Gardening on the Planet, Lawn Reform

Milkweed Spreading Through My Landscape Makes Me Happy

Two years ago, I wrote about the milkweed seedlings I rescued from a nearby lawn. They survived the move and have formed a decent-sized stand under a maple tree in my backyard. In this tough site (very dry part shade) they need no care whatsoever, and have been given none after watering them for a few weeks that first year to help them settle in. My kind of garden plant!

MilkweedUpdate - 4

Here’s the milkweed I rescued from a lawn, two years later.

In my front yard is an older patch of milkweed through which I dug a rain garden this spring. This patch was growing in a 4-foot-wide section along the front of the house that had been gravel-and-landscape-fabricked (I just made up that word). Digging into a bare swath of gravel next to a healthy cluster of milkweed stems, I removed an intact section of fabric and unearthed strand after strand of thick white lateral runners beneath, with tiny nubs on them that were prepared to push up through the soil and form flowering stems.

These roots with nubs make great transplants. Even when the stems have emerged and sport a couple of pairs of leaves, they will easily settle into a new home. So I suddenly found myself with a heap of great gifts for my pollinator-loving gardener friends. That was fun.

MilkweedUpdate - 2

My new front rain garden (mulched with wood chips) cut through a patch of milkweed.

Meanwhile, in the courtyard between my house and garage, a garden center milkweed that I planted a couple of years ago thrives in the area I call The Seep. It’s a bed of compacted clay subsoil that stays fairly damp against the north side of the garage. After digging up that front rain garden, I can better imagine the milkweed runners that must be crisscrossing this bed under the surface, aerating it as they grow.

MilkweedUpdate - 5

Milkweed is an excellent mingler. See the original cluster at the top left? Underground runners have spread through this bed, and new stems are popping up in the bare places.

My one-acre landscape now has several thriving colonies of milkweed of different origins, so I am fairly confident there will be a robust milkweed population living here well into the future.

Come visit, monarchs!

MilkweedUpdate - 3

Larger view of the front yard with the rain garden running along the front of the house, and a healthy stand of milkweed under the near window.

Posted by on May 18, 2016 at 11:59 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet, Lawn Reform.
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10 responses to “Milkweed Spreading Through My Landscape Makes Me Happy”

  1. sit on grass mower says:

    Interesting to read about milkweed spreadings.Milkweed flowers are really beautiful. Thanks for posting this. This is something different which I can try in my garden.

  2. So very happy and appreciative to read a marvelous post-with pictures-on milkweed! I’ve just planted a bunch of seed, hoping that the Asclepias incarnata will thrive in an area of my Wyoming yard where nothing else ever wanted to (except sunflowers of course, always sunflowers) and invite those beautiful winged creatures to visit, and stay. I read that this variety is considered the swamp milkweed, so really hoping it likes retained moisture from my house’s foundation.

    For everyone reading this, I came by milkweed in a literary way, and wrote a bit of an article on it recently. No gimmicks or advertising, just my perspective… http://perspective

    Thanks for the great post and site to enjoy.

  3. Brad G. says:

    The yard looks wonderful!

  4. Tom Christopher says:

    I love the lilac-like fragrance of milkweed flowers — your garden must be so sweet-scented in milkweed blossom season.

  5. Gardenworm says:

    Susan, exactly what kind DID they say was the ‘best?’

  6. Susan says:

    Just got home from the Texas Master Gardeners Conference in Collin County. I have the same topical milkweed you have all over our flower beds and love it. Imagine my surprise to learn from an informational booth at the conference that my milkweed wasn’t the “best” milkweed for Monarchs. Say it ain’t so Joe!! Live and learn, but my Monarchs still seem happy.

  7. Marcia says:

    One thing I’ve noticed, as have others, is that monarchs love common milkweed leaves earlier in the season when the leaves are fresh. The leaves get tough in early August.

    The few Monarchs that we get now prefer the soft leaves of swamp milkweed late in the year when given a choice.

    I also recommend fertilizing the milkweed. The milkweed at the farm nearby possess a few blooms. My common milkweed, once fertilized, will grow over 6 feet tall with 5 times the blooms.

    Nice garden!

  8. Susan says:

    I am also happy to find common milkweed on my property and there is quite a bit. However, a few years ago, I let some grow in my vegetable garden and the next year it was trying to take over. Just a small warning.

  9. Susan Harris says:

    To say more, I LOVE your garden.
    Also, knowing what plants are great “minglers” is very helpful.

  10. Susan says:

    Wow. Just wow.