Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa:
Showy butterfly-friendly perennial
Butterfly Milkweed is a low- to medium-growing perennial native to Texas. It usually grows 1-2 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. In the wild, it is common in central and eastern Texas, typically found in hillsides, prairies, and open woods. Its 2-4 inch dark-green leaves are lanceolate or sometimes oblong or linear, with the underside of the leaf a lighter green than the top side.
Flowers and Seeds:
Butterfly Milkweed is prized for its flowers. These appear from late spring to autumn – yellow to orange flower clusters that are 2-6 inches across bloom at the top of the stems. The flowers are then followed by dramatic, upright, smooth-fleshed, narrow seed pods that average 4 inches long. These start out green, mature to gray, and split open to release silky-tailed seeds that disperse with the wind. New plants may be started from seed, however, the first bloom may take 2-3 years.
Butterfly Milkweed thrives in sun to part shade. It prefers well-drained sandy soils, although it will tolerate other well-drained soils. In addition, it is drought tolerant.
Supplemental water during long dry spells is helpful but usually not needed. But like many other native Texas plants, it will not tolerate “wet feet.”
Butterfly Milkweed is ideal for butterfly gardens, in mass drifts, or sprinkled in a prairie garden. As the name implies, it attracts butterflies as well as bees, other insects, and hummingbirds. It is a larval host for Monarch (Danaus plexippus) and Queen (D. gilippus) butterflies. The plant can usually tolerate small infestations of orange aphids. Also, be wary of using toxic pesticides with Butterfly Milkweed as these may kill butterfly larva!
Written by Dr. Becca Dickstein