This North American native is a wonderful source of nectar used by many butterflies. Butterfly weed is one of several species of flowers that we grow around our house to attract a myriad of butterflies.
To attract butterflies to our southern Maryland yard, we have included food for both stages of a butterfly’s life: the butterfly as well as the caterpillar. When you plant a butterfly weed you have done both. Plus, the strong orange flowers will give a festive touch to the outside extension of your home.
My girls scattered some butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberose) seeds in their garden. The seeds were a gift from a thoughtful friend. You will want to plant your seeds in a location that receives full sun. They prefer dry, sandy soil. It turned out to be easy to grow; just keep the seedlings moist. The older plants are much more tolerant of dry conditions. You can plant your seeds in late spring, summer or early fall. Either way, plan to wait until next summer for flowers. Seeds need a cold treatment before germinating. This can be done by either planting outside in the fall, or placing the seeds in the freezer for a few weeks before planting. New plants are also fairly easy to start from cuttings. Our plants have come up each year with no effort on our part and provide butterfly alluring powers. They flower all summer long and in the fall they have cool seed pods with fluff inside.
If you are a southern Maryland local (i.e. you live close enough that you can stop by), I’d be happy to save you some seeds. If collecting your own seeds, wait until the pods are already starting to open.
FYI, avoid pesticides because they kill butterfly larvae.
Butterfly Weed, a species of milkweed, is a host plant for Monarch Butterflies as well as others.
This is the monarch butterfly in its larval stage completely devouring several of our butterfly weed plants.