Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) Quick Facts:
Host to Monarch, Nectar for many
Native in the Eastern US and Canada
Hardy in USDA zones 3-7
Shade or partial sun
Moist, well-drained soil
Drooping flowers bloom for a short period in the summer
2- 6 feet tall
Space 1-2 feet apart
May hybridize with Common Milkweed if planted together.
Deer resistant (but not bunnies)
Plant Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) for Monarchs, Swallowtails, Skippers
Poke or Tall Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) is a rarity in the milkweed family. It defies its sun-loving relatives and prefers the shady areas of your garden. Delicate white flowers drooping on tall, green-purplish stalks attract adult egg-laying Monarchs, Great Spangled Fritillaries, Tiger Swallowtails, Skippers and Pearl Crescents. Asclepias exaltata, toxic in large doses to most creatures, is an ideal host plant for Monarch caterpillars. But butterflies are not the only garden visitors that love Poke Milkweed; Bumblebees and other pollinators are especially fond of it!
This low-maintenance, quick-growing native grows wild in most of the Eastern US and Canada, primarily in damp, shady edges of clearings, or on shorelines of ponds and other waterways.
It dies back in winter and returns in spring in USDA zones 3-7. Poke Milkweed often acts as a fast-growing annual in colder zones, where it tolerates full sun.
This unique milkweed prefers early morning or dappled sunlight, and moist, well-drained soil. It’s common for it to reach 6 feet tall in a shady environment. An early summer bloomer, Poke Milkweed provides nectar and fragrance for about a month; it’ll grab the attention of your resident pollinators and you.
For your garden, it is best to place this plant in back. Because it’s so tall, it can shadow plants behind it and rob them of light.
Poke Milkweed is not aggressive or invasive, but it can be long-lived. Individual plants have lived for decades under optimal growing conditions. It’s often confused with Common Milkweed; the two will hybridize when grown in close proximity. Keep them separated to keep your seeds pure for future plantings.
While it’s fairly deer-resistant, rabbits are guilty of eating Poke Milkweed to the ground if the new plants are not protected.