Hairy Balls Milkweed: Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Milkweed Mondays are a special series of blog posts that highlight the species of Asclepias we will be offering this year for purchase at plant sales, community outreach events, and our annual Open House. 

Common Name: Hairy Balls, Balloon Plant, Giant Swan Milkweed

Latin Name: Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Bloom time: June hrough August

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Drought tolerant

Height: 3-8 feet

Spread: 3-4 feet

Native: No

Host Plant: Monarch

Nectar Plant: Attracts a variety of pollinators

Colors & Cultivars: White flowers

Our Experience: We normally don’t plant annuals in our garden or non-natives, but we make an exception for this species of milkweed–not just because of the novelty of the name or the striking appearance of the “hairy balls” seed pods at the end of summer. By the end of summer our A. tuberosa and A. syriaca typically have died back leaving us without food sources for the end of season Monarchs. Hairy balls is still going strong, thriving on the drought and heat of summer. We’ve had people buy the plant just because of the name!

Pros: Easily grown from seeds collected from the plant. The large leaves feed a lot of voraciously hungry caterpillars. The seed pods are an obvious and vulgar conversation starter.

Cons: It can get quite big so not ideal for those who have limited space requirements. For some non-native and annuals are not desirable.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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