Asclepias Tuberosa

Butterfly Weed for Monarchs and More

Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly weed, Butterfly milkweed, Pleurisy root

Honeybee on Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Makin’ Honey

Plant Specs:

  • Perennial: USDA hardiness zones 3a-9b (lows -40 °C or -40 °F)
  • Native to most of the Continental US and eastern Canada
  • Plant in full sun
  • Height: 2 to 3 feet
  • Spacing: 15-18 in.
  • Majestically crowned orange flowers
  • ‘Hello Yellow’ cultivar has yellow blooms
  • Leaves don’t contain milky sap like other species

Plant Propagation:

  • Sow directly in fall- November is a good option for most regions
  • Start seeds indoors 2 months before final frost- cold stratification required
  • Sow seeds directly after final frost- don’t forget to stratify
  • Divide by rhizomes
  • Winter sowing provides a natural cold stratification
Orange Flowers of Asclepias Tuberosa (butterfly weed)
The Great Orange Sea

Pros:

  • Serves as Host and Nectar plant
  • Popular nectar source for many butterflies
  • Attracts a wide range of beneficial pollinators
  • Long bloom period summer-fall
  • Not considered invasive
  • The thick, rugged leaves present a good place for chrysalis formation
  • Make a nice cut flower for your home
  • Deer resistant

Cons:

  • Rough leaves for monarch caterpillars, not a heavily used host plant
  • hard to transplant because of tap root
  • Aphids can be an issue
  • Difficult to grow in clay soil
  • Takes up to 3 years to really get growing

Tuberosa Growing Tips:

  • Grows well in sandy, well-draining soils
  • Fertilize with organic slow-release fertilizer
  • This can be a difficult choice in the wrong spot. However, it also can take awhile to get going. Give it 3 years to prove it’s worthy for your garden
  • Since tuberosa can be temperamental about growing conditions, try planting in a couple different spots.
  • Cut off pods to stop seeding or
  • Use twist ties or rubber bands to bind pods for seed collection
Pipevine Swallowtail Visits Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Butterfly Pipeline

Pollinator Plus:

This milkweed also attracts bumblebees, eastern tiger swallowtails, fritillaries, hairstreaks, honeybees, painted ladies, pipevine swallowtails, and more. (If you know of other pollinators Asclepias tuberosa attracts, please share your sightings below.)

Resources:

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18+ Milkweed Options for North American Butterfly Gardens

Please post below if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for growing Asclepias tuberosa in your garden:
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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Craig, it’s a good nectar plant, and it can be used as a host plant. It’s not usually the preferred host plant though. Another consideration is that tuberosa is a native plant. Even though tropical milkweed is a better host plant, some people refuse to plant it because it’s non-native. My goal is to lay out all the options and let you decide.

    • says

      Hi Clare, if orange oleander aphids are taking over your milkweed they should be visible. If you have an infestation, you can cut off the most affected stems and discard them to cut back on the population for next season since aphids lay eggs in fall. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry too much about your butterfly weed at this point. Monarchs typically lay eggs on tuberosa earlier in the season.

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