Butterfly weed has a PR problem, because if all you hear is its name, the weed part is a bit of a turnoff. But it‘s a gorgeous addition to any perennial garden, and pollinators absolutely love it. It’s a tough plant too, which makes it a favorite for rain gardens, bioswales, and low-maintenance, natural style perennial borders.
Brilliant orange flowers in huge clusters up to nine inches across bloom from the center out in July. The stems below the flowers can be a bit bare and thin, so it’s a good middle-layer plant rather than something you plant right at the edge of a bed. You may know butterfly weed best as the monarch butterfly plant - plants in this genus are the only food source for monarch caterpillars. With fewer and fewer wild places where butterfly weed can grow naturally, bringing these plants into our yards is vital to keeping the gorgeous orange butterflies around.
Common Name: Butterfly Weed, Milkweed
Scientific Name: Asclepias tuberosa
Light: full sun
Size: 18-30” tall, 18-24” wide
Bloom Time and Color: large clusters of bright orange flowers in mid-summer
Notable Varieties: ‘Hello Yellow’ (somewhat compact yellow-flowering variety); Swamp Milkweed, a water-loving, pink-flowering cousin, has similar flowers in a different color and is also landscape-friendly
Soil: tolerates clay soil and dry soil
Other Notes: pollinator-friendly, larval host for monarch butterflies, native to Indiana, deer resistant, interesting fall seed pods