Attract More Butterflies with Butterfly Weed

Butterfly weeds are carefree perennials that reach 2 to 3 feet tall and produce colorful, cheerful flowers midsummer. The nectar-rich red, orange, and yellow blossoms are, not surprisingly, beloved by butterflies.

A member of the milkweed family, butterfly weed is an important food source for all growth stages of caterpillars and butterflies. For example, monarchs will lay eggs only on the underside of young milkweed leaves, such as those found on this plant.

Botanical Name: Asclepias tuberosa
Common Name: Butterfly weed
Growing Zones: 4 to 9
Growing Conditions: Butterfly weed grows wild in dry sandy soils from Florida to Texas and Colorado. The plant isn't picky about its growing conditions. It does well in sun or partial sun, and it grows in wet or dry soil, without added fertilizer. Butterfly weed does, however, require well-drained soil, and won't tolerate heavy, clay soil.

A long taproot makes butterfly weed difficult to transplant, and it's best left undisturbed once planted. Butterfly weed needs several months of winter cold to bloom. For best results, sow seeds directly outside in fall for blooms the following spring. Or, sow seeds in spring, although the plant may not flower until the following year. Butterfly weed is very hardy, once established, and frequently reseeds year to year.

Pests: Aphids can be pests with butterfly weeds. A strong spray of water will usually knock off aphids if applied during the early stages of the problem. Or, try insecticidal soap. Fortunately, butterfly weeds can withstand most minor pest damage.

Photo courtesy of Wayside Gardens