Butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa) is a type of milkweed that's easy to grow and maintain. Butterfly weeds play an important role in the life cycle of monarch butterflies. Monarchs lay their eggs on the underside of butterfly weed leaves; once they hatch, the tiny caterpillars feed on the butterfly weed until they become chrysalises. Butterfly weed is a perennial that comes back every year.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Gather butterfly weed seeds while they are still in their pods on the plant. Butterfly weeds are quite common, and can be found in meadows, parks and even abandoned lots. Break the pod open, scoop out the seeds and separate them from the white, feathery tail that would otherwise carry them through the air when the pod breaks open naturally.
Spread the seeds directly onto the ground in the fall. Rake them into the soil so they are lightly covered. The seeds require cold weather in order to come back in the spring in full bloom. If you plant the seeds in the spring, they may sprout, but won't bloom until the following year. You can start the seeds in flower pots indoors and plant them outside in the spring.
Only water your butterfly weeds under severe drought conditions. Butterfly weeds require little maintenance and will flourish in sandy, well-drained soil.
Snip off the seed pods before they break, unless you want the butterfly weeds to spread throughout your garden.
Tips and warnings
- Once the plants are established outside, do not transplant them; the main root (the tap root) runs very deep. If you dig up the plant to move it, you will injure the tap root and the plant will likely die.
- Remember that butterfly weeds will attract monarch butterflies; plant them away from any areas where you are using pesticides.