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Glendale Public Library
Xeriscape Demonstration Garden Information Sheet

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Asclepias subulata-Desert Milkweed

Don't 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 northwestern Mexico.  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.

Webmaster & Author George Hull Last Updated August 10, 2003