Asclepias tuberosa – BUTTERFLY MILKWEED

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Favorite perennial with orange flowers and many butterflies around. Forms more likely regular clumps up to 3’ in diameter (less in poorer soils), leaves are narrow, stems hairy. Big seed pods release silky-tailed seeds in wind and can be used in dry flower arrangements. It’s rather long flowering perennial and also important nectar source plant and host plant for caterpillars of Monarch butterflies. One of the showiest native wildflowers and the only milkweed with absence of milky latex in it’s stems.

Butterfly milkweed can be easily grown by seed, but it takes about 2-3 years, till it’s fully established and once planted, it’s better to leave undisturbed and not try to move (doesn’t move easily due to it’s deep tap root). Genus name honors the Greek god Asklepios the god of medicine, it’s also called pleurisy root in reference to a prior medicinal use of the plant roots to treat lung inflammations.

Looks very good in sunny borders, prairies, naturalized areas, butterfly gardens, pollinator gardens, monarch gardens or on dry edges of rain gardens. Can be planted in masses or as scattered individual plants.

Goes well with these native perennials : Antennaria, Aster (A. ericoides, A. oblongifolius, A. laevis, A. oolentangiensis), Amorpha canescens, Anaphallis margaritacea, Baptisia tinctoria, Callirhoe, Campanula rotundifolia, Coreopsis, Dalea, Echinacea, Eryngium yuccifolium, Liatris, Oenothera, Rudbeckia hirta, R. missouriensis, Silphium laciniatum, Verbena stricta and grasses like Andropogon, Boutelloua, Koeleria, Panicum, Schizachyrium or Sporobolus.

Because Butterfly milkweed’s flowers usually still have some yellowish undertones, the best perennial combinations are with blue, purple blue and steel blue flowers – these are the best duo combinations – Agapanthus, Calamintha nepeta, Echinops ritro, Eryngium, Geranium ‘Azure Rush’, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Lavandula, Liatris, Nepeta x faasenii – all cultivars, Perovskia, Salvia nemorosa (S. x sylvestris), Salvia verticilata ‘Purple Rain’, Veronica spicata or blue flowering annuals like Salvia farinacea, Verbena bonariensis.

Very nice combinations are with silver leaves of Artemisia, Santolina or Lavandula.


Blooming time : June to August

Size : 3’ tall x 3’ wide, spacing 2-2.5’

USDA zones : 3 to 9

Culture : full sun, half-sun, grows well in average soil, but prefers well drained soils, sandy, gravelly, rocky, sandy soils, poor and shallow soils, eroded soil, good for xeriscape. Don’t plant in wet or waterlogged soils! Natural form - Asclepias tuberosa ssp. interior tolerates clay soil!

Moisture Needs : dry, medium-dry, medium

Origin : native wildflower in eastern and central USA, from Canada to Florida and west to Arizona. Naturally grows in sand prairies, hill prairies, savannas, open rocky woodlands, roadsides. See USDA distribution map.

Deer/rabbit resistant : yes / yes. Poisonous to herbivores.

Attracts Butterflies or Pollinators : Important monarch plant! Attracts also many bees –honeybees and native bees like digger bees, leaf-cutting bees, Halictid bees (including green metallic bees) and wasps - thread-waisted wasps, other Sphecid wasps. Good butterfly plant for Fritillaries and Swallowtails. Some insects feed destructively on the leaves, flowers and buds, seedpods, and other - larvae of the Blackened Milkweed Beetle, the Small Milkweed Bug, the Large Milkweed Bug, larvae of a butterfly, the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), and larvae of a moth, the Unexpected Cycnia and Curve-tailed Bush Katydid.

Attracts Hummingbirds : yes, Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Pot Size : 3.5" perennial pot (1.22 pt/580 ml)

4 Reviews Hide Reviews Show Reviews

  • 4
    Healthy Plants

    Posted by Joseph O'Connell on 20th Apr 2021

    received healthy young plants

  • 5
    Recent order

    Posted by Lisa Sylvester on 13th Apr 2021

    These butterfly weed plants arrived healthy and in great condition! Can’t wait to see them grow into their new home!

  • 5
    Asclepias tuberosa

    Posted by Unknown on 3rd Aug 2020

    I purchased this locally in July, when we were experiencing drought and daily temperatures in the 90s. This and the other plants I bought were in great condition when I took them home, and are all doing well now after making it through the severe weather. This plant was blooming when I received it and has started blooming again now in August.

  • 5
    Love Natives, still blooming

    Posted by joseph bowmer on 28th Jul 2020

    Very nice plant, doing well in it's new home, plants are very well taken care of, this item was picked up, recommend purchasing!

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