Though classified as milkweeds (so named for their milky sap), the plants listed here are anything but weedsthey are showy, easy-to-grow garden plants. All bloom in summer, typically bearing many small, starlike flowers in broad, flattened clusters at branch tips. After the flowers fade, silky seeds burst from inflated seedpods and float through the air like dandelion seeds.
Among the best plants for attracting butterflies, particularly monarchs, whose caterpillars feast on the foliage. In fact, gardeners growing milkweed are a lifeline for migrating monarchs. Deer resistant.
A. curassavica. BLOOD FLOWER. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11; as annual. Native to South America. Woody-based plant with stiff stems and narrow, 6-in. leaves; grows 35 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide. Clusters of vivid red and orange flowers. 'Silky Gold' is similar but bears bright yellow to yellow-orange blooms. Moderate water.
A. humistrata. SANDHILL MILKWEED. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Herbaceous perennial native to the southeastern U.S. Attractive gray-green leaves with distinct purple veins are widely spaced along 112- to 2-ft. stems that lean over to form a spreading plant. White flowers may be tinged with lavender. Regular water.
A. incarnata. SWAMP MILKWEED. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to U.S. except the west coast. Herbaceous perennial to 24 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide. Narrow, pointed leaves to 6 in. long; ball-shaped clusters of pinkish purple flowers. 'Ice Ballet' has pure white blooms. 'Soulmate' blooms deep rose-pink. Regular to ample water.
A. tuberosa. BUTTERFLY WEED. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native in all but the northwest U.S. From a perennial root, many herbaceous stems rise every year to form a clump about 3 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide. Clusters of bright orange flowers attract swarms of butterflies. Gay Butterflies strain features yellow, red, orange, pink, or bicolored blossoms; selection 'Hello Yellow' has bright yellow blooms. All make long-lasting cut flowers. Provide good drainage, little to moderate water. Does not transplant well due to deep taproot.