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Joe Pye Weed Vs Milkweed [Know Similarities & Differences]

Do you know the ongoing Joe Pye Weed vs. Milkweed debate is escalating because of how similar in appearance these plants are? But they have some common differences in leaves and blooms.

Generally, Joe Pye weed and Milkweed share similar growing conditions, propagation methods, USDA zones, etc. However, you can distinguish both varieties from their origin, family, growth habits, appearance, bloom nature, pollinators, and invasive tendencies.

Joe Pye weed is native to Eastern North America, whereas Milkweed is native to all parts of North America.

So, if there is confusion in differentiating between Joe Pye weed and Milkweed, this article will clear your dilemma.

Joe Pye Weed Vs. Milkweed: Similarities

Joe Pye Weed and Milkweed belong to different families but bear beautiful flowers filled with nectar to attract pollinators.

Joe Pye Weed on right Milkweed on left
Milkweed contains milky sap, but Joe Pye Weed is without sap.

Moreover, both plants support wildlife, acting as the host plant for specific insects. They share the following plant characteristics. 

  • Joe Pye and Milkweed prefer 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Propagation methods of both weeds are the same i.e. seeds and division.
  • You can see both varieties blooming in late summer to early fall.
  • The native region of both varieties is North America.
  • The hardiness zones of both varieties are 3-9.

Joe Pye Weed Vs. Milkweed: Differences

One of the common differences between Joe Pye Weed and Milkweed is Joe Pye weed can live more than Milkweed as it is a perennial.

In contrast, Milkweed is a short-lived perennial and sometimes lives for only two years as a biennial.

1. Origin & Family

Although Joe Pye weed and milkweed are from the same origin, some species of Joe Pye weed may not be endemic.

Meanwhile, all Milkweed Varieties belong to North America and are called endemic species.

Moreover, both weed varieties differ in taxonomic classification. Milkweed belongs to the Apocynaceae family, whereas Joe Pye weed is from the Asteraceae family.

Thus, Joe Pye weed has the subfamily Asteroideae whereas the subfamily of Milkweed is Asclepiadoideae.

2. Growth Habit

The growing conditions of Joe Pye weed are different than Milkweed, where Milkweed prefers a sunny location.

Meanwhile, Joe Pye weed varieties can tolerate and grow well in partial shade due to their high adaptability.

However, Milkweed can adapt to a wide range of soil types. In contrast, Joe Pye weed prefers well-draining and moist soil.

Additionally, you can distinguish Joe Pye weeds and Milkweeds from their heights, as Joe Pye weed is taller.

Joe Pye weed grows about 4-7 feet tall, but Milkweed varieties are comparatively shorter, reaching 1-6 feet tall.

3. Plant Appearance

Looking at Joe Pye weed and Milkweed closely, you can see Joe Pye Weed with oval-shaped serrated leaves arranged in whorls.

In contrast, Milkweed bears oblong, opposite leaves in pairs on the stem with wavy leaf edges.

Moreover, Joe Pye weed has a thicker stem with a purple tint, whereas the stem of Milkweed is green, delicate, and thin.

Additionally, the Milkweed plant produces milky sap upon injury, but the Joe Pye weed does not contain milky sap.

4. Bloom Nature

When Joe Pye weed blooms, the flowers in the clusters are large and showy, whereas Milkweed bears smaller clusters.

But these big blossoms come only in purple or pink color, but Milkweed flowers can be of various colors like purple, pink, white, lavender, etc.

Although milkweed has flower clusters like Joe Pye weed, they bear a special arrangement called umbel inflorescence.

Moreover, Joe Pye weed has a fragrance stronger than milkweed to attract various pollinators.

5. Invasive Tendencies

As some species of Joe Pye weed are not native to North America, Joe Pye weeds are invasive plants that can harm other plants.

In contrast, none of the Milkweed varieties are invasive, but they can show invasive tendencies in high populations.

Native milkweeds support the ecosystem by helping in pollination, whereas non-native Joy Pye weeds rapidly outcompete native species.

From Editorial Team

Joe Pye Weed Vs. Milkweed: Difference In Pollinators

Although Joe Pye weed and Milkweed attract pollinators, Milkweed is the only plant that hosts incredible Monarch butterflies.

Moreover, all parts of Joy Pye weed are toxic, but the leaves of Milkweed are edible to Monarch larvae.