(Indian Milkweed) It's the hairy, minty green foliage of Asclepias eriocarpa --
not its star-like, pink and cream flowers filled with nectar -- that is
most valuable to Monarch butterflies.
Monarchs almost exclusively lay eggs on Milkweed foliage so their caterpillars will eat the leaves when they hatch. They consume powerful chemicals in the bitter white sap that make them unappealing to predators throughout their lives.
If you live in the Monarch's western flyway from Mexico northward through California and the Pacific Northwest, Indian Milkweed is a good host plant for your wildlife garden. However, its chemicals aren't as protective for Monarchs that travel the eastern flyway, which includes the Midwest.
Monarchs migrating through the Rocky Mountain West may be strays from either the western or eastern groups.
Native to California, the western edge of Nevada and Baja, Mexico, Asclepias eriocarpa is sometimes called California Milkweed or Woollypod Milkweed. The common name Indian Milkweed is due to the plant's historical use by various California tribes, including the Ohlone.
Butterflies love the nectar of this summer-blooming perennial, which tolerates drought, heat and cold. Give it full sun and well-drained soil. Expect deer to avoid it.
IMPORTANT NOTE: What you will recieve is a very well established root system. The foliege will not be cosmetically perfect, and it is only in the second year, once planted out in the ground, that this species will attain its full potential. There is often very little above ground activity in the year in which this is planted.
Here are some guidelines for success with this plant in your garden.
Click on an individual icon for more detailed information.
This plant needs or tolerates more than six hours of intense sunlight daily. Many Salvias only thrive in wide-open locations where they receive long hours of full sun. However, full-sun species sometimes tolerate a bit of partial shade. Or a Salvia that loves partial shade may be amenable to spending part of its time in full sun.
In general, this sun/shade adaptability shows up in Salvias that do best in cooler climates when grown in full sun and thrive in hot climates when partial shade is available. So full-sun Salvias sometimes are also categorized as partial-shade plants and vice versa.
This plant can handle extreme heat.
Full-sun Salvias that don’t like any shade are among the most heat tolerant. Heat-loving Salvias also are often drought tolerant. Moisture-conserving features, such as fuzzy leaves, help them stay perky at high temperatures.
Heat-tolerant Salvias are fine choices for western and southern exposures.
Plant hardiness Zones defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture tell you the minimum temperatures a plant can withstand in your garden. The USDA divides the nation into winter climate areas from coldest (Zone 1) to warmest (Zone 11).
However, it is sometimes possible to grow a Zone 6 Salvia as a perennial in Zone 5 if you provide preferential care, such as winter mulching and a location sheltered from harsh winds. In contrast, a Zone 9 Salvia may act like a perennial in Zone 10 if given a bit of shade or extra water.
To create a harmonious landscape plan, it is important to consider the heights of individual plants.
Height also affects function. Short Salvias often make excellent ground covers that conserve soil moisture and discourage weeds while also brightening your yard. Medium-height Salvias, such as ones 36 inches tall, often are ideal border plants. A tall Salvia planted singly can highlight a landscape; multiple plantings can form an attractive screen.
By considering the width of a plant, you can determine how many to place in a row or what other plants to grow with it.
For example, a narrow, moderate-height Salvia may look good interplanted with bushier species, kind of like Mutt and Jeff.
In contrast, wide-spreading Salvias are economical for hiding lengths of wall and fence or for creating hedge-like divisions in a yard.
Plant this herbaceous species in the USDA Zones where it grows as a perennial, returning year after year.
After dying back to the ground at frost, herbaceous perennials emerge in the Spring with soft, new growth. A Salvia that is perennial in one region, may be an annual in another depending on local conditions, such as winter temperatures.
If you live in USDA Zone 5, for example, Salvias in our catalog cited as growing well in Zone 5 or lower will be perennial. Those cited as doing well in Zones 6 or higher may do well in Zone 5, but generally will act like annuals coming back from seed instead of the parent plant’s roots.
This plant needs regular watering based on what is appropriate to your local conditions.
In some extremely hot, arid climates, this may mean daily watering in Summer. Although many drought-resistant Salvias survive on little to no watering due to local rainfall and deep roots meeting their moisture needs, others need regular doses. The size and frequency of the dose depends on your climate.
In the right locale, this plant survives and thrives despite minimal summer water.
Drought resistance is an important characteristic of xeriscapic – dry landscape – plants, a category that includes a multitude of Salvias. Many low-water Salvias are native to parts of the world with little rainfall all year or regions where summers are dry and winters are wet.
Nevertheless, there are also drought-resistant Salvias for places such as Florida where winters are dry and summers are wet.
This plant attracts butterflies whether for nectar or as a host for their caterpillars. Some butterflies feed on a limited range of flowering plants and only lay eggs on one kind of host plant. Salvia nectar lures adult butterflies. Placing host plants, such as Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), next to nectar plants builds butterfly habitat. In exchange, the butterflies improve fertility in your garden through pollination.
Unless local forage is in short supply, most deer likely will avoid this plant.
It appears that deer dislike Salvias, in general, due to their volatile oils that make the plants so fragrant and savory in cooking. However, the only completely deer-proof plants are the ones grown beyond reach.
(Orange Bloodflower) Vivid orange and gold clusters of tiny, star-shaped flowers contrast handsomely with the dark green, lance-shaped leaves of Orange Bloodflower. The endangered Monarch Butterfly is drawn to milkweeds including Asclepias curassavica 'Apollo Orange' for nectar and as a host plant for its eggs.
(Wild Cotton) From the winter rainfall area of southern Africa, this shrubby and unusual Milkweed is especially common in the Western Cape region. An especially tough plant, we have noted that the Monarch larvae that migrate through our area seem to prefer this over all other species.
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Posted: Friday, May 15, 2020
If you live in a semi-arid climate where rain is a vague memory and the soil is crunchy with gravel, you may find yourself praising the color and resilience of blue-tag plants from Flowers by the Sea. Not all of our drought tolerant plants fall into the blue-tag category. Yet ones that do are extremely capable at surviving with little water. FBTS explains plant care and offers five favorite drought-resistant species.
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Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2015
Flowers by the Sea Farm and Online Plant Nursery is serious about wildlife gardening and grows a number of milkweed species considered among the best for supporting Monarch butterflies. Three of the nursery's toughest, loveliest milkweeds are Indian Milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa), Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) and Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Read about the history of milkweeds and the reasons why Monarch butterflies are threatened due to a shortage of these tough yet lovely plants caused by herbicides. Learn how herbicides and pesticides harm Monarchs and other milkweed-loving pollinators.
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