Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a native wildflower that is a great source of pollen and nectar for beneficial pollinating insects.
The meaning of the Latin name is very interesting. Asclepias, comes from the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios, and tuberosa means a tuberous taproot.
Butterfly weed likes to grow in the full sun in a dry to medium, well-drained soil. Growing butterfly weed from seed is very easy, but they are slow to establish meaning they can take up to 2 or 3 years to bloom. It is best to direct seed during the fall because the seeds need to go through a cold treatment to emerge as seedlings in the spring. Butterfly weed has a deep taproot and does not transplant well. Once it is established in the landscape, it is best to leave it alone.
Butterfly weed can grow 1 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 1 ? feet wide. They will bloom from June to August and the clustered flowers, called umbels, range in color from orange-yellow to vivid orange. Butterfly weed is one of the few milkweed species that does not release a milky sap from the leaves or stems. In the fall, a spindle-shaped seed pod is produced and will split open to disperse silky seeds that float in the wind. Seed pods can be removed before maturing to prevent the seeds from spreading and germinating in other places in the yard.
As the name suggests, butterfly weed is an important source of nectar for many butterflies, including Monarchs, hummingbirds, bees, and other beneficial pollinating insects. Female Monarchs will lay their eggs on the underside of leaves, which is a vital food source for their caterpillars. Deer and rabbits will also leave butterfly weed alone!
There are few diseases or pests that affect butterfly weed other than aphids. If aphids have become a problem, use a strong stream of water was a garden hose to wash them off the plants. Make sure to plant in a well-drained area because root rot will become an issue if the soil is too wet. Also, do not mulch heavily in the winter because a deep, wet mulch layer can cause crown rot.
Planting butterfly weed will provide you will hours of entertainment watching Monarch butterflies and other pollinators visit this native perennial.
For more information on butterfly weed, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at hgic.clemson.edu. Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7pm on SCETV or mig.org. Email Outen at email@example.com.
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