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Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed, butterfly weed)

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Technical sheet - Asclepias
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Asclepias tuberosa

butterfly milkweed, butterfly weed

A tough, drought-tolerant native with intense orange flowers in mid to late summer. Attracts many varieties of butterflies and is especially attractive to Monarchs. A beautiful solution for a dry sunny slope! Occurs in dry fields and roadsides in most of the US.

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18-24 Inches


24 Inches


12-18 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9

butterfly milkweed, butterfly weed Interesting Notes

Butterfly weed is a 2' tall herbaceous perennial that dies back in winter and re-sprouts from its underground tuber each spring. The brilliant orange or red flower clusters appear in midsummer. These are followed by attractive green pods that open to release silky "parachutes" to drift away on autumn winds. Butterfly weed is unique among milkweeds in that the sap is not milky and the leaves are not opposite. Many flowers have an inner whorl of petals, called the corolla, and an outer whorl of sepals, called the calyx. These are the showy, colorful parts of a typical flower. The milkweeds are special: they have a third whorl above the corolla called the corona. Butterfly weed is a trouble-free perennial that will come up year after year in the same place without crowding its neighbors. Plant butterfly weed in mixed borders, meadows and natural areas. Butterfly weed is slow to emerge in spring, so you may want to mark where they are. - Floridata

tuberosa = tuberous, having fleshy underground stems bearing minute scale leaves, each of which bears a bud in its axil and is potentially able to produce a new plant. - Dictionary of Botanical Epithets

Vibrant flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden and are striking when planted with achillea or artemisia. This native plant adapts well to poor, dry soil and is ideal in meadow gardens or natural areas. Good cut flower, dry seedpods. - Darwin Perennials

Butterfly weed is a colorful, long-lived, drought tolerant perennial. Large clusters of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers top clumps of erect, hairy 1-2’ tall stems with lance-shaped leaves. The seed pods, with their long silky hairs, can be used in dried flower arrangements. Butterfly weed prefers well-drained neutral to alkaline soils and full sun. It is one of many Asclepias species, all of which are required food for monarch butterfly larvae. It is also a great nectar plant for other butterflies and insects. Butterfly weed works well in a meadow or a perennial garden setting with Andropogon virginicusSchizachyrium scopariumEchinacea purpureaCoreopsis verticillata, and Solidago odora. - Mt. Cuba Center

Asclepias tuberosa Growing and Maintenance Tips

Given its natural habitat, you can see that it needs no coddling. Best located in a sunny dry spot, but will tolerate average to moist garden soil as well.

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Salt Tolerance
Salt Tolerance
Drought Tolerant
Drought Tolerant

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Horticultural Plug
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Late Summer
Green Infrastructure
For Animals
Caution: Toxic
Native to North America
Propagation Type
Open pollinated