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(Asclepias physocarpa)
Balloon Milkweed

Host Plant: Monarch Butterflies

Nectar Plant: other butterflies

Flower Color: pink to white

Growth Habit: Herbaceous perennial that grows to 6 feet tall in Zones 8-10.  It is an annual elsewhere.

Range in North America: Exotic plant from Southern Africa that has been planted in South Carolina and California

Exposure: Full Sun

Hardiness: Zones 8-10, but can be grown elsewhere as an annual

Soil Requirements: moist, but well-drained sandy soil

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Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa)

White flowers of balloon milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa).
Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa) — André-Philippe Drapeau Picard, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Alternative Names

Bishop’s Balls, Swan Plant, Cotton-bush, Nailhead, Balloon Plant

Description of Balloon Plant (Asclepias physocarpa)

Balloon milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa), a member of the Apocynaceae (Dogbane Family), is a herbaceous to subshrub perennial (zones 8-10) and annual elsewhere that grows to 6 feet and has pink and white flowers that bloom in the summer.  The leaves are opposite, simple, entire margined, linear in shape, and are 3 to 4 inches in length and 0.5 inches in width.

Hosted Species

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on goldenrod.
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on goldenrod — ALAN SCHMIERER from southeast AZ, USA, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nectar Species

Many other butterflies use this plant as a nectar source.


Balloon milkweed grows in sandy tropical habitats.  It has been planted in South Carolina and California and can be invasive in tropical regions.

Range of Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa) in the United States and Canada

Range map of Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa)

Interesting Facts

The genus name, Asclepias, is the Greek name for the God of Medicine.  The species name, physocarpa, is the Latin name for “bladders,” referring to the fruits of the plant.


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Balloon Milkweed”

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