Asclepias Tuberosa

Butterfly Weed for Monarchs and More

Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly weed, Butterfly milkweed, Pleurisy root

Asclepias tuberosa has brilliant orange milkweed blooms that attract a variety of butterflies and other beneficial pollinators right to your garden gates. Get more info and find out if this milkweed grows in your region...
Native Nectar | © Joshua Mayer

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
Honeybee on Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Makin’ Honey

Plant Propagation:

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


  • Serves as Host and Nectar plant
  • Popular nectar source for many butterflies
  • Attracts a wide range of beneficial pollinators
  • Summer Blooming Plant
  • Not considered invasive
  • The thick, rugged leaves present a good place for chrysalis formation
  • Make a nice cut flower for your home
  • Deer resistant
Asclepias tuberosa is typically known for its vibrant orange flowers that attract pollinators. It's also a host plant for monarch caterpillars. Get more info or find plants/seeds to host monarchs in your garden...
Monarchs in Bloom


  • Rough leaves for monarch caterpillars, not typically 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
Milkweed buds are often where you'll find monarch eggs or caterpillars on Ascelpias tuberosa butterfly weed.
Buds are a Tuberosa Delicacy

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.)




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:


  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.

  2. Ken Bosso says

    I have ordered 3 Ascelepias Tuberosa – Hello Yellow plants for my garden (Waystation 7700). Last year I planted the orange variety from seeds and they came up but never got more than 3″ tall. Hope they return and do better this year. I will be planting 6 native varieties of Mw to see what will grow in Baton Rouge, LA. I will always have tropical because the monarchs love it.

    • says

      Hi Ken, tuberosa can start pretty slow, but ours made a dramatic improvement when we moved them to a new location last season. The location got morning sun (not afternoon) and composted manure was mixed into the soil. Curious to see if they will REALLY take off this season. Keep us posted on your new plants…

    • says

      Hi Connie, nice to hear you had success but many gardeners report finding few eggs/cats on tuberosa or being bypassed completely. We grow about 15 types of milkweed now and tuberosa generally has one of the lowest egg/caterpillar counts. My guess is that the coarse, sapless leaves have something to do with it…

      • says

        Hey Tony ! I hope you’re well. If steaks not available we’ll settle for hamburger. Tropical is the Steak although it’s perennial in only 5% of the country. Big Nursery promotes it because the customer has to buy it every year and it’s easier to produce than tropical . Tuberosa is the milkweed of the future and past. Read its history in the U S and its range. Look for supplies to increase because of the bad mouthing of Tropical.

        • says

          Hi Craig, we grow both steak and hamburger, but we live in a region where E. Coli isn’t a major issue so the tropical bashing isn’t as severe ;) Because monarchs seem hesitant to use tuberosa as a host plant, I wouldn’t depend on it as the future of milkweed. I’m partial to incarnata because it’s a popular host and nectar plant. I realize incarnata isn’t suitable for dry regions, but it grows very well in containers without a taproot, which makes it a good garden plant for all regions.

          As for replenishing wild fields of milkweed in Texas, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I don’t think it’s tropical or tuberosa…

  3. Jean says

    Hi Tony, thank you for the great information. I am new to the Butterfly Weed for Monarchs. Forgive my ignorance, but is the Butterfly Weed considered a shrub, plant or grass?? Thanks in advance for your reply!

  4. Jean says

    Thanks so much for getting back with me so quickly!! I truly appreciate your time & expertise, Patience, and willingness to share!!

  5. says

    My Hello Yellow was planted 2 years ago and it’s looking great this year and has really grown -maybe because we had so much spring rain. I have three plants and they are growing in a raised bed and in full sun. They did have have aphids last year but this year seem to be free of any pests. I am seeing Monarchs, Black and yellow swallowtails and Painted Ladies so far but no eggs that I can tell. They have a medium tall mounding habit and look really good planted with pink petunias in front of them. I also have lavender planted in the same bed . I did plant two tropical milkweeds at the end of the same bed and am watching every day for cats. Keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks Tony for all the great information!

    • says

      Hi Sonia, congrats on all your early butterfly activity. I just found a baby caterpillar in the buds of our “hello yellow” today…keep looking and good luck!

  6. Vi says

    Hi Tony,
    Thank you for the information. Can I grow butterfly milkweed in containers. What size of pot do you suggest I start with and keep them in? Do you have any tips in growing them indoors during the winter months?

    • says

      Hello Vi, Asclepias tuberosa can be grown in containers. I would suggest about a 14″ pot to start. You may have to transplant. Cutting back the root system might work too if there is little foliage on the plant when you do it. Good luck!

  7. Sharon says

    Hi Tony,
    I have a Butterfly Weed plant that is several years old. It is a beautiful, full plant with lots of orange flowers every year, at first. I read that it’s suppose to bloom throughout summer but mine only blooms for a short period . It also starts out nice and bushy but by the time the flowers bloom it splits down the middle. Normally I would have divided a plant that looks like this but I am afraid to divide this one. Any suggestions on what I should do to encourage longer bloom time and whether or not to divide it and when? Also I have never seen it produce seed pods. I live in Michigan, if that’s a factor.

    • says

      Hi Sharon, our plants are not mature enough for division so haven’t tried, but we have had a lot of success with transplanting. You might try a fertilizer with a high middle number (phosphorous) to promote blooming. I would try division in early spring when the plant is just starting to put up new growth, or in late summer as it starts to cool. This way, more energy can go into establishing roots instead of foliage. The plant is usually more stressed when it has to support both. Strange that yours has not produced seed pods…we have had pods in both full sun and partial shade. Perhaps the soil needs to be amended? Good luck with your plants!

