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Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

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

Asclepias tuberosa

butterfly milkweed or 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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Asclepias tuberosa - 72 per flat Availability
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18-24 Inches


24 Inches


12-18 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9

butterfly milkweed Interesting Notes

Asclepias tuberosa is a showy and tough milkweed with intense orange flowers that bloom in mid to late summer. Unlike other milkweeds it does not exude a milky sap when its stem is broken. It is native to various types of prairie habitats across the Midwest and eastern United States as well as sites with poor, rocky or sandy soils - even roadsides and railroads.

Butterfly milkweed is more compact and generally less agressive than its cousin, Asclepias syriaca. It's also an excellent, long-lived performer in our bioswales (which like many stormwater systems are frequently subjected to both drought and inundation). We also love this as part of the plant palette for xeric meadows and engineered urban stormwater systems. It thrives in full sun and intense heat!

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, insects, and even Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

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. Does not do well in wet soils and does not compete well with surface rooted trees. However, competes well with grass which makes butterfly weed ideal for meadow gardens. Can be propagated by root cuttings and seed. Plant is taprooted so beware when transplanting. 

Key Characteristics & Attributes

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

Additional Information

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