How to Care for Butterfly Weed
The primary food source for the caterpillar larvae of the Monarch butterfly, the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), grows as a hardy perennial. A native plant of North America, it grows to a height of up to 2 feet. The plant has strong, hairy stems that display lance-shaped leaves that measure up to 6 inches in length. From early summer into fall, the plant produces vivid orange flower clusters. A wide variety of butterfly species enjoy consuming the nectar of the flowers. After flowering, the plant displays spindle-shaped seed pods that measure up to 6 inches in length. Once established, the plant requires remarkably little maintenance.
- Moderately Easy
things you’ll need:
- Plant the butterfly weed in full sunlight. Choose a location with well-draining soil. The plant prefers sandy or gravely soil conditions.
- Plant the seeds after all danger of frost have passed. The seeds take three to four weeks to germinate and will require an outdoor temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant nursery seedlings at the same depth they were planted in their nursery container after all danger of frost has passed
- Apply a layer of 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the base of butterfly weed to help reduce weed growth. The butterfly weed does not tolerate weed competition well.
- Water the newly planted butterfly seeds or plant lightly. Keep the soil most but not overly wet.
- Spray any aphid infestations off using a burst of water. The small aphids often congregate along the plant’s new growth. Avoid using pesticides which can also kill butterflies or beneficial insects.
Tips & Warnings
Avoid planting the butterfly weed in heavy clay soil. It does not tolerate heavy soil well.
The butterfly weed often takes up to two to three years to establish itself and begin flowering when started from seed.
The butterfly weed does not transplant well. It has a long taproot that makes transplanting difficult.