Monday, June 4, 2012

Garden Seeds // Milkweed 101

Milkweed is a native Arizona plant that also serves as a host plant for monarch butterflies.  The monarchs are amazing creatures, flying up to 3,000 miles twice a year for their migration to Mexico and back.  Typically, you will see them in Phoenix in early April en route to Mexico, and again in the fall on their return trip to the north.  The height of a monarch presence in the Valley occurs in late September to early October.

Host plants for monarchs have greatly decreased over the years due to land development across the country.  We are lucky in Arizona because we have native plants - i.e. Milkweed - that are also monarch habitats.   How does it work?  The monarchs will lay their eggs on your milkweed.  Caterpillars will hatch and eat your plant but don't worry!  Established milkweeds will bounce back and return next year to assist again in this natural process.

Desert Milkweed
Desert Milkweed in my front yard

The following milkweeds are all native to AZ.  Choose one for your yard, or mix and match up to 10 of these plants and become an official Monarch Waystation!

  • Narrowleaf Milkweed
  • Tropical Milkweed
  • Desert Milkweed (most common)
  • Pineleaf Milkweed

I am currently working with Gail Morris, a local monarch expert, on growing two varieties of milkweed from seed to encourage more of these plants in Valley landscapes.  These seeds and plants will be available for purchase at the Fall Plant Sale at the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

For more information on monarchs, please visit

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