Grower Select: Ice Ballet Swamp Milkweed
Have you noticed fewer monarch butterflies around lately? Habitat loss and destruction of their food plants have taken a toll on them in recent years, but you can be a part of the solution. Monarchs must have Milkweed to feed their young, and planting Ice Ballet Swamp Milkweed in your garden is a simple thing you can do to help these gorgeous butterflies become as plentiful as they once were. As a bonus, you’ll get to enjoy this Spirit’s sparkling white, vanilla-scented summertime flowers. It’s win-win!
Those fluffy seeds that Milkweeds produce? They saved the lives of our troops in World War II. The silky floss was used to stuff life jackets, because it was waterproof, light, and buoyant. American children were recruited to collect Milkweed pods, and kids answered the call, gathering an estimated 11 million pounds! Swamp Milkweed is native to a large portion of the country, from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. This particular selection, Ice Ballet, comes from our German friends (now that the war is over) at Jelitto Seeds. It was introduced in 1992.
Plant some extra Ice Ballet Swamp Milkweed, so you’ll have some for cutting. This variety has particularly strong stems, making it a choice cut flower. Just be sure to check for monarch caterpillars before bringing the blossoms indoors!
How to Grow
Grow Ice Ballet Swamp Milkweed in full sun for best results and irrigate regularly. Do not let it dry out. Plants will be tall and lush in wet soil, a bit shorter and more compact in average conditions. One problem that may affect Ice Ballet is aphids feeding on the new growth. Simply knock them off with a jet of water from the hose. Do not use pesticides on or near this monarch butterfly host plant! Cut plants back in late fall or any time before new growth appears in the spring. Swamp Milkweed is late to emerge, and it’s a good idea to mark its location before it goes dormant for the winter, so you remember where it is.
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