Let’s have a chat about Asclepias tuberosa, shall we? THIS is the plant you want for your butterfly garden, NOT the invasive Asian butterfly bush, noted for its pinnacles of purple flowers. A. tuberosa is known as butterfly milkWEED, and the weed is what you want!
Don’t let that moniker fool you, this plant has delightful vibrant orange blooms atop deep green foliage. The ecological value cannot be stressed enough, the nectar produced by the butterflyweed is high value. This is a plant that us native plant enthusiasts point to when educating the general public.
Yes, the butterfly BUSH has pretty flowers and you will find pollinators on it. You will also find it crowding out important native plants in places outside of planted gardens, and the nectar value is low compared to the native butterfly weed. Think…Steakhouse versus the butterfly bush’s McDonalds. If a landscape is filled with non-native plants, the bees are going to head to the flowers where they can receive a quick hit, but their needs would be so easily met with a garden full of natives.
Enough about the other guy…the Butterfly milkweed deserves its chance to shine. Add a patch of these flowers to your sunny pollinator beds, they prefer sandy, well-drained soils and can handle droughts, so are the perfect plants for our summers.
An excellent plant to surround a seating area, the fragrance drifting on a breeze and happy native bees and butterflies will make for a favorite spot to sit.
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Photo 5 courtesy of Dan Wilder
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly milkweed)
SIZE: type: herbaceous perennial sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade water needs: Average to dry soil height: 2' plant spacing: 1/sq ft bloom time: June, July, August bloom color: orange
good plant companions
Black-eyed Susan, bee balm, