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Desert Milkweed

Each year Scottsdale Garden Club names an annual signature plant and during the year members do in-depth research on that plant. Their findings are presented as a monthly program. Informative displays are used as Educational Exhibits in the next flower show. The 2011 - 2012 Club Signature plant was....              

The Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata
By Barbara Mlnarik

The DESERT MILKWEED is a sun-loving perennial native to our Southwestern desert. Its multi-thin gray green stems are coated with a waxy white coating making it an attractive accent plant. Abundant creamy white flowers crown the tips of the stems and are a great attraction for butterflies.

This plant grows in Zones 1, 2, and 3 and is hardy to 25 degrees. At maturity it may reach 4 feet x 2 feet. The blooming period is spring to fall. Plant in full sun, in rocky native soil. When planting in containers, be sure that there is good drainage. Desert milkweed needs no fertilization. Once established, winter rains will provide necessary moisture. In the summer, water once a month. Overwatering will produce floppy stems. If pruning is necessary, cut individual stems back to the base during the summer. Propagation is by plumed seeds which spill out of pods to be distributed by the wind.

This plant is dramatic when used in mass plantings along walkways, driveways, and in parking bays—ideal for areas that have no water source. It also works well in spots with intense reflected heat. Because it is almost litter free it is the perfect answer in planters and pots beside pools. Try using it as a background plant and combining it with other low water perennials such as black dalea and globe mallow. However used, desert milkweed is a perfect plant for the desert garden.

Source: Perennials of the Southwest by Mary Irish
Arizona, Gardener’s Guide by Mary Irish
Xeriscape Gardens Plants for the Desert Southwest