What is Butterfly Weed?

Butterfly Weed, also known as Asclepias tuberosa, is a perennial plant that belongs to the milkweed family. It is native to North America and is commonly found in prairies, meadows, and open woodlands. This plant is known for its vibrant orange flowers and its ability to attract butterflies, hence the name “Butterfly Weed.”

Characteristics of Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed is a herbaceous plant that grows up to 2-3 feet tall. It has a thick, fleshy stem and lance-shaped leaves that are arranged in whorls. The leaves are green and can sometimes have a slight grayish tint. The flowers of Butterfly Weed are small and clustered together in a dense, rounded umbel. They are bright orange in color and have a unique star-like shape. The flowers bloom from early summer to early fall, providing a beautiful display of color in the garden.

Benefits of Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed is not only a visually appealing plant but also offers several benefits to the environment and wildlife. Here are some of the key benefits:

1. Attracts Butterflies

As the name suggests, Butterfly Weed is a magnet for butterflies. The bright orange flowers and nectar-rich blooms attract various species of butterflies, including monarchs, swallowtails, and fritillaries. By planting Butterfly Weed in your garden, you can create a butterfly-friendly habitat and contribute to the conservation of these beautiful creatures.

2. Supports Pollinators

In addition to butterflies, Butterfly Weed also attracts other pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds. The nectar-rich flowers provide a valuable food source for these important pollinators, helping to support their populations and promote biodiversity in your garden.

3. Low Maintenance

Butterfly Weed is a relatively low-maintenance plant, making it an excellent choice for gardeners of all skill levels. It is drought-tolerant and can thrive in a wide range of soil conditions, including sandy and rocky soils. Once established, it requires minimal watering and can withstand periods of dry weather.

4. Wildlife Habitat

Butterfly Weed serves as a valuable habitat for various wildlife species. The plant provides shelter and food for insects, birds, and small mammals. The seed pods of Butterfly Weed, which develop after the flowers fade, contain numerous seeds that are a food source for birds and small animals.

5. Medicinal Uses

Butterfly Weed has a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans. The plant has been traditionally used to treat respiratory ailments, digestive issues, and skin conditions. It contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties. However, it is important to note that Butterfly Weed should not be consumed without proper guidance from a healthcare professional.

How to Grow Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed can be easily grown from seeds or propagated through division. Here are some tips on how to grow Butterfly Weed:

1. Seed Propagation

To grow Butterfly Weed from seeds, start by scarifying the seeds, which means scratching or nicking the hard outer coat to improve germination. Soak the scarified seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting. Sow the seeds in well-draining soil, either indoors or directly in the garden. Keep the soil consistently moist until the seeds germinate, which usually takes 2-3 weeks.

2. Division

Butterfly Weed can also be propagated through division. In early spring or fall, dig up an established plant and carefully separate the root clumps. Replant the divided clumps in a new location, ensuring that each division has a healthy root system. Water the newly divided plants thoroughly and continue to provide regular watering until they are established.

Caring for Butterfly Weed

Once established, Butterfly Weed requires minimal care. Here are some tips for caring for Butterfly Weed:

1. Watering

Butterfly Weed is drought-tolerant and does not require frequent watering. However, it is important to water newly planted or divided plants regularly until they are established. After that, occasional watering during prolonged dry periods is sufficient.

2. Pruning

Butterfly Weed does not require extensive pruning. However, you can remove the faded flowers to encourage continuous blooming and prevent self-seeding. In late fall or early spring, you can cut back the stems to the ground to promote new growth.

Pests and Diseases

Butterfly Weed is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, it can occasionally be affected by aphids, spider mites, and milkweed bugs. These pests can be controlled by spraying the plant with a mild insecticidal soap or by attracting natural predators such as ladybugs and lacewings.


Butterfly Weed is a beautiful and beneficial plant that adds color and attracts butterflies to any garden. Its low maintenance requirements and ability to support pollinators make it a popular choice among gardeners. By following the tips mentioned above, you can successfully grow and care for Butterfly Weed in your own garden.