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15 Irresistible Harrison County, WV Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) to Grow for Butterflies

Table of Contents for Harrison County, WV Native or Nearly Native Milkweeds

General Information about Native Plant and Pollinator Gardens

When planting a native plant and pollinator garden in Harrison County, WV, you need to ensure that you have a selection of plants that provide blooms at different times of the year. Besides milkweeds, other host plants that attract other butterflies and pollinators should be considered. These could include pawpaw (Asimina triloba) for zebra swallowtail, wild cherry (Prunus serotina) for eastern tiger swallowtails, and trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) for hummingbirds.

In addition to the plants, you need to provide a source of water such as a birdbath or water feature, shelter for animals, and nesting locations for birds. Be sure to also include plants of different heights for perching. Resources you can use for more information on butterfly gardening in Harrison County, WV include the West Virginia Native Plant Society, the West Virginia Division of Forestry, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Location of Harrison County, West Virginia

Harrison County highlighted in red on a West Virginia map.
West Virginia Map with Harrison County in Red — David Benbennick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Harrison County is located in north-central West Virginia. Clarksburg is the largest city in the county.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones in Harrison County, West Virginia

2023 USDA plant hardiness zone map for West Virginia.
2023 USDA West Virginia Plant Hardiness Zone Map — USDA Public Domain

Harrison County, West Virginia is located entirely within plant hardiness zone 6b. Clarksburg is the largest city in the county. When selecting plants in Harrison County, including Clarksburg you will want to get those that can handle temperatures as cold as -50F.

Butterflies in Harrison County, West Virginia that are Hosted by Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) with Monarch butterfly.
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on Purple Coneflower — Robert Coxe, Image

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

The monarch butterfly is an iconic butterfly in North America and is a bell-weather of the environment. Having a distinctive orange color with black stripes, this butterfly has a wingspan of 3 in (7.6 cm) to 5 in (12.7 cm). The monarch butterfly uses milkweed to get cardenolides, a toxin that is distasteful to predators. This butterfly can have several flights a year and is known for its migrations to Mexico each year. However, some populations in California, Arizona, and Florida do not migrate and breed year-round (Urguhart, et al 1968).

List of Milkweeds that are Native or Nearly Native in Harrison County, West Virginia

1. Clasping Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis), a Milkweed for Moist to Dry Soils

Clasping milkweed is found in open to semi-open places such as meadows, savannas, woodlands, and roadsides. While it likes full sun, this plant can handle part-shade and needs clay, loam, or sandy soil that is well-drained. Reproduction is through seeds and underground rhizomes. Seeds should be planted outdoors in the fall or started about 6-8 weeks before the last frost. The pink to purple flower clusters have about 25 fragrant flowers each. Potential companion plants include butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), blazing star (Liatris spicata), Joe-Pye-weed (Eutrochium spp.), and coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Pinkish flowers of clasping milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) in a field, a Raleigh milkweed.
Flowers of Clasping Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) — cassi saari, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Facts about Clasping Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, very scattered in southern and western counties (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: dry woodlands, meadows, and roadsides
  • Height: up to 3 ft (0.9 m)
  • Flower Color: greenish-pink, red, brown, to purple
  • Flowering Period: March to September
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Gardening with Clasping Milkweed

2. Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata), a Milkweed for Shade and Moist Soils

Poke milkweed is a part-shade to shade loving milkweed, but handles full sun in a garden setting. A variety of soils such as clay, loamy, and sand that are moderate to wet and are well-drained are needed. The leaves of this milkweed are notable for being dark green with purplish veins. Suitable companions for this species in Harrison County that grow in moist, shady places include swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), and black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta).

White flowers of poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) in a wooded area.
Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) — homeredwardprice, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Facts about Poke Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, mostly eastern counties, scattered in west (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: Yes
  • Natural Habitat: moist woods, roadsides, and edges of woods
  • Height: 2 ft (0.6 m) to 6 ft (1.8 m)
  • Flower Color: white to green with accents of rose, purple, or blue
  • Flowering Period: May to August
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Gardening with Poke Milkweed

3. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), a Milkweed for Moist Soils

Previous mentioned as a companion to the poke milkweed, swamp milkweed likes wet soils in full sun or partial shade. However, in a garden setting, this species can handle drier conditions. Swamp milkweed is a fairly tall milkweed, needs space to spread out and is fairly low maintenance. The fragrant pink flowers are a magnet for bees and other insects.

