Project Milkweed

The Monarch butterfly is in trouble!

Since 1992, the monarchs and their host plant milkweed, population numbers are down by 90%. Milkweed plants are the only source of food, and host for eggs, for the monarch caterpillar. These plants are rapidly disappearing, due to the loss of habitat stemming from land development and the widespread use of herbicides and pesticides.

To help Monarchs, the TDOT Pollinator Habitat Program is providing FREE MILKWEED SEEDS to anyone in Tennessee who will join us in our mission. The best way to help the monarch butterfly is to rebuild their habitat and give them the food and shelter they need to survive. See information on planting and maintenance below.

Project Milkweed | Tennessee Pollinators | Photo by Marty Silver

Photo by Marty Silver

Free Milkweed Seeds

We will be taking seed orders from September 15 to October 1st. Seeds should be planted before October 15. Milkweed seeds must have the winter cold to germinate.

Two Species Selections:

Red Milkweed, Asclepias Incarnata | | TN Pollinator Habitat Program
Photo by Peter M. Dziuk

For Small Gardens:
Red Milkweed – Asclepias incarnata

Red Milkweed – Asclepias incarnata, also called swamp milkweed, is an erect, clump-forming, native perennial which is commonly found in swamps, river bottomlands and wet meadows. Stems exude a toxic milky sap when cut. Flowers are followed by attractive seed pods (to 4″ long) which split open when ripe releasing silky-haired seeds easily carried by the wind. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies as a nectar source. Red milkweed is an important food source for the larval stage of Monarch butterflies.

Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet- branching stems
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: White, pink, mauve flowers (1/4″ wide), each with five reflexed petals and an elevated central crown, appear in tight clusters (umbels), fragrant
Leaves: narrow, lance-shaped, taper-pointed leaves are 3-6″ long.
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Small Gardens, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Clay Soil, Wet Soil

Common Milkweed, Asclepias Syriaca

For Large Areas:
Common Milkweed – Asclepias syriaca

Common Milkweed – Asclepias syriaca is a native perennial which occurs in fields, open woods, roadsides and along railroad tracks throughout much of North America. Stems and leaves exude a milky sap when cut or bruised. Flowers give way to prominent, warty seed pods (2-4″ long) which split open when ripe releasing their numerous silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. Seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars).

VERY AGGRESSIVE. Easily grown from seed and will self-seed in the landscape if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open. Can spread somewhat rapidly by rhizomes. Often forms extensive colonies in the wild which provide great benefit to Monarch and other butterfly species.

Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet tall on stout, upright stems with thick, broad-oblong, reddish-veined,
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: Pink, mauve, white
Leaves: green leaves (to 8″ long).
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium. Drought tolerant.
Maintenance: Low. Does well in poor, dryish soils.
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil

Free Seed Quantity: 1 Packet = 20 seeds = 9 square feet or 3’x’3 garden • Limit 10 packages

We will be taking seed orders from September 15 to October 1st.
Please check back.

Milkseed Project | Tennessee Pollinators

About The Monarch

The Life Cycle

Monarch Life Cycle | TDOT Pollinator Habitat Program
Watch “Amazing Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly”

The Great Migration

Monarch Butterflies: Great Migration
Watch “Monarch Butterflies: Great Migration”

Planting & Maintenance — Residencial & More

You can help save pollinators by using native-friendly plants, choose a mixture of plants, reduce or eliminate pesticides, plant milkweed and provide clean water. Below you will find resources for Tennessee residents who want to join us in our mission.