Milkweed plants have become increasingly popular due to the increased awareness of the monarch butterfly's declining population. Milkweeds really are a family of plants, some of which are native to central Ohio. They can be hard to find in big box nurseries, although they are becoming more widely available. As shown in these two images above, this is creating problems. The picture on the left has a plant tagged as "butterflyweed". The Latin name actually identifies it as swamp milkweed, but there is no legal obligation to label it as such, as long as the Latin name is listed. I find swamp milkweed growing in the wild near, you guessed it, water. Despite personal observations, it will perform alright in an average garden setting, as long as the site isn't overly dry and hot, like a south facing wall of a building.
The image on the left is pretty self explanatory. This is the plant identified as butterfly weed to most of us. It needs the dry and hot location, like the south facing wall of a building. Both are great plants, and have their place in the right location. Both plants should be planted more often to provide food for monarch larvae. The labeling is deliberately misleading only to sell more plants. Are these big nurseries scared to have something on the shelf called swamp milkweed because they think it won't sell? I firmly believe they do.
I strongly recommend having at least some kind of milkweed in the landscape. They not only provide food for monarch larvae but also for plenty of other pollinators (and oleander aphids). There is also the common milkweed, which some of us may remember from our childhood. It tolerates a wider range of conditions, but it is rhizomatous, meaning it sends out sprouting roots. Because of this, some communities have banned it, including Columbus (this may have recently changed).
If you want milkweeds contact me or another specialty nursery in your area that sells native plants. We don't use labels meant to confuse or mislead people! You may also find even more species of milkweed available. The three I mentioned are the most common in the wild. Free milkweed seeds are easy to come by if you know where to look (google it).
The Sierra Club sent this to us in the mail last week asking for our money. This packet makes no claims to be a wildflower mix, but does capitalize on the recent public bee craze, which is great. The public bee craze is another discussion for another time. I was curious what the Sierra Club considers bee food. I read the list of ingredients on the back of the package shown on the photo on the right. Plants from all over the world! I'm not criticizing the Sierra Club, but I really did expect more from them- at least plants native to the U.S. I opened the package, sorted out the 4 purple coneflower seeds and pitched the rest.
These are two blackhaw viburnum shrubs (native to central Ohio, of course). They were planted side by side two years ago. They came from the same source and were in the same size container. They were pretty much identical when planted. So, why does one plant have a few flowers while the other has none? Age is actually a factor here. Both these shrubs have reached the age where, in the future, they will flower more consistently. Kids entering puberty is a great analogy; not every child begins puberty at the exact same time. The same is true for trees, shrubs, and perennials, even if they are the same age. If you have every grown trees, shrubs, or perennials from seed this is familiar. Big box nurseries don't sell immature plants, but wait until they flower to sell them. Mail order catalogs will ship immature plants, and people are usually disappointed when their plants arrive and don't bloom that first summer. Patience pays off, again!
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COME EARLY! Supplies will be limited, so arrive early! Last year there were quite a few larger sized perennials, but they were picked up quick! There is even a new coffee shop across the street- no excuse to stay home!