An easy way to make an impact is in your backyard (or front yard!) Gardening and planting milkweeds and native flowering species helps the monarch life cycle and migration. Of the 18 milkweed species native to Missouri, seven are commonly available for purchase. These seven, frequently available, milkweed plants are common, Sullivant’s, whorled, swamp, butterflyweed, purple, and spider (or green).  As with any plant species, each of these milkweed species has specific soil and sun preferences and grow at varying heights.  Below is a guideline to help you select which milkweed(s) will work best in your garden.

  • Common and Sullivant’s milkweeds are somewhat similar, having fragrant, pinkish flower clusters, growing 3 to 4 feet high, and developing colonies from underground stems. Sullivant’s milkweed likes wetter soils than common milkweed and both do best in full sun.
  • Whorled milkweed also spreads with underground stems but is a much smaller plant, only growing 1 to 2 feet in height. It has very narrow leaves that surround the stem and greenish-white, fragrant flowers. It enjoys dry or average soils and full sun or partial shade.
  • Swamp milkweed prefers wet soils, but will grow in average soils. It’s shorter-lived than other milkweeds. This species has large displays of pink flower clusters, grows to 3 or 4 feet in height, and prefers full sun.
  • Butterflyweed grows in average to dry soils and produces bright shows of orange to red flower clusters, growing about 2 feet in height. It does best in full sun.
  • Purple milkweed grows best in light shade and produces rich purple flower clusters. It grows about 3 feet high in dry to average soils.
  • Spider, or green, milkweed has the largest flowers of Missouri’s milkweed species, with greenish outer parts and purple centers. It grows 1 to 2 feet tall under full sun in dry or rocky soils

Monarchs love a variety of plants in their diet when they are adults, so be sure to add other native nectaring plant species to your garden.  Click on the download links, provided below, for more information on additional native plant species to further enhance your monarch and pollinator garden. Monarch Watch, Monarch Joint Venture and Xerces Society also provide lists of Midwest-specific forage.

If you don’t know where to find milkweeds or native plants, our members at Missourians for Monarchs can help. Check out our members’ pages, such as, Grow Native, a program through Missouri Prairie Foundation, and Missouri Wildflowers. 

We would love to hear about your gardening experiences, and would love it even more if you mapped your milkweed to achieve Missourians for Monarchs goals and help conserve monarchs in our state. Registering your garden as a Monarch Way Station or Pollinator Garden is also a wonderful way to help.