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How to Grow Butterfly Weed

Keep reading for tips on how to grow butterfly weed successfully here in Arkansas!

Asclepias (Butterfly Weed) was the 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year, chosen by the national Perennial Plant Association! Every year, a notable perennial comes into focus and this selection is surely one to include in the garden!

There are many kinds of butterfly weed, and probably the most common in Arkansas is Asclepias tuberosa.

Asclepias tuberosa


This Arkansas native is what folks think of when they are considering adding butterfly weed into their gardens. Sporting brilliant orange flowers, it will look wonderful in any color arrangement. How do you grow butterfly weed successfully?  Growing in a clump 12”-36” tall, they want very good drainage in a full sun situation if you have it. If you do not have a full sun spot, ½ day sun preferably in the afternoon will also work. Quite drought tolerant once established. This plant is both a nectar source and food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars).  Asclepias tuberosa blooms from late spring through summer.  Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and the leaves are a food source for Monarch butterfly larvae.


Perennial Milkweeds

Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’ is very similar to regular butterfly weed, but is a beautiful butter yellow color. Consider growing both colors together for a bright and cheery combination. Planting and growing conditions are the same for the orange butterfly weed.

Asclepias incarnata ‘Cinderella’ is a bit different, in that its nickname says it all—swamp milkweed. This one prefers moist soil and grows 24”-48” tall in full sun. This beauty has pink/dark pink flowers with the “crown tips” of the flowers being white. Breathe easy, because this plant smells of vanilla. How lovely!

Tropical/ Annual Milkweeds 

Although these milkweeds may not come back next year, they make a nice supplement to the perennial milkweeds, providing color and nectar all season!

Asclepias curassavica ‘Red Butterflies’ is another milkweed featuring red blooms; it is zoned for 8a and above so it’s a tender perennial or annual here in Central Arkansas.

Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Gold’ hardy zones 8a and above making it a tender perennial or annual here.  This one features cheerful gold blooms.

Good news is that all milkweeds have a long, deep taproot that helps them be drought tolerant. The bad news is: this can make them a bit tricky to transplant and relocate. Try to find their “forever” home to avoid moving them, but if needed try to get as much of the root ball as you can.

All of these varieties will be loved by butterflies, beneficial insects, and of course the bees. Being very easy and low maintenance it is not hard to understand why butterfly weed is so popular.