How To Grow Butterfly Weed From Seed

How To Grow Butterfly Weed From Seed Butterfly weed Herbaceous Perennial Flower, Wildflower Also known as Pleurisy root, Chigger weed Asclepias tuberosa Asclepiadaceae Family Learn how to successfully grow butterfly weed in Arkansas, as well as information about different varieties, watering and sunlight requirements.

How To Grow Butterfly Weed From Seed

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.

  • full sun

Soil conditions:

  • tolerates acid soil
  • tolerates droughty soil
  • requires well-drained soil
  • tolerates low fertility

Hardiness zones:

Special locations:

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

  • mid-summer
  • late summer
  • early fall

Flower color:

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.

  • heat
  • 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
  • cut flowers
  • wildflowers
  • naturalistic garden

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.

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

How to Grow Butterfly Weed

Keep reading for tips on how to grow butterfly weed successfully here in Arkansas!

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Asclepias (Butterfly Weed) was the 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year, chosen by the national Perennial Plant Association! Every year, a notable perennial comes into focus and this selection is surely one to include in the garden!

There are many kinds of butterfly weed, and probably the most common in Arkansas is Asclepias tuberosa.

This Arkansas native is what folks think of when they are considering adding butterfly weed into their gardens. Sporting brilliant orange flowers, it will look wonderful in any color arrangement. How do you grow butterfly weed successfully? Growing in a clump 12”-36” tall, they want very good drainage in a full sun situation if you have it. If you do not have a full sun spot, ½ day sun preferably in the afternoon will also work. Quite drought tolerant once established. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and the leaves are a food source for Monarch butterfly larvae. Asclepias tuberosa blooms from late spring through summer. Fertilize with an organic, slow release fertilizer in the spring, once new growth has begun.

Growing Tips

The good news is that milkweeds have a long, deep taproot that helps them be drought tolerant. The bad news is: this can make them a bit tricky to transplant and relocate. Try to find their “forever” home to avoid moving them, but if needed try to get as much of the root ball as you can. If you let the seed pods dry out and open, there is a good chance the seeds might self-sow and sprout, giving you more plants. Expect to wait a few years after the seeds germinate to get flowers.

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Other Perennial Milkweeds

Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’ is very similar to regular butterfly weed, but is a beautiful butter yellow color. Consider growing both colors together for a bright and cheery combination. Planting and growing conditions are the same as for the orange butterfly weed.

Asclepias incarnata is a bit different, in that its nickname says it all—swamp milkweed. This one prefers moist soil and grows 24”-48” tall in full sun. This beauty has small rose pink flowers in a cluster. Breathe easy, because blooms are fragrant!

Asclepias syriaca is another milkweed native to the southeast United States and this one can grow up to six feet tall! This one can spread by underground rhyzomes so either plant it in a space with a lot of room, thin periodically and/or remove seed pods to control growth. In addition to butterflies, this milkweed attracts other pollinators such as honeybees and hummingbird moths. In fact, it’s also called nature’s mega food mart, because over 450 insects known to feed on some part of it.

Tropical/ Annual Milkweeds

Although these milkweeds may not come back next year, they make a nice supplement to the perennial milkweeds, providing color and nectar all season!