a sunny, dry garden then stick with A tuberosa, you won't be disappointed or exhausted from dragging a hose around all summer.
I still hear the siren song, but, right now, I'm leaning toward growing it from seed, in a container, close to the door, where I can smell the sweet fragrance, watch pollinators visiting and water it daily.
PS Before I go, I want to share with you garden guidelines that help me make better plant choices. You can modify it to fit your garden and goals.
Before I place any in the online cart I like to make sure:
- It has a good chance to survive the difficult conditions at Clay and Limestone.
- It's a middle Tennessee or Central Basin native.
- It's a nectar or pollen source for pollinators.
- It's a host plant for pollinators.
- It has berries, seeds and/or nuts for my critter visitors and residents.
- It has good wildlife value.
- It will aid the diversity of my critter friendly garden.
- It isn't available locally.
- Exceptions can be applied by a gardener willing to haul water all summer long for moisture loving plants; purchase containers so plants get good drainage; and, what ever else a plant needs whose siren call won the gardener's heart.
Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for stopping by to see what plant made a siren call to me this month. Thanks for joining in and if you are new to Wildflower Wednesday, it's about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if your wildflower is in bloom or not and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.