Butterfly weed is a beautiful and easy-to-grow perennial that adds color and interest to any landscape with its bright orange flowers and bright green leaves. While butterfly weed is actually part of the milkweed family–which is the primary host plant for Monarch butterflies–this plant provides food for all species of butterfly as well as hummingbirds.
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa L.) is also called butterfly milkweed or orange milkweed. Due to its medicinal qualities, the plant was also called pleurisy root by Native Americans. It is part of the milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae), although it does not produce milky sap, and is native to the United States.
Butterfly weed can be grown from seeds. Seeds can be started indoors then transplanted, or use the easier method of simply broadcasting seeds over the ground in the spring. Seeds can be bought commercially packaged at local garden centers or seedpods can be collected in the fall. Each seed will have a tuft of milkweed fluff attached, which helps the seed float long distances for effective seed dispersal in its natural habitat.
Butterfly weed can be effectively transplanted when found in the wild or in established gardens. Be sure to get permission to dig the wild-growing butterfly weed. Butterfly weed will multiply and spread so don’t take more than two or three plants when digging. Be sure to dig enough surrounding dirt and roots for effective transplantation.
Butterfly weeds tend to grow well in drought conditions due to their low water requirements. They also grow well in moist or dry soil, and in full sun or part shade. Butterfly weeds grow to be about 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall. The flower heads are great for cut floral arrangements and the bloom time is from May through September–making them a wonderful and long-lasting addition to a perennial bed.