Pink flowers of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) from Pennsylvania.
Flowers of Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) — Cbaile19, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Facts about Swamp Milkweed

Asclepias incarnata subsp. incarnata and pulchra in West Virginia

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, throughout both – scattered in west (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: Yes, both
  • Natural Habitat: shores of streams, lakes, ponds, and other wetlands
  • Height: 3 ft (0.9 m) to 5 ft (1.5 m)
  • Flower Color: pink or red
  • Flowering Period: July to September
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Gardening with Swamp Milkweed

4. Long-leaf Milkweed (Asclepias longifolia), a Milkweed for Moist Soils

Long-leaf milkweed is another moist soil lover that is rare in West Virginia. While not native to Harrison County, this plant can handle the plant hardiness zone of the county. This species should be placed in full sun and in moist to wet soils. Seeds can be sown in the fall or started 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Potential companion plants that can aid in attracting butterflies include coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), golden alexander (Zizia aurea), Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium spp.), purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens), and goldenrod (Solidago spp.).

Purplish flowers of long-leaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia).
Flowers of Long-leaf Milkweed — Asclepias longifolia Michx. observed in United States of America by Justin (licensed under CC0 1.0)

Facts about Long-leaf Milkweed

Asclepias longifolia var. hirtella in West Virginia

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, rare in southwestern counties and scattered elsewhere (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: bogs, swamps, and wet flatwoods
  • Height: 1 ft (0.3 m) to 2.5 ft (0.8 m)
  • Flower Color: greenish-white with a tinge of purple
  • Flowering Period: April to July
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Gardening with Long-leaf Milkweed

5. Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens), a Milkweed for Moist Soils

If you are looking for a splash of purple in your garden while hosting the monarch butterflies, this milkweed may be for you. In the wild this species is found in moist soils, but can grow in medium well-drained soils in a garden and can even tolerate droughts, if established. Be sure to have planty of space for this plant, as it likes to spread and form colonies. Companion plants are similar to those for the long-leaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia).

Plant of purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) with purple flowers.
Plant of Purple Milkweed — Asclepias purpurascens L. observed in United States of America by Jim Bowhay (licensed under CC0 1.0)

Facts about Purple Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, scattered throughout (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: Yes
  • Natural Habitat: swamps, woodlands, meadows, and roadsides
  • Height: up to 6 ft (1.8 m)
  • Flower Color: purple, rose to pink, may mature to purple color
  • Flowering Period: May to July
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Gardening with Purple Milkweed

6. Four-leaf Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia), a Milkweed for Dry Rocky Soils

If you have dry well-drained soils and sun or some shade, this milkweed may be a good choice for you. In the wild, this species can be found growing in dry woodlands. Four-leaf milkweed has clusters of white to pink flowers and can be grown from seed or cuttings. Seeds should be started about 6-8 weeks before the first frost or in the spring after frost. Potential companion plants include butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), conefower (Echinacea purpurea), and goldenrod (Solidago spp.).

Plant of four-leaf milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia) with white flowers.
Four-leaf Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia) — Eric Hunt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Facts about Four-leaf Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, throughout, scattered in some areas (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: roadsides and pastures that have disturbance
  • Height: 1 ft (0.3 m) to 3 ft (0.9 m)
  • Flower Color: white to pink
  • Flowering Period: April to July
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Gardening with Four-leaf Milkweed

7. Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra), a Milkweed for Moist to Wet Soils

Another milkweed of moist soils, this milkweed is often found in full sun. However, in a garden setting it can be grown in medium moisture soils. Other companion plants would be those that can also handle moist soils such as swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurescens), and false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica). The small size could make this plant suitable for containers.

