I am so excited that this year my Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) seeds (okay one of my seeds sprouted and bloomed. I know it took a whole lot of seeds to get one plant but that is okay. My Butterfly Weed bloomed the first year in mid July and I am hoping next summer this native beauty will be twice as large plus bloom earlier and longer. As the name implies, the bright yellow/orange to orange/red blooms attract butterflies, bees, and birds to the garden.
Asclepias tuberosa is a native plant which grows in zones 3-9 which is most of us in the US. The Butterfly weed will flourish in full sun and dry soil and the deer will not eat it! Here in zone 7 the Butterfly weed grows in a part sun/ part shade area under the canopies of mighty Oaks. The height can range from about a foot to three (3) foot tall and about a foot to two (2) feet wide. Despite its adaptability in the garden, the Butterfly Weed does not like wet feet (or wet soil). It prefers well drained soil and once established prefers drought conditions.
Why plant the Butterfly Weed? Because the Monarch butterfly caterpillars (larvae) feast on the leaves and the Butterflies sip the sweet nectar of the yellow -orange to orange-red blooms of the flowers. It is a win win for anyone who plants this beautiful native plant in their garden because you can enjoy the beauty of the bloom and the birds and bees benefit from the food source.
I want to emphasize that native plants adapt much better to the soil and weather of an area much better than non native plants you many buy at the garden centers. You can mix natives with other perennials and even annuals to help bring bees, butterflies, and birds to your garden. The Butterfly weed will take a couple years to get established and even bloom so be patient.
In mid to late August after blooming and depending upon zone, the Butterfly Weed will have seed pods at the top of each stem that displayed those beautiful orange blooms. Do not pick the seed pods off until they start to turn brown about mid to late September (or just let the plant re-seed freely). Once the seed pod is completely brown and dried it will break open to reveal a bouquet of white plumes atop the small brown seeds. The bright white plumes make it easy for the Butterfly Weed to be blown by the wind to freely seed the country side.
I do not recommend digging up Butterfly Weed along the road or in someone’s garden. The tap root can be over a foot long and this native plant does not do well transplanted. Seeds are by far the easiest and best way to grow your own. Even though it may take a year or two to get a bloom from seed, disturbing an established plant is not recommended. I also do not want you to go dig up any native plants along the road or in parks because it is illegal in many states and it is just wrong. Instead just ask if you can collect a seed pod or two to sow in your own garden. Better yet, order from a reputable seed dealer online such as Mary’s Heirloom Seeds.
In my experience of gardening, and there will be naysayers, I have just taken the natural route of sowing seeds by waiting for the seed pods to turn brown and dry on the plant and then opening the pods (in the fall) and scattering the seeds as nature would. This would work for any native seeds. This is how nature does it and she is the ruler of all things beautiful.
To be honest, I have tried to do the winter sowing thing with having jugs and pots in the sun but it is too messy looking for me and to be blunt is too much work! I also want to admit that working with seeds that need to be cold stratified (as in nature some seeds need to ‘freeze’ so they are viable and will sprout) is not easy nor was it very successful for me. Failures in the garden are not an easy thing for a gardener to admit but I am not your average gardener (or woman). I have had my fair share of trial and error and what grows in my gardens and what I write about is what will grow in some of the worst red clay soil in the country.
Gardening can be about rules and lists but for me it is about beauty and nature. I am a messy gardener, maybe even a lazy gardener, but one thing is certain- I get to enjoy my garden and share it with you and inspire you to plant some flowers!
Creating. Inspiring. Gardening without the rules!
2015 copyrighted material C Renee Fuller @the Garden Frog Boutique
To read more here is a link to the Missouri Botanical Garden: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=b490