Butterfly Milkweed - (Asclepias tuberosa)
A bushy, 1 1/2 - 2' tall perennial prized for its large, flat-topped clusters of bright-orange flowers that add color to any garden.
This showy milkweed is often grown in home gardens because its brilliant flowers attract butterflies and as a colorful and tough landscaping plant. It is native across much of the US, with the exception of the Northwestern states.
Pollinator attractant and monarch caterpillar food source. Medicinally, its tough root was chewed by the Indians as a cure for pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments, giving its other common name, Pleurisy Root. Although it is sometimes called Orange Milkweed, it has no milky sap.
Typically blooms May through September.
Milkweed pods contain a seed floss that is used to stuff pillows or mixed with other fibers to make a cloth. It is used in Life Jackets or as a stuffing material. It is very water repellent. The floss is the mechanism for seed dispersal.
Will These Grow in My Area?
Refer to the USDA map link and please realize that a milkweed species can grow and thrive outside of the areas listed if the conditions are favorable.
From that link, you’ll see the states shown where the milkweed is native. If you find a state that has areas with climate and conditions similar to yours, then that milkweed will most likely do very well for you.
The milkweed plant (Asclepias spp.) plays a critical role in the monarch life cycle. Each spring Monarchs move across the United States, laying eggs on native milkweed, the only plant that serve as food for newly hatched monarch caterpillars.
- Orange Milkweed
- Pleurisy Root
In the fall when the milkweed pods split open and the seeds are flying out on the breeze, they have a natural germination-inhibiting coating on them so that they don’t sprout too early and die off during the winter.
Moisture and abrasion act on the seed coating to soak and wear it off in nature, allowing moisture into the seed in early spring to start the germination process.
Cold-wet stratification is easy to do at home and significantly increases the germination rate before planting them.
Here’s how to do it – label a sandwich-sized ziplock bag with the name of the milkweed and date, then fill it about 3/4 full with sand, decomposed granite, or another abrasive media. Add enough water to make the sand very wet – you should see the sheen of water when you squish the bag. Add the seeds – however many you want to plant – to the mixture and place the baggie on the top shelf of your fridge, where you can move it a couple of times daily.
This cool, wet, abrasive action mimics a winter in nature while starting the germination process.
Once a month has passed, plant your seeds as usual.
- Milkweed, Monarchs and Home Gardeners to the Rescue
- Milkweed Seed Germination Procedures
- Growing Milkweed for the Monarch Butterfly
- Planting A Pollinator Feast
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