The American Perennial Plant Association has announced their 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year: Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). This is a good thing, of course, for native plant enthusiasts. Now garden centers and big box stores will carry this native species in response to the anticipated demand for the Perennial Plant of the Year. This sounds like a win-win for monarch butterflies – Yeh! More habitat! But, there is a big “however.”
First and foremost, both the buyers and sellers are going to have to be diligent about making certain the plants have not been grown using systemic insecticides.
Second, many perennial gardeners may not realize the number of insects that use this plant (aphids, ants, beetles, tussock moth caterpillars, bees and wasps — just to name a few) or that it is susceptible to mildew.
Third, buyers will need to read the label regarding planting conditions carefully. Butterflyweed likes to grow in well-drained soils. It is definitely picky about its growing conditions.
It will take a big effort on the part of monarch butterfly enthusiasts everywhere to educate the non-native plant gardeners about how to maintain this milkweed as appropriate habitat for female monarchs and their larva. Good luck to us all!