Butterfly Weed: Asclepias tuberosa

Milkweed Mondays are a special series of blog posts that highlight the species of Asclepias we will be offering this year for purchase at plant sales, community outreach events, and our annual Open House. 

Common Name: Butterfly weed

Latin Name: Asclepias tuberosa

Bloom time: Late May through August (this can vary depending upon where you call home and due to climate change)

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Height: 1 to 3 ft

Spread: 1 to 3 ft, slow spreader

Native: Yes

Host Plant: Monarch

Nectar Plant: Monarchs, Fritillaries, Swallowtails, American and Painted Ladies, Hairstreaks, and more

Colors & Cultivars: Naturally growing tuberosa is a retina-bleeding red-orange color that will make you see after images. Varieties available from nurseries are more orange. A yellow cultivar called “Hello Yellow” can be found at many nurseries.

Our Experience: We love this plant! It is perfect for gardens where a short, slow spreading plant needs a forever home. Not only is it an excellent host plant, but does double duty as a favorite nectar plant for numerous butterflies. Once established butterfly weed is tolerant of benign neglect.

Pros: It seems to be favored by early arriving Monarchs as the milkweed of choice to use as a host plant. In the mid to late summer other milkweeds are favored. It has a fairly good germination rate from seed once stratified in comparison to other milkweeds.

Cons: The leaves are short and thin compared to other milkweeds. For this reason we use other more leafy milkweeds for hand raising caterpillars. Caterpillars left on tuberosa to feed and progress through their caterpillar life cycle do very well.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

About the photos on this page
Featured: ‘Hello Yellow’ cultivar in our habitat with male Tiger Swallowtail and American Lady
Bottom, left to right: Wild tuberosa growing in pasture near Brodheadsville, PA with trio of Great Spangled Fritillaries; orange tuberosa in our habitat with male Monarch; orange tuberosa in our habitat with Tiger Swallowtail

 

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