Asclepias purpurascens

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: purple milkweed 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Apocynaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to July
Bloom Description: Rose-pink to purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Easily grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Does well in poor, dryish soils. Drought tolerant. Can be propagated from seed. Not an aggressive spreader but can form an extensive, rhizomatous root system that is best left undisturbed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Asclepias purpurascens, commonly called purple milkweed, is a herbaceous perennial that commonly occurs in dry to moist open woods, dry ridge tops, thickets, glades, prairie openings, stream banks and wet meadows throughout Missouri and other parts of the Midwest and eastern United States. It is similar in appearance to common milkweed (A. syriaca), except its flowers are deep rose pink, its leaves are more pointed, and it is not as aggressive of a spreader in garden conditions. It typically grows 2-3’ tall on stout, upright stems with heavy, pointed, short-stalked, ovate to oblong-lanceolate, opposite leaves (to 8” long). Leaves are dark green above and slightly pubescent below. Stems and leaves exude a milky sap when cut or bruised. Tiny, deep rose-pink flowers appear in many-flowered umbels in May-July. Each tiny flower (to 3/4” long) has 5 reflexed petals and 5 purple heads. Flowers give way to smooth seed pods (to 6” long) which split open when ripe releasing their numerous silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. Seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars).

Genus name honors the Greek god Asklepios the god of medicine.

Specific epithet means purple.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Butterfly gardens, meadows, prairies, or naturalized/native plant areas.