You really don’t need a swamp to plant this beauty. It’s the only milkweed that thrives in wet conditions, but it also grows well in medium moisture and is even drought tolerant once established. It tolerates mucky clay and poorly drained soils in full to part sun. Its other common name, pink milkweed, is more descriptive of the rosy pink-and-purple clusters of flowers that bloom atop tall, open-branched stems with narrow leaves. The plants usually grow 2-4’ tall, and blooms appear in early or mid-summer. Though in the wild it’s often found close to streams or marshes, this underutilized plant is wonderful for gardens because it doesn’t spread through rhizomes.
Milkweeds are vital to the existence of the monarch butterfly and the endangered unexpected cycnia moth, and the fragrant flowers attract large numbers of pollinators, particularly native bees. These plants often attract aphids – not an issue unless the plant looks sickly, and aphids provide food for other important, beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, solider beetles and damsel flies. If treatment becomes necessary, support the plant with one hand and spray with a blast of high-pressure water, or spray the plant and aphids with soapy water. Avoid use of chemicals that will harm beneficial insects.
Native habitats where swamp milkweed can be found include wet meadows, prairies, swamps and marshes, lakes, ponds, and other wet areas. It’s a perfect choice for gardens with moist soils and proximity to ponds and lakes. Because it’s not a competitive grower, it can get crowded out by more-aggressive plants.
Prefers full sun and tolerates part shade.
Grows 2-4’ tall.
Prefers neutral-to-slightly acidic soils that are rich, wet, muddy, or average moisture.
Clusters of pink-to-light purple flowers are followed by narrow brown seed pods-- often in pairs and 4” long--filled with flat brown seeds attached to white tufts for wind dispersal.
Lance-shaped green leaves are up to 6” long. Color may turn purplish towards the end of the growing season.
A tap root with root crown produces one to six or more erect stems.
Host plant for 12 species of Lepidoptera, including the unexpected cycnia, Isabella tiger, and lined ruby tiger moths (pictured here in that order, preceeded by their caterpillars). Milkweeds are a pollinator favorite.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
The roots were used to make a tea taken in small quantities as a general purge and to expel parasitic worms.
Milkweed contains cardiac glycosides, which are toxic. Though the plants have been used traditionally for medicinal purposes, the toxins result in variable and large differences in toxicity. Some websites state that milkweed is edible when prepared properly, but there is little evidence for this according to poison control websites.
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