Asclepias tuberosa Description
Support pollinators! Asclepias, commonly known as butterfly weed, is a long lived striking perennial native the the continental United States.
Monarch butterflies are perhaps the most famous visitor to butterfly weed. Other butterflies and many bees and other pollinators stop for a sip of its amazing orange flowers.
This wonderful perennial has vibrant orange flowers which make excellent long lasting cut flowers. It is best to cut stems when more than half the flowers are open, buds do not open well once the stem is cut. Cut flowers have long stems life if placed immediately into warms water after cutting. Place stems in refrigerator for 12 hours or transfer the stems to cold water. This process eliminates what little sap may be produced. Dark green leaves are 2-5" long growing closely together spiraling up the stem.
When cross pollinated a dry fruit forms. This dried fruit or follicle opens along one side to disperse seeds. Deadheading milkweed is recommended to prevent reseeding and promote a second flush of blooms later in the season.
Consider adding milkweed in your garden. These wonderful "weeds' have served as a powerful medicine (their Latin name, Asclepias, comes from the Greek god of medicine) as a traditional Native American food, and as an important fiber plant.
As it turns out milkweed has an industrial use. It turns out that milkweed isn't only good for monarchs, During World War II, milkweed silks was used to stuff life jackets. A few entrepreneurs in Quebec transform milkweed into insulation for winter clothing, that is holding its own next to traditional down or polyester. The bonus is that it means more milkweed is being planted. Harvest doesn't take place until monarchs have migrated.
Milkweeds serve as larder for monarch caterpillar and provide plant toxins that make the adult butterfly distasteful to predators.
Mature plants do not transplant well so proper siting is important. Plants can develop a large taproot extending down a foot or more.
Wait until spring to cut back. Be patient, plants are slow to break dormancy in the spring.
Since Asclepias is a native prairie plant, butterfly weed is ideal for meadow gardens, native plantings and wildlife sanctuaries. It is equally appealing in semi-formal, urban gardens. Plant in larges for for an unrivaled display when in blooms. Pairs with phlox, daylilies, or other summer blooming perennials.
Many bees, wasps, ants, butterflies and beetles visit butterfly weed in addition to hummingbirds.
Features: Blooms first year, Attracts butterflies, Cold hardy, Deer resistant, Disease resistant, Drought tolerant, Easy care, Heat tolerant, Attracts hummingbirds, Long blooming, Pollinator plant, Rabbit resistant.
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- Height x width:
24" X 18"
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Accent, Border, Cottage gardening, Erosion control or embankment, Ground cover, Massing, Naturalizing, Slopes, Specimen
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AK, CAN, HI, PR
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Soil: Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils. Does well in poor, dry soils.
Light: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium moisture
Spacing: 1-1.5 ft. apart
Fertilizing: Does not really need consistent fertilizing. You can do a very light application the first summer after planting.
Winterizing: No specific care needed.
Propagation & pruning: Plants will self sow. Seeds can be gathered and started, though a started plant will take a few years to flower. Because of a very deep tap root, moving or dividing is not recommended. No pruning needed.
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