Growing Guide
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Butterfly weed

Herbaceous Perennial Flower, Wildflower

Also known as Pleurisy root, Chigger weed
Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepiadaceae Family

This hardy North American native grows about 3 feet tall and bears dense, flattened clusters of cheerful orange blooms, often covered with feeding butterflies.

Site Characteristics
  • full sun

Soil conditions:

  • tolerates acid soil
  • tolerates droughty soil
  • requires well-drained soil
  • tolerates low fertility
Prefers acidic soil.

Hardiness zones:

  • 4 to 9

Special locations:

  • xeriscapes
Plant Traits

Lifecycle: perennial

Ease-of-care: moderately difficult

Propagation is difficult. But once established the plant is relatively easy and low maintenance.

Height: 2 to 3 feet

Spread: 1 to 2 feet

Bloom time:

  • mid-summer
  • late summer
  • early fall

Flower color:

  • red
  • orange
  • yellow

Orange is the norm, but the variety 'Gay Butterflies' may have red, orange or yelllow blooms.

Foliage color: medium green

Foliage texture: medium

Shape: upright

The leaves are arranged in a spiral around erect stems.

Shape in flower: flower stalks with upright spikes

Blooms borne in dense, flattened clusters atop the erect plant stems.

Special Considerations
  • heat
Special characteristics:
  • deer resistant
  • non-aggressive - Self-seeds, but easy to manage.
  • non-invasive
  • native to North America - Native to North American grasslands and meadows.
  • bears ornamental fruit
  • beneficial insects - Bees
  • butterflies
Special uses:
  • cut flowers
  • wildflowers
  • naturalistic garden
Growing Information
How to plant:

Propagate by seed, cuttings, division or separation - Seed germination is erratic. It is improved by sowing fresh seed as soon as it is ripe. Use a well-aerated soil mix.

Take basal cuttings in spring.

Divide in the spring or fall, but division is difficult due to the long taproot.

Maintenance and care:
Deadheading encourages a second flowering about a month after the first. Even though butterfly weed self seeds readily, you may want to leave some of the flowers to mature, as the fruits are ornamental, similar to the familiar milkweed (A. syriaca) pods. (Remove fruits before they split open to prevent seeding.)

Do not prune in fall. Wait and cut back plants in spring.

Mulch for the winter to prevent frost heaving. Plants need excellent drainage to overwinter. Plants are slow to emerge in spring.

More growing information: How to Grow Perennials

Bacterial and fungal leaf spots
'Gay Butterflies' has blooms in shades of red, orange or yellow.