Close-up of pink flowers of red milkweed (Asclepias rubra).
Flowers of Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra) — peganum from Small Dole, England, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Facts about Red Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: No (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: bogs, meadows, and pine barrens
  • Height: 1 ft (0.3 m) to 3 ft (0.9 m)
  • Flower Color: pink, purple, red to lavender
  • Flowering Period: May to August
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9

Gardening with Red Milkweed

8. Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa), a Milkweed for Medium to Well-drained Soils

Showy milkweed is a commonly planted milkweed in butterfly gardens around the United States. It is a small to medium sized plant, making it suitable for containers, but whether planted or in a container, it needs good drainage. While not native to West Virginia or to Harrison County, it can handle the plant hardiness zone and makes an excellent compliment to the garden.

Pinkish-white flowers of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa).
Flowers of Showy Milkweed — Asclepias speciosa Torr. observed in Canada by markeambard (licensed under CC0 1.0)

Facts about Showy Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: No (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: roadsides, fields and woodlands
  • Height: 1 ft (0.3 m) to 3 ft (0.9 m)
  • Flower Color: purple to pink
  • Flowering Period: April to June
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Gardening with Showy Milkweed

9. Sullivant’s Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii), a Milkweed for Medium to Dry Sandy Soils

Sullivant’s milkweed is native to the west of Harrison County in Ohio. Given climate change induced warming it may face heat stress in the future, but can be a short-term choice for your garden. Soils should be medium to dry and neutral in pH. Potential companion plants that would compliment this species include New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and goldenrods (Solidago spp.).

Plant of sullivant's milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii) with pink flowers.
Sullivant’s Milkweed — Asclepias sullivantii Engelm. ex A.Gray observed in United States of America by Nancy Navarre (licensed under CC0 1.0)

Facts about Sullivant’s Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: No (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: prairies, meadows, railroad edges, and roadsides
  • Height: 2 ft (0.6 m) to 5 ft (1.5 m)
  • Flower Color: pink to purplish
  • Flowering Period: June to July
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-7

Gardening with Sullivant’s Milkweed

10. Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), a Milkweed for all Conditions

This milkweed is one of the most common in the midwest and northeastern United States. The large leaves provide ample feeding opportunities for monarch butterflies. Common milkweed is a plant for all conditions and can spread by seed or rhizomes, so it should have some space in the garden. Generally this species is joined by butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) along with Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochum spp.), goldenrods (Solidago spp.), coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and ironweed (Vernonia novaboracensis), to form a year-round buffet.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) with eastern tiger swallowtail.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) with Eastern Tiger Swallowtail — Author Image

Facts about Common Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, throughout (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: Yes
  • Natural Habitat: fields, pastures, roadsides
  • Height: up to 6 ft (1.8 m)
  • Flower Color: pink, greenish-purple, greenish-white, to white
  • Flowering Period: June to August
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Gardening with Common Milkweed

11. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a Milkweed for all Conditions

Butterfly weed is one of three milkweeds in the United States that has an orange colored flower and is one of two that does have a milky sap. The orange flowers this is plant are iconic and make it a favorite as well as its abilities to handle most garden conditions. Companion plants are similar to those for the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).

Orange flowers of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in a garden.
Flowers of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) — Robert Coxe, Image

Facts about Butterfly Weed

Asclepias tuberosa subsp. interior and subsp. tuberosa in West Virginia

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, scattered – subsp. interior, throughout – subsp. tuberosa (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: Yes, both
  • Natural Habitat: fields, roadsides and open woods
  • Height: 1 ft (0.3 m) to 3 ft (0.9 m)
  • Flower Color: orange
  • Flowering Period: June to October
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Gardening with Butterfly Weed

12. Red-ring Milkweed (Asclepias variegata), a Milkweed for Dry Sandy Soils

Red-ring milkweed an interesting flower that is white with a red or purple band. This makes the flower an interesting conversation piece and can be grown in part-sun to part-shade areas having well-drained soils. Soils should be slightly acidic for best results. Like a lot of other milkweeds seeds can be started about 6-8 weeks before the last frost.

