The original distribution area of the common milkweed includes large parts of Canada and the USA. In Austria, the occurrences of this poisonous plant have increased significantly since 2005, at present the species occurs especially in eastern Austria (Vienna, Lower Austria).
The common milkweed is heat- and drought-loving, a further spread is likely due to climate change.
The plant was cultivated as an ornamental plant and bee pasture, in the vicinity of gardens it repeatedly ran wild. The common milkweed prefers to colonize sunny and dry soils, so it grows mainly on wastelands such as industrial wastelands, railroads, roadsides and pathsides, but also in agricultural areas. It spreads in local conditions mainly vegetatively by means of its rhizomes, but also by means of its silky-haired seeds, which are dispersed by the wind in autumn.