Growing Butterfly Weed in your Garden

Attracting beautiful butterflies to your garden is a priority for many gardeners. Not only are these lovely little creatures gorgeous to look at, but they are also important pollinators. One way you can attract butterflies to your backyard is by growing butterfly weed.

Butterfly weed is also known as:

  • Orange milkweed
  • Yellow milkweed
  • Indian paintbrush
  • Pleurisy root
  • Chiggerflower
  • Indian posy
  • Tuber root
  • Windroot
  • Butterfly love
  • Butterfly milkweed

It is a host and larval food plant for Monarch Butterflies, Queen Butterflies, and Grey Hair streak Butterflies.

What is Butterfly Weed?

Butterfly WeedButterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a plant native to the prairies of North America’s Midwest. It is a cousin of milkweed, and it produces flat clusters of blooms of bright red, orange or yellow flowers in summer and into early autumn.  They are perennials that grow in clumps and can reach up to a meter tall.

The plants feature fuzzy green stems with lance-shaped leaves. The blooms flourish atop these stems.

Seeds are released from pods in autumn, and butterfly weed grows wild in dry fields and meadows, open woods, along the sides of roads, and is ideal for your yard in mass plantings, rock gardens, and along borders.

 What Insects Does Butterfly Weed Attract?

The flowers of the butterfly weed are rich in pollen and nectar, as well as being vibrant, and they attract:

  • Butterflies
  • Bees
  • Hummingbirds
  • Parasitic wasps
  • Centipedes
  • Millipedes
  • Ladybugs
  • Praying Mantis
  • Ground Beetles
  • Aphids

How to Grow Butterfly Weed

It’s really easy to grow butterfly weed! It thrives in bright sunlight and prefers dry, sandy, or gravelly soil. It is drought tolerant and will also grow in clay soil. It can withstand some shade.

If growing from seed, blooms may not appear for the first two to three years, however thereafter it will bloom reliably.

  1. Plant seeds in autumn after a frost and directly into the permanent location you want your butterfly weed to grow – roots are long and sturdy and it is difficult to transplant.
  2. Keep the soil moist until the plant has become established – usually for the first season.
  3. Do not use fertilizer as this can harm the plant.
  4. Top dress compost or composted manure around your plants once per year.
  5. Trim old growth in spring.
  6. Control aphids and mealybugs.

Growing Butterfly WeedWhat other plants grow well with butterfly weed?

  • Catmint
  • Russian Sage
  • Rudbeckia
  • Coreopsis
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Fountain Grass
  • Switchgrass

Are there any Problems with Butterfly Weed?

Butterfly weed can become invasive as the seeds spread – if you wish to contain it, just cut off the seed pods before they open in autumn.

If you grow your weed in a very wet position, crown rot and root rot may occur.

Otherwise, there are very few issues in terms of disease or pests with this plant, though aphids can be an issue. Simply blast them with a hose to get rid of them.

Did you Know? Native Americans traditionally chewed the roots of butterfly weed as a remedy for lung issue and brewed it as a tea for stomach issues and diarrhea.

Butterflies certainly make your garden a happier place and help pollinate your flowering plants. They love weeds – so grow butterfly weed to attract these critters to your home.