Close-up of white flowers of red ring milkweed (Asclepias variegata).
Flowers of Red-ring Milkweed (Asclepias variegata) — Masebrock, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Facts about Red-ring Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, scattered throughout (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: thickets and roadsides
  • Height: 1 ft (0.3 m) to 4 ft (1.2 m)
  • Flower Color: white with a ring of purple to red at the base
  • Flowering Period: May to July
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Gardening with Red-ring Milkweed

13. Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), a Milkweed for Medium to Dry Soil

Whorled milkweed has narrow-leaves providing an interesting textual contrast to gardens. If you have average to dry soils and full sun to part-shade this species could live in your garden. Seeds can be started in 6-8 weeks before the last frost or directly sown in the spring after the last frost. Potential companion species include other milkweeds, coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), asters (Symphyotrichum spp.), and Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium spp.).

Close-up of white flowers of whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata).
Flowers of Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) — Joshua Mayer (wackybadger), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Facts about Whorled Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, central and southern counties (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: meadows and fields
  • Height: 1 ft (0.3 m) to 3 ft (0.9 m)
  • Flower Color: green to white flowers
  • Flowering Period: May to September
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Gardening with Whorled Milkweed

14. Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora), a Milkweed for Medium to Dry Sandy Soils

Green comet milkweed is a milkweed having two different flower colors depending on the age. Thriving in full sun to part shade and average to dry sandy soils, this could be an excellent addition to your garden and provide leafy interest. Potential companion plants include other milkweeds, coneflower (Echinacea spp.), goldenrods (Solidago spp.), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), and Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium spp.).

Close-up of flowers of green comet milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora).
Flowers of Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) — Barnes Dr Thomas G, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Facts about Green Comet Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, eastern counties, one county in west (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: meadows and fields
  • Height: 1 ft (0.3 m) to 3 ft (0.9 m)
  • Flower Color: green, aging to yellow with a purple tinge
  • Flowering Period: June to August
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Gardening with Green Comet Milkweed

15. Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis), a Milkweed for Medium to Dry High pH Soils

Green milkweed is native but rare in West Virgnia and likes places with full sun and medium to dry neutral to acidic soils. Like a lot of the other milkweeds presented here seeds can be sown in the fall or started about 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Companion plants for this species can include lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi).

Plant of green milkweed (Asclepias viridis).
Green Milkweed — Asclepias viridis Walter observed in United States of America by Diana Foreman (licensed under CC0 1.0)

Facts about Green Milkweed

  • Native to West Virginia: Yes, rare, in western counties (Kartesz 2015)
  • Native to Harrison County: No
  • Natural Habitat: prairies, dry hillsides, roadsides (Allison 1995, Lathrop 1958, Whisenant 1981), pasture (Nelson and Harsley 2010), calcaeous areas (Weakley 2022)
  • Height: 0.5 ft (0.2 m) to 2 ft (0.6 m)
  • Flower Color: green (Woodson 1954), yellowish-green (Weakley 2022), or white
  • Flowering Period: April to October
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Gardening with Green Milkweed

When selecting your Harrison County, WV milkweed, be sure to make sure that it grows in your zone and habitat.

Books where you can find out more about Monarchs and Butterfly Gardening in Harrison County, WV

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References for Harrison County, WV Milkweeds

  • Allison, James R. 1995. Prairies…in Georgia! They’re for real, as the flora shows. Tipularia 10: 2-8.
  • Lathrop, Earl W. 1958. The Flora and Ecology of the Chatuaqua Hills in Kansas. The University of Kansas Science Bulletin 39(4): 97-210.
  • Nelson, A.D. and S. Harsley. 2010. County Records and Major Range Extensions of West Cross Timbers’ Angiosperms from Tarleton State University’s Hunewell Ranch in Erath County, Texas. Texas Journal of Science 62(2): 111-126.
  • Urguhart, Fredrick Albert, Norah Roden Urguhart, and Francis Munger. 1968. Population of Danaus plexippus in Southern California. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 7(4): 169-181.
  • Weakley, A.S. and the Southeastern Flora Team. 2022. Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden.
  • Whisenant, S.G. 1981. The Vascular Flora of McCullough County, Texas. Texas Journal of Science 33 (2,3,4): 197-220.
  • Woodson, Robert E. 1954. The North American Species of Asclepias L. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 41: 1-211.
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Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.

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