Butterfly Weed - Asclepias tuberosa

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Butterfly Weed plant.

Butterfly Weed can grow to a height of 2.5 feet. It flowers from June to September and grows well in sunny, dry, clay soil. Native to most of the US and perennial.

Butterfly Weed is a Host Plant for Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies use milkweed, and only milkweed, as a host plant. Butterfly Weed has a lower concentration of the poisons that make Monarchs more resistant to predators. Consequently, it is not usually their favorite milkweed to lay eggs on. Many Monarchs tend to prefer Swamp Milkweed or Tropical Milkweed. It is still a good native plant to grow however, and the blooms are a good nectar source for butterflies too.

Where to buy Butterfly Weed

Most nurseries tend to sell Butterfly Weed, but not other milkweeds. Many places also sell seeds. Be sure to check that the scientific name is really Asclepias tuberosa if you want to buy this plant. Some places switch around the common names of milkweed plants with their scientific names, if they include them at all.

How to Propagate Butterfly Weed

Seeds can be collected and grown the following year. Do not collect the seeds until the pods are already starting to open. (See below for pictures.) Seeds need a cold treatment before germinating. This can be done by either planting outside in the fall, or placing the seeds in the freezer for a few weeks before planting. New plants are fairly easy to start from cuttings also.

The Milkweed/Asclepiadaceae Family

Butterfly Weed is a member of the Milkweed/Asclepiadaceae family. There are around 250 genera with nearly 2000 different species included in the Milkweed family. They can be found in both temperate and tropical climates and can be herbs, shrubs or vines. Most species have a milky fluid that is usually poisonous. The genus Asclepias has many species which the Monarch butterfly uses as a host plant. It is immune to the poisons in the plant.

Tropical Milkweed seed pod (similar to Butterfly Weed seed pod), not open yet and not ready to have seeds gathered.

Tropical Milkweed seed pod, all opened up, showing seeds. It isn't necessary to wait until the pod is completely opened as in this picture to collect the seeds. In fact, if you wait too long, they blow away in the wind before you can get to them. Collect seeds when the pod just starts to open up a little.

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