Monarch butterflies use many different varieties of milkweeds to feed their caterpillars. Butterfly weed is one that they will use but it is usually not their first choice. In general, if there are other varieties in your garden they are likely to lay eggs on them first.
Butterfly Milkweed grows about 1-2 ft high and forms clumps. It is a very well-behaved garden plant. In my South Carolina garden it rarely spreads by seed but it has been known to do so in other gardens. Beautiful bright orange blooms appear in June then occasional blooms will occur throughout the summer.
Butterfly Milkweed Characteristics
Seed Pods of Butterfly Weed
There will be sporadic blooming during the first year if planted in the spring but the following summer will yield much stronger, blooming plants. You can also start seed in the summer and plant in the fall for summer blooming plants the following spring. Butterfly Weed is late to come up in the spring so don’t give up too soon if it is not up early.
It is also a vibrant colored flower, easy to grow, well behaved (as far as not taking over), and comes back reliably every year. For those reasons, it will stay a staple in my butterfly garden.
Grow Butterfly Weed: All of our perennial butterfly weeds attract bees and hummingbirds, are important nectar sources for a wide range of butterflies, most notably the Monarch. To promote Monarch butterfly caterpillars, Asclepias incarnata is the host most preferred. Plants are deer and rabbit resistant. Learn more about monarch butterflies and butterfly weed.
Plant Butterfly Weed Seeds: Full sun. Asclepias incarnata (Milkmaid and Soulmate) thrive in moist, even wet soils, will adapt to average garden water. Asclepias tuberosa (Orange and Gay Butterflies) tolerate heat and drought, need only occasional water once established, will happily accept average moisture with good drainage.
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6 – Germination should occur within 21 days, once temperatures are above 70F
These small orange aphids (also known as Milkweed aphids) will suck sap and nutrients from the stalks. These orange or yellow bugs on your Butterfly Weed will not harm the plant. They are just very ugly.
Direct Sowing Butterfly Weed Seed
To avoid deer and rabbit damage for any flower, my recommendation is to use Liquid fence. Liquid Fence is the only product that reliably protects from deer and rabbits, in my experience.
Additionally Butterfly Weed is easy to grow from seed. So, by collecting a single pod in the fall you can literally germinate hundreds of plants if you want to!
While the leaves are normally dark green on top, and light green underneath. Often the margins will have a yellow hue to them. I’ve found this to be completely normal. As the season goes on, Butterfly Weed leaves (especially lower leaves) tend to turn yellow.