How to Grow Asclepias tuberosa Plants in your Garden

Asclepias tuberosa is a drought-tolerant and robust plant native to the eastern parts of Canada and the Midwestern US.

Its common name is the Butterfly weed. It derives this name because it can readily draws butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.

Butterfly flower

Butterfly weed - Asclepia tuberosa photograph by Mark Levisay.

Some other names it goes by include Orange milkweed, Yellow milkweed, Indian paintbrush, and Pleurisy root.

It belongs to the Apocynaceae (dogbane) family and grows to a height of about 1-3 feet (30 to 90 cm). Its flowers are bright orange, and plants normally blossom around early summer up to early frost.

Asclepias tuberosa plant
Asclepias tuberosa plant in the wild, photograph by gailhampshire; CC.

They are well-loved by many wild flower garden enthusiasts as their bright flowers attract insects and birds like butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees; which can pollinate other plants.

Its roots also have medicinal benefits. They are ideally planted in a place that has a lot of sun.

Asclepias tuberosa Botanical Diagram
Asclepias tuberosa Botanical Diagram, image sourced by Swallowtail Garden Seeds; CC.

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Butterfly Flower

You can plant the Asclepias tuberosa from seed, then directly sow the seeds into the soil. It is recommended to sow them in fall, allowing them to shoot during the following spring. It is also important to water it often in early stages of growth.

When sowing, you should give the seeds a space of 15-18 inches (40 to 60 cm). There is no need to fertilize Butterfly weed.

Topdressing it with composted manure or compost annually (or twice a year) is also good for growth.

Asclepias Tuberosa does best in a rocky or dry soil, clay soils, and dry conditions. It blossoms the best when grown in a lot of sun.

As the butterfly weed grows it may attract some pests, especially aphids. To get rid of those, do not use strong pesticides as they may damage the plants ecosystem and the soil.

Spraying the plant with water from a hosepipe will work just fine in getting rid of the pests, or better still use soapy water. That said, in a wild nature garden you may wish to let the aphids be, as they will help to attract insects such as ladybirds to the garden.

Asclepias tuberosa Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Asclepias tuberosa
  • Common Name: Butterfly flower
  • Growing Zone: USA: 3 to 9
  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Perennial

Plant Details

  • Plant Height (Inches): 18 to 30
  • Plant Spread (Inches): 12 to 36
  • Time of Bloom: Summer
  • Flower Details: Orange, Red, Yellow
  • Leaf Foliage: Green
  • Fruit:
  • Growth Form: Upright / erect

Ideal Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Partially shady to full sunlight
  • Rate of Growth: Average pace
  • Suitable Soil Types: Acidic, Clay, Loamy, Neutral, Sandy, Well drained
  • Soil Moisture: Dry to Moist (Medium Moisture is likely gives best results)

Caring Conditions

  • Care:
  • Level of Maintenance: Low
  • Propagation: Seeds
  • How to Prune: Not usually required
  • Pests: Usually pest free
  • Diseases: Usually pest free

Further Information

  • Can Attract: Butterflies
  • Tolerant of: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil
  • Best Garden Use: Border, Container, Foundation, En masse , Rock garden, Seashore, Specimen
  • Family: Apocynaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Adenium, Allamanda, Amsonia, Asclepias, Nerium, Pachypodium, Wrightia, Vinca.

  • Miscellaneous: Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, Attracts butterflies, Suitable for cut flowers, Suitable for dried flowers, Attractive flowers / blooms
  • Genus Detail: Asclepias
  • Further Reading and References: Here and Here

Butterfly Milkweed flowers class=
Blooming Butterfly Milkweed flowers, photograph by Cathie Bird; CC.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Asclepias tuberosa. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Oxypetalum and Catharanthus plants.