Asclepias tuberosa ‘Butterfly Weed’

Ilona Erwin


Butterflies love them

Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, isn’t as popular as it could be. Maybe the combination of the “weed” appellation and the bright orange color, but this is really a fine garden plant. Its clear orange brings a pleasing “pop” to the garden, no less for its drawing power for butterflies than for its joyful color.

It took me two starts to finally get Butterfly weed going in my garden.

I have somewhat dry conditions in the late summer, and took the “tolerates dry conditions” too literally the first time around. I find they like regular moisture, but in well drained location. It is a perennial native to the United States, growing in prairies, open woods, and on hillsides.

Butterfly Weed is quite late to poke up out of the ground in spring. It helps to mark its place so prevent damaging the emerging sprouts when doing early work in the garden bed.

Butterfly Weed

Bright orange colors-lovely!

The Look

Flower clusters of 2–5 inches across are Orange or Yellow in color. Butterfly weed has a long bloomtime starting in Mid Summer and lasting through Early Fall. It will grow in Sun to Part Shade.With handsome foliage, Asclepias tuberosa grow somewhat narrowly, 2ft. tall by about 1 foot wide.

How To Grow Asclepias

Asclepias tuberosa is easy to grow from seed, which is how I introduced it to my garden. break open pods to collect seeds, which have that silky white floss of milk weeds, classified as a subfamily of of the dogbane family.

It is better to try to have Butterfly Weed through seeds rather than division because of the taproot, which (especially in clay soil) may easily break. Root cuttings are another way to propagate. [How to take Root Cuttings]

Hardy to USDA Zone 4

milkweed seeds

milkweed seeds

In The Garden

A garden that is made of primarily hot colors, red, orange and yellow, or one that has complementary colors of blue and orange.

The Butterfly weed can be equally at home in a prairie garden, butterfly garden, or wild garden. If grown in sun, they would be pretty with annual companions of Zinnias.

My own favorite combination has been their pairings with Pyracantha bush,’Lalandei, in the background, Echinaceas and feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) alongside, and red clover.

Fun Facts

Larval food plant of the Queen and Monarch butterflies, grow it in a butterfly garden.
Milkweed is beneficial to nearby plants, repelling some pests.[1]
Milkweed sap is also externally used as a natural remedy for Poison Ivy.[ibid. source]
Recommended as a cut flower.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.