How to Grow Poke Milkweed for Pollinators

Discover a unique, uncommon milkweed for the shady areas of your yard! Here's how to grow poke milkweed, and how it benefits butterflies.

poke milkweedVia

You’ve heard of common milkweed. You’ve heard of swamp milkweed. You might’ve even heard of showy milkweed, or non-native tropical milkweed. But have you heard of poke milkweed?

If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) is a less common—but quite unique—milkweed species found in the northeastern and midwestern United States. It offers many of the same benefits as the more well-known milkweeds, but with intriguing flowers that set it apart from the others. Here’s how to grow it.

Not sure where or how to start when adding milkweed to your yard? Check out our ultimate guide to growing milkweed.

Poke Milkweed Care and Growing Tips

poke milkweedVia Prairie Moon Nursery
This is a good type of milkweed for growing in shade gardens.

This milkweed is a perfect choice for the not-quite sunny areas of your yard. Commonly found at the edges of woodlands, it grows best in part-sun to part shade, in moist to partly dry soil. It does best with more shade than less—with too much sun, the leaves can yellow and drop off.

In certain portions of its range, it is uncommonly seen. This large-leafed plant looks similar to common milkweed but is notably less aggressive; however, it may hybridize when grown nearby.

Fragrant white or purple flowers bloom from May through August and grow in droopy clusters. Leaves are bright green and oval-shaped. Watch out for hungry rabbits, who tend to munch on the leaves when given the chance. Deer tend to leave it alone. Is milkweed poisonous to people and pets?

Zone: 3 to 7
Light needs: Part sun to shade
Soil: Moist to partly dry
Size: 3 to 5 feet tall
Attracts: Butterflies and bees
Foliage: Large, oval-shaped green leaves

Thinking of adding common milkweed to your garden? Read about the pros and cons.

Poke Milkweed Benefits

poke milkweedVia Prairie Moon Nursery
The fragrant flowers will attract butterflies.

Poke milkweed flowers are a favorite of many butterfly species, like monarchs and great spangled fritillaries as well as bees. Like other native types of milkweed, it’s a host plant for monarch caterpillars.

Next, learn fascinating facts about milkweed that you should know.

Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate editor for Birds & Blooms Digital. Throughout her years with the publication, she has written multiple articles for print as well as digital, all covering birding and gardening. In her role as associate editor, she is responsible for creating and editing articles on the subject of birding and gardening, as well as putting together Birds & Bloom's daily digital newsletter. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a master's degree in magazine journalism and undergraduate degrees in journalism and English, she has more than eight years of experience in the magazine, newspaper, and book industries.