Thursday, October 13, 2011

Milkweed Fall Plant Sale Check List

Fall in the Sonoran Desert is like Spring in the rest of the country - the perfect time to run to the nearest plant nursery and help your garden shine. Our soil is still warm, encouraging rapid root growth. It's a great time to create a wonderful wildlife refuge in your yard, no matter the size. Over the past few weeks at workshops around the state everyone has been asking where to find milkweed to help the monarch butterfly migration. Here is a list of plant sales and anticipated milkweed availability.

Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata
Best for the lower deserts including the greater Phoenix area, Yuma and Tucson. Thrives in full sun. Water twice weekly the first two years, then weekly deeply. Native plant, evergreen.
Desert Botanical Plant Sale (10/15 & 16)
Boyce Thompson Arboretum (Now through 10/23)
Baker's Nursery, Phoenix
Shady Way Nursery, Apache Junction
Master Gardener Plant Sale - Extension Office, Phoenix. 10/22

Arizona or Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias angustifolia
In the Phoenix area grows best in the shade or with morning sun only. Native plant, evergreen. Water twice a week the first year, then weekly deeply.

In previous years this monarch favorite was offered at the Desert Botanical Garden plant sale (10/15 & 16). However my request for information regarding availability is unanswered as of this time. It's worth a trip to see if it is, though. The only other plant nursery that I know of that carries this shade blooming plant is Desert Survivors in Tucson (right off of  I-10 Exit 259 in Tucson.)

 Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica
In the Phoenix area grows best with morning sun, afternoon shade. A non-native (native to Mexico) but a monarch magnet.  Available in orange and yellow flowers and also an all yellow cultivar that is hardy in colder temperatures. Frost tender but often will regrow from roots.
Desert Botanical Plant Sale (10/15 & 16)
Boyce Thompson Arboretum (Now through 10/23)
Easily grown from seed. (Butterfly Encounters)

 Pine-leaf Needle Milkweed, Asclepias linaria
This milkweed does best with some afternoon shade in the warmest parts of the desert. In Southeast Arizona monarchs use this milkweed extensively as a host plant. In the Phoenix area we do not see as much larval activity, but it is a strong monarch nectar plant. We need more data on this milkweed. Let us know if you see monarch activity on this native milkweed.
Usually found at the Desert Botanical Garden (10/15 & 16), Shady Way Nursery in Apache Junction, Boyce Thompson Arboretum (Now through 10/23).

Giant Milkweed or Sodom Apple, Calotropis procera
A non-native milkweed originating in Africa and found in Mexico. One of the few milkweeds that will die back in winter then vigorously regrow in Spring. This milkweed has spectacular fragrant flowers that bloom all summer and seed pods the size of grapefruits. Takes full sun well with deep watering.

Available only at Baker Plant Nursery in Phoenix.

 Many milkweeds grow easily from seed. Some of the milkweeds listed above are available at  Butterfly Encounters. In addition there are two non-native milkweed species from Africa that grow well here in the Phoenix area: Swan Plant, Asclepias fruticosa and Goose Plant, Asclepias Physocarpa. If you make the decision to grow non-native milkweeds, be sure to always grow natives also. Seasoned butterfly gardeners find natives withstand our desert climate extremes most successfully.

Monarchs need milkweed, and if you provide it for them, they will find it. It's a little work on your part, but when they reward you with their presence, you'll find it was well worth the effort.

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