Asclepias tuberosa. Butterfly Bush Milkweed seeds, sometimes called Orange Milkweed, is a hearty perennial intensely attractive to butterflies and other beneficial garden insects. It is highly drought resistant, so useful for xeriscaping. Unlike other members of the Milkweed family, Butterfly Weed does not issue a milky sap when broken. Waxy green stems to 70cm (27″) tall are topped by vivid orange flower clusters. Grown in small clusters, this plant attracts butterflies like no other, even in urban gardens. Flowers are followed by exotic looking fruits that release easy-to-harvest seeds. All milkweeds are useful, nectar rich food plants for butterflies, including the Monarch butterfly.
This is not the milkweed species that is used as a food plant by the Monarch caterpillar. That plant is A. incarnata, or Swamp Milkweed.
NOTE: All parts of the plant are harmful if swallowed. Asclepias leaves can be toxic to chickens, so plant out of range of foraging flocks.
How to Grow Asclepias
Follow along with this handy How to Grow Asclepias guide and enjoy butterflies, hummingbirds, and a host of other pollinators in your garden. When transplanted seedlings are 10-15cm (4-6″) tall, pinch back the growing tip to encourage multiple flowering points. Asclepias tuberosa prefers dry, sandy conditions or any average garden soil in full sun. Plants grown from seed bloom in the first year if given an early start. They can be pulled up in fall and treated like annuals to prevent spreading. Asclepias does not divide well, but it’s an outstanding choice for xeriscaping. Asclepias speciosa and some of the others do better in swampy soil, but they are not fussy plants.
Season & Zone
Exposure: Full sun
Sow indoors late February to the end of March and transplant or direct sow towards late April. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 10-25°C (50-75°F). Seeds should sprout in 7-35 days. Asclepias may benefit from stratification: Seeded trays are wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for two to three weeks before being placed over bottom heat. This may result in more even and speedier germination.
We have had success direct sowing A. tuberosa in March, with blooms the first year. In our experience, A. speciosa returns with vigor in the second year and begins blooming by June.
Barely cover the small seeds using sterilized seed starting mix. Space transplants 30-60cm (12-24″) apart.
Note: All parts of the plant are harmful if eaten. Flowers are not edible.
Download our Asclepias tuberosa Factsheet.
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