Zones: 3 to 10
The genus Asclepias is thought to have been named for the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios. 1 Asclepias tuberosa has several common names including butterfly milkweed, butterfly weed and orange milkweed.
The first three years of growth are the least showy as butterfly milkweed matures into a lush mounded perennial when grown from seed. Consider inter-planting with showier annuals and perennials to provide varied seasons of interest. Companion plants to consider are listed below.
Butterfly milkweed is considered deer resistant.
History and Traditions
Fall – winter interest: No.
Other than the root rot that can appear in dense, wet soils, there are only a couple of common problems with butterfly weed.
In general, butterfly weed is not a difficult plant to cultivate and should bloom freely on its own once it has reached maturity (which can take up to three years). That being said, if you're struggling to get your butterfly weed to bloom, there could be a few factors at play.
Typically, the easiest and most successful way to add butterfly weed to your garden is to grow it from seed. Plant fresh seeds in fall for growth the following spring, or allow any established butterfly weeds already in your garden to do the work for you.
Beginning in late summer or early fall, the plants should start to develop seed pods at the base of the pollinated blooms. If left on the stem, the pods will eventually burst and the seeds inside will be blown throughout your garden, allowing them to establish themselves in the soil in time for the following year. If you'd rather have more control over the eventual location of any new butterfly weed plants, you can remove the seed pods from the plant before they burst open and simply plant new seeds by hand instead.
How to Get Butterfly Weed to Bloom
These are very similar plants and members of the same plant genus. Both are of great value to butterflies and other pollinators. But butterfly weed has notable orange flowers, while milkweed has white or pink/mauve flowers. Further, milkweed is notably toxic, with the potential for fatality if large quantities are consumed by humans or animals. Butterfly weed, on the other hand, has rather mild toxicity, and fatalities are very rare.
Its seed pods will turn brown towards the end of the growing season (early autumn) and if left on the plant, they will burst and spread seeds throughout your garden to emerge as new volunteer plants the following spring. While the plant can take up to three years to fully mature and produce flowers, its blooms will gradually grow denser with each season that passes.
Butterfly weed is a must-have plant for gardeners looking to coax the namesake winged insects into the garden. This clump-forming perennial grows from tuberous roots to a height of 1 to 2 feet and is characterized by glossy-green, lance-shaped leaves and clusters of bright orange-to-yellow blooms that are rich with nectar and pollen. A type of milkweed, butterfly weed is generally planted in late spring after the soil is workable. It is fairly slow to become established and may take as much as three years before it flowers. When it finally does flower, its clusters of bright orange-yellow flowers will display from late spring until late summer. Unlike other milkweeds, butterfly weed does not have caustic milky sap, but it does produce the characteristic seed pods that release silky-tailed seeds to disperse on the wind.
Butterfly weed is very easy to propagate from seed, but because seeds can take two to three years to mature into flowering plants, many gardeners choose to propagate from root cuttings. Here's how to do it:
Butterfly weed can prosper in a variety of soil conditions and compositions, from clay to gravel, and it generally prefers a neutral to slightly acidic pH.