Monday, July 12, 2010

Milkweed mayhem

Houston, we have a problem!!

The common milkweed (asclepias 'syriaca') is a major disaster.

First off, now that they are blooming on their 5-6' stalks, the only 'pollinator' they attract are Japanese beetles. The plants are heavy with them.

Second off, the stalks are prone to being blown down by wind or pushed down by heavy rainfall.

And third (and this is something everyone considering planting them should be WARNED OF) is that they are pervasive. Last year I had 2 seedlings with no where to put them so temporarily healed them in the stump bed and the crab bed. When they came up this Spring I dug them up and put them in the ring bed.

In a couple of weeks, I dug them up again (from the stump & crab bed) and composted them. And again. And again. It seemed that no matter how deeply I dug, how carefully I sifted the soil, new sprouts come up from roots that travel down to China.

Now when I see sprouts, I paint them with full-strength Kilz-all herbicide. I WILL get them out of the stump/crab beds.

As for my previous post where I mentioned I would be removing them from the ring bed, I'm now forewarned. I will not try to dig them up lest I sever/stimulate the roots. I will cut them down instead and begin a regiment of Kilz-all directly to each stalk. It may take some time to do the job, but they will be removed! For the moment, however, I've cut off all their tops/flowers to thwart the beetles.

Don't you just HATE it when something you dreamed of turns out to be a garden nightmare?

As for the asclepias incarnata & asclepias 'ice ballet' - they seem well behaved, beautiful, attracting bees by the bushel and smell like heaven. They can stay. But I'll keep an eye on them too.


  1. Aren't monarch butterflies attracted to milkweed, too?

  2. Hello Peter! Yes, milkweeds are the host plants for monarchs, the larvae eat the leaves. If I take out all of this common milkweed, I would still have 3 very large plantings for bees & butterflies of the other (better behaved) varieties, ones that Japanese beetles ignore.

    Last year I had 2-3 monarchs. This year, just 1. They just don't seem to be many around this area and that's a shame. :-(

  3. I'm really behind with visiting blogs, and now that I have a bit of spare time I find huge BUGS on every North American blog!

  4. Linda - it's not the size of Jap beetles, it's the numbers that are scary. *knock wood* I don't have as many this year as previous years. Still, one must be vigilant and patrol with a jar of soapy water. Sounds like you don't have this problem in your garden. What luck!

  5. Oh, dear! I have a small stand of these in my front flower bed. I cut them back to get them bushier, and they haven't bloomed yet. I haven't had them spread far yet. I normally refuse to grow plants that do. I'll be sure not to let it go to seed, and was planning on pulling the stalks out that go beyond where I want them. Hmm, I wonder if I should put some kind of root barrier around the ones I want to try to grow. I'll consider myself warned, though, and you can say you told me so if I decide I want to get rid of them.

  6. Hi Sue. Since I cut mine down, I sprayed the ends of the open stalks with herbicide. The ground itself is just to hot and baked to temp me to dig out the roots right now.

    I found this link How to kill milkweed which shows how difficult it may be.

    Do you have any other varieties of milkweed, like the incarnata? I find that I am liking them very much and the bees go crazy for them. I experimented on one stand - I cut off the dead flowers and seed pods to see if they might rebloom. I left the other 2 stands alone.


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