  8. Paul says

    So exciting. I have both Butterfly weed and regular milkweed. No Monarch cats but my next door neighbor has 4 cats on her Butterfly weed. I was thinking of moving the cats to my regular milkweed if that is a better host! What do you think, Tony.

  9. Kate says

    Hi Tony,
    I am thinking of removing my butterfly weed altogether and replacing it with another variety. I have A. syriaca and A. incarnata but the Monarchs don’t even go near A. tuberosa. Forget about feeding it to caterpillars… they would starve! Love your site by the way!

    • says

      Hi Kate, I’m not a huge fan of tuberosa, but we have a surprising amount of monarch activity on ours this season. It never hurts to keep a couple of even the varieties you don’t like…you never know (for sure) what’s going to entice visiting butterflies and why. Good luck with your garden!

  10. Gail Anderson says

    Is it ok to use fertilizer on milkweed? I haven’t used anything because I’m afraid to hurt the butterflies

    • says

      Hi Gail, you can use fertilizer on milkweed. We’ve used slow release, seaweed/fish emulsion, and miracle gro in the past and have never had any issues. I also know other gardeners that use fertilizer and have not heard of any potential issues…as long as there aren’t any pesticides in the ingredients, fertilize away!

  11. Susan Drexler says

    Hi Tony,
    Feel so fortunate to come across your column. Thanks for all the good information.

    I planted a milkweed plant last fall. It bloomed beautifully this spring but since then nothing. Should I fertilize? I live in central Pennsylvania.


    • says

      Hi Susan, you could always try a fertilizer that promotes flowering to see if you could get some more blooms. I was actually surprised to see one of our tuberosa plants going through a second bloom cycle…I can’t recall ever seeing this before.

  12. Susan Drexler says

    Thanks…I have fish emulsion so I’ll give it a try. The reason I hadn’t tried fertilizer before now is that I thought milkweed thrived in sandy soil that wasn’t amended with compost or fertilizer. Good to know that fertilizer may be a solution.

    One last question: should this plant be cut back to encourage blooms?


    • says

      Hi Susan, I have never cut back our tuberosa plants before. As they have matured the past couple seasons, they are putting up more stalks (and blooms) on their own without extra encouragement. You could always try cutting back one or two plants to see if you notice a difference in growth habit…good luck!

  13. Heather says

    Started my butterfly weed from seed July last year…plants are beautiful and just found some cats on them today…didn’t know what they were so I looked them up to see if they were friend or foe…just tickled to find they are monarch cats…love your site…very informative

    • says

      Hi Nedday, I would cut back the spent blooms after the first flowering period. We didn’t do it this season, but got more blooms because we had caterpillars eating the plants. Our ‘hello yellow’ cultivar was not cut back but it is putting out some new blooms too. Cutting back will probably give you a few extra blooms, but you still might get some without…

  14. susan canale says

    what’s eating my butterfly weed? not monarchs! Masses of caterpillars which are about an inch long with an intricate pattern of light brown and black segments and white horns.

  15. Heather Campion says

    I have planted several milkweed plants in Orlando, FL. They are ~4 ft tall but only have leaves on the top 12 inches but yet they are blooming. No leaves on the remainder 3 feet. Is this normal? Should I cut them back to make them bushier? Thanks, Heather

    • says

      Hi Heather, I think this is a common Florida issue but I’m not sure why it happens. I would contact a reputable nursery in your area or the master gardener program in your area to talk to someone with first-hand Florida experience. good luck!

      Ps…you can cut back any milkweed variety for a bushier growth habit, but I just let the caterpillars take care of that.

  16. Dianne Fritz says

    This is our first year to plant a butterfly garden. We live in a suburb of Chicago. We have many Milkweed plants in our area that grow wild and quite a few that have come up in our yard. We picked an area next to our house and planted butterfly weed and butterfly bushes. There is also Milkweed intermixed. A friend gave me 2 Tuberosa plants – one orange and one yellow. We’ve been very successful attracting Monarch butterflies. Out of all the plants, they seem to prefer the Tuberosa plants. I’ve had as many as 7 Monarch caterpillars on one plant and they have eaten them bare. So far we had 4 pupas. Two have hatched open on Labor Day. 2 pupa were on our Butterfly Bush and the other 2 attached to our brick windowsill. I believe there are more pupa but they are so well hidden, they are hard to see. It is such fun watching the stages of the butterfly.

    • says

      Hi Dianne, congrats on your first year success! It’s not common to have so many monarchs survive outdoors because of all the predation and parasitism that occurs. I’m happy to hear yours are surviving. Good luck with the rest of your season…

  17. Dee says

    My butterfly weed had a lot of green leaves, stems left, but also many brown dead stems, so I cut them down like i do every fall. I noticed extremely tiny orange spots all over every stem and leaf. What are these?

  18. J. Schechter says

    Enjoying reading these comments about butterfly weed. Many folks may be aware that Robert Frost, in his early poem, “The Tuft of Flowers,” on the subject of haymaking, makes reference to butterfly weed; in this poem, the butterfly plays a central role.

  19. Peggy C says

    Few weeks ago bought a Milkwee plant at the Local Agric. Ctr. plant sale … the Milkweed is in full sun.
    Did as the Ag Agent said .. fertilized just a little and watered lightly for a couple of weeks; half of the plant is now brown and leaves have fallen off. The other side is fine.
    Any suggestions? Am in Central NC and this is supposed to be a native for this area.
    It is the A.tuberosa…


    • says

      Hi Peggy, it’s getting late in the season and tuberosa is past its prime. The only milkweed varieties that stay viable this time of the year are tropical milkweed and other non-native varieties. I would stop fertilizing it and just water it to get it acclimated. Your plants should look much better when they return next spring…

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