Is Butterfly Weed an Annual or Perennial?

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Butterfly weed is an herb with bright orange, red or yellow flowers that attract butterflies and is popular in home gardens. Butterfly weed is also called orange milkweed or orange swallow-wart.

  • Perennial or Annual

  • A perennial plant lives two or three years, through the seasons. An annual plant germinates, has flowers and dies in one year. Annuals usually grow in late spring, flower in the summer and die with the first frost.


  • Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a bushy perennial herb. It usually grows and blooms for three seasons, with showy clusters of bright orange flowers. Butterfly weed is a mid-sized plant, growing to about 24 to 36 inches tall each summer.


  • Butterfly weed can be grown from seed in well-drained, sandy or peaty soil, with full sun. At the first frost, butterfly weed will die back to the ground and sprout from the tuberous roots the next spring. Because butterfly weed is a perennial, living for three years, it can be transplanted from one location to another in the fall.


  • Butterfly weed is a perennial to USDA Zone 4. If butterfly weed is grown outside of its habitat, it will behave like an annual plant. It will grow, bloom and die in the winter, failing to regrow the next spring.

Fun Fact

  • Butterfly weed is also known as "pleurisy root" because its roots were chewed by Native Americans to relieve pulmonary ailments.

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