Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, July 13, 2020

Where are all the pollinators

Here are some.

All over the common milkweed! The bumbles were slow to arrive, but, once the Asclepias syriaca bloomed they were all over it from early morning to dusk.

It was a delightful sight.

Common milkweed is an interesting looking plant with gorgeous flowers that smell delicious. It typically grows 3-4' tall on stout, upright stems with thick, broad-oblong, reddish-veined, light green leaves (to 8" long), although, in ideal conditions it can grow to be 6 foot tall.
It's a colonizer and when you plant one you can be guaranteed that there will be dozens before you know it.
I planted one that I found at a plant fair in the sunniest spot in my garden, aka the mailbox garden. Since then it's been duking it out with the ex-asters, Goldenrods, Verbesina virginica and River Oats. It might be winning.
Did I mention that is smells divine?

Some times the breeze carries the honey like scent all the way up the driveway.
Trust me on this and plant it were you don't mind it taking off or be prepared to edit them out. I cut them down and don't bother trying to save them, there will always be more!
Yes, it's aggressive, but, "common milkweed is Nature's mega food market for insects. Over 450 insects are known to feed on some portion of the plant. Numerous insects are attracted to the nectar-laden flowers and it is not at all uncommon to see flies, beetles, ants, bees, wasps, and butterflies on the flowers at the same time. Occasionally hummingbirds will try, unsuccessfully, to extract nectar. Its sap, leaves and flowers also provide food. In the northeast and midwest, it is among the most important food plants for monarch caterpillars (Danaus plexippus). Source

 That's some good wildlife value! Besides that, you do need this fragrance in your garden.


 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.


  1. These grow on my sister's property in Michigan and they are covered in insects and you're right they smell wonderful! Sadly, the Georgia Native Plant Society doesn't recommend growing them in my area because they are not native to Georgia. Enjoy your blooms and all those pollinators!

    1. I was surprised to read that on the Georgia native plant page. But, there are so many other ones.

  2. I haven't had any luck with common milkweed, though I have Swamp Milkweed, A. incarnata and Butterfly Weed, A. tuberosa growing well.

  3. It is going to win over river oats??? WOW I would like to see that fight. River oats are taking over one of my flower beds. I think it would take over the world if it was allowed to. ha... I do love the smell of the milkweed. A friend of mine has a nice colony. We were walking and talking in her garden not long ago and I asked her what was that wonderful smell. We found that it was the Common Milkweed.

  4. I have a colony of common milkweed that started in the backyard and over the years has migrated to one of the front bed. Not the most attractive plant. Sadly, I have never had any Monarch caterpillars although I regularly see the butterflies in the yard. Not many, but a few. It's odd, suddenly one day this past week there were a lot of different butterflies flitting around, where I had seen many at all before that.

  5. Once we stopped cutting the grass in what used to be the Big Lawn (now the Big Meadow), milkweed started to appear. The colonies are getting bigger annually, spreading wherever the plants are comfortable. The blossoms aren't fully open yet but will be within a week or so. And then the scent will be stunning. Since the other plant that is spreading happily in the area is what I call fragrant bedstraw, the whole area is one big perfume factory.

  6. I have some Common Milkweed but they have hardly any blooms. Very frustrating. Still, there are plenty of bumbles on the Wild Bergamot and Bee Balm.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson