be put off by the unflattering common name of this terrific
plant. An abundance of 4-5 foot tall, upright stems
often gives Asclepias subulata a stout, shrubby
appearance. The gray-green stems are herbaceous and only
slightly woody at the base. The plant can grow to 5 feet tall
and spread to about 4 feet across.
Small, short lived leaves
appear on new growth but drop soon after. Unusual clusters of
pleasing pale yellow flowers appear at the tips of branches
intermittently from spring until fall attracting butterflies to
the garden. Flowers are followed by pairs of ornamental,
horn-shaped seed pods which measure about 3 inches long by 3/4
inch wide. At maturity the pods split to disperse fluffy seeds
into the wind.
Asclepias subulata can be found in dry
washes and on rocky slopes and hillsides below 3,000 feet in
southern Nevada, western Arizona, southeastern California and
Tuck desert milkweed in among boulders, interplant it with
herbaceous shrubs and perennials, or grow it in a container.
This clean plant is also ideal for use around swimming pools.
Desert milkweed thrives in full sun and reflected heat, and
needs good drainage. It is moderately fast growing.
After several years, cut back in Spring to make the plant more
attractive. Excessive water encourages aphid attacks.