Does Butterfly Weed Self Seed

Butterfly Milkweed is an important food source for Monarch caterpillars. It is also used as a nectar plant. How to Cut Back Butterfly Milkweed. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) produces green foliage through spring and summer and clusters of small red, orange or yellow flowers. It grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 10. The plant dies back each winter, but it returns from its perennial … Does Butterfly Weed Self Seed Butterfly weed Herbaceous Perennial Flower, Wildflower Also known as Pleurisy root, Chigger weed Asclepias tuberosa Asclepiadaceae Family This

Butterfly Garden Plant Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed

Found growing wild in dry fields and along sunny road sides, the showy flowers of Butterfly Milkweed make it an essential mid-summer garden plant. Due to a lack of milky sap that is common to all other milkweeds, Butterfly Milkweed can be used as a cut flower.

Butterfly Milkweed is easiest to establish as a young plant but due to its large taproot, mature plants of Butterfly Milkweed are not easy to move. Plants are also easy to grow from seed but can take three years before the first flowers appear. Once established, Butterfly Milkweed will self seed if seedpods are not removed.

Importance as a butterfly nectar source:
Once established in the garden, Butterfly Milkweed plants will produce a large number of bright orange blooms that are attractive to a variety of butterflies. The large number of blooms per plant make Butterfly Milkweed an essential butterfly garden plant.

Importance as a caterpillar food source:
Like many milkweeds, Butterfly Milkweed is an important food source for Monarch caterpillars. Queens, with their southern U.S. range, also uses Butterfly Milkweed as a food source as do Soldiers whose range is restricted primarily to southern Florida and southern Texas.

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Some research has shown that Monarch caterpillars that feed on Butterfly Milkweed are not as toxic to predators as caterpillars that feed on other milkweed species

Plant Rating
Plant rating scale ranges from 0 to 3. Plants rating 3 are the most useful for butterfly gardens. For more details on the ratings, see Native Plant Ratings

Garden Rating 3
Nectar Rating 3
Caterpillar Rating 3

Warren, NJ: visited by Coral Hairstreaks, Juniper Hairstreaks, and Great Spangled Fritillaries.

Broward, FL: self seeds, requires no care and is easily obtained in local nurseries. When plants look ragged from weather damage, cut stems back to a few inches. Cut portions of the plant can be rooted be placing the lower section in water for a number of weeks.

How to Cut Back Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) produces green foliage through spring and summer and clusters of small red, orange or yellow flowers. It grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 10. The plant dies back each winter, but it returns from its perennial root system each year if it’s kept properly pruned. All parts of the butterfly weed are toxic if eaten.

Wipe the pruning shears with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol to disinfect them before pruning, and then wipe them again when moving between plants. Wear heavy gloves to protect your hands from the sap, which can cause skin irritation.

Cut back the entire plant by one-third to one-half its previous height in late winter or early spring before new growth emerges. Make the cuts within 1/4-inch of a leaf or leaf bud so the bush doesn’t have bare stems poking out. Remove all pruning clippings from the bed after pruning and dispose of them.

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Remove the wilting flowers after the first flush of blooms begin to fade, cutting off the flower cluster above the topmost set of leaves on the stem. Removing the dead flowers prevents seed formation, which encourages butterfly weed to produce more flowers. Stop deadheading in late summer if you want decorative seed pods on the plants in fall and early winter.

Prune off the seed pods in late fall or early winter if you don’t want the butterfly weed to self-seed, or just to improve the garden’s appearance. Wait until spring to cut back the entire plant.

Things You Will Need

Butterfly weed flowers are suitable for cut flower arrangements, but the stems leak sap after cutting. Cut the flower stems back to a leaf. Sear the cut end lightly with a lit match or lighter to stop the flow of sap before adding them to your arrangement or placing them in a vase. Monarch butterfly caterpillars feed on the leaves of this plant exclusively, so consider allowing them to munch on it in some areas of your yard.

  • Floridata: Asclepias Tuberosa
  • Cornell University Extension: Butterfly Weed
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Deadheading or Trimming Butterfly Weed

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington’s specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.

Does Butterfly Weed Self Seed

Butterfly weed

Herbaceous Perennial Flower, Wildflower

Also known as Pleurisy root, Chigger weed
Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepiadaceae Family

This hardy North American native grows about 3 feet tall and bears dense, flattened clusters of cheerful orange blooms, often covered with feeding butterflies.

  • full sun
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Soil conditions:

  • tolerates acid soil
  • tolerates droughty soil
  • requires well-drained soil
  • tolerates low fertility

Hardiness zones:

Special locations:

Lifecycle: perennial

Ease-of-care: moderately difficult

Propagation is difficult. But once established the plant is relatively easy and low maintenance.

Height: 2 to 3 feet

Spread: 1 to 2 feet

  • mid-summer
  • late summer
  • early fall

Flower color:

Orange is the norm, but the variety ‘Gay Butterflies’ may have red, orange or yelllow blooms.

Foliage color: medium green

Foliage texture: medium

Shape: upright

The leaves are arranged in a spiral around erect stems.

Shape in flower: flower stalks with upright spikes

Blooms borne in dense, flattened clusters atop the erect plant stems.

  • heat
  • deer resistant
  • non-aggressive – Self-seeds, but easy to manage.
  • non-invasive
  • native to North America – Native to North American grasslands and meadows.
  • bears ornamental fruit
  • beneficial insects – Bees
  • butterflies
  • cut flowers
  • wildflowers
  • naturalistic garden

Propagate by seed, cuttings, division or separation – Seed germination is erratic. It is improved by sowing fresh seed as soon as it is ripe. Use a well-aerated soil mix.

Take basal cuttings in spring.

Divide in the spring or fall, but division is difficult due to the long taproot.

Deadheading encourages a second flowering about a month after the first. Even though butterfly weed self seeds readily, you may want to leave some of the flowers to mature, as the fruits are ornamental, similar to the familiar milkweed (A. syriaca) pods. (Remove fruits before they split open to prevent seeding.)

Do not prune in fall. Wait and cut back plants in spring.

Mulch for the winter to prevent frost heaving. Plants need excellent drainage to overwinter. Plants are slow to emerge in spring.

More growing information: How to Grow Perennials