Florida is home to 21 species of native milkweeds and one common non-native. Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) is one of the lesser known members of this group. Native to well-drained sandy uplands throughout Florida, it is also present in much of eastern North America. But, because of its somewhat diminutive stature, it is not always noticeable and never very showy.
This is a deciduous perennial that dies completely back to the ground each winter and arises again in early spring. Whorled milkweed gets is Latin and common names from its foliage. The leaves are thin and whorled along the stems. Mature plants rarely stand taller than 30 inches. Because of the thin foliage and its small size, whorled milkweed would need to be planted in mass to be an effective larval food for the voracious appetites of milkweed butterflies.
Flowering occurs during the summer. Small umbels of purplish white flowers are produced along the stem. Like all milkweed blooms, they attract the attention of butterflies.
Whorled milkweed is best used in sunny locations with sandy soils. Plant several plants together in small clusters of 3-5, and have several of these in a mixed wildflower planting if butterflies are important to you. It should be planted in the front half of the garden and mixed with other medium to small sized wildflowers and native grasses. Good companion plants would include grassleaf goldenaster (Pityopsis graminifolia), Garber's blazing star (Liatris garberi) and pink penstemon (Penstemon australis). Though this milkweed has not not been offered before by other nurseries affiliated with AFNN - the Association of Florida Native Nurseries, we are currently growing it at Hawthorn Hill in limited numbers. Ask us if you are interested as I suspect our supply will be quickly sold.