Asclepias sullivantii

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: prairie milkweed 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Apocynaceae
Native Range: Central North America
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Pink
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer


Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun. Easily grown from seed, and may self-seed in the landscape if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open. Once established, it is best to leave plants undisturbed because they develop deep taproots which make transplanting difficult.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Asclepias sullivantii, commonly called smooth milkweed, Sullivant's milkweed or prairie milkweed, is a rough, weedy perennial which is very similar to common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) except smooth milkweed has (a) smooth (glabrous) stems, leaves and seed pods, (b) leaves with a significant upward sweep and distinctive reddish midveins and (c) larger flowers. It is a Missouri native plant which commonly occurs in moist prairies areas including river bottomland and moist meadowland mostly north of the Missouri River. It typically grows 2-4' tall (less frequently to 5') on stout, upright stems with broad-oblong, medium green leaves (to 8" long) with pinkish-red midribs. Rounded clusters (umbels to 3" across) of pinkish-white to pinkish-purple, star-like flowers appear mostly in the upper leaf axils over a long bloom period from late spring well into summer. Stems and leaves exude a milky sap when cut or bruised. Flowers give way to smooth seed pods (2-4" 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 honors 19th century American botanist William Starling Sullivant.


No serious insect or disease problems. Somewhat weedy in appearance and can spread somewhat aggressively in optimum growing conditions.


Borders, butterfly gardens, prairies, meadows or naturalized/native plant areas.