Asclepias tuberosa – BUTTERFLY MILKWEED

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Favorite perennial with orange flowers that attract many butterflies. Forms more regular clumps up to 3’ in diameter (less in poorer soils); the leaves are narrow, the stems hairy. The big seed pods release silky-tailed seeds into the wind and can be used in dry flower arrangements. It’s a rather long-flowering perennial, important nectar source plant, and a host plant for the caterpillars of Monarch butterflies. One of the showiest native wildflowers and the only milkweed without milky latex in its stems.

Butterfly milkweed can easily be grown from seed, but it takes about 2-3 years until it’s fully established; once planted, it’s better to leave it undisturbed as it doesn’t move easily due to its deep tap root. The genus name honors the Greek god Asklepios (god of medicine); it’s also called pleurisy root in reference to a prior medicinal use of the plant's root 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.

It pairs 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 – some excellent companions are 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, and Verbena bonariensis.

Other nice combinations can be made with the silver leaves of Artemisia, Santolina or Lavandula.

Blooming Time: June - August
Size: 3’ tall x 3’ wide, spacing 2-2.5’
USDA Zones: 3 to 9
Culture: full to half sun, grows well in average soil, but prefers well-drained soil: gravelly, rocky, sandy soil, poor and shallow soils, eroded soil; good for xeriscapes. 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, and along roadsides. See USDA distribution map.
Deer/Rabbit Resistant: yes / yes. Poisonous to herbivores.
Attracts Butterflies or Pollinators: Important plant for monarchs! Also attracts many bees - honeybees and native bees like digger bees, leaf-cutting bees, Halictid bees (including green metallic bees) - and wasps such as thread-waisted and other Sphecid wasps. Good butterfly plant for Fritillaries and Swallowtails. Some insects feed destructively on the leaves, flowers, buds, seedpods, etc: larvae of the Blackened Milkweed Beetle, Small and Large Milkweed Bugs, Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), and Unexpected Cycnia moth, as well as the Curve-tailed Bush Katydid.
Attracts Hummingbirds: yes, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Pot Size: 3.5" x 4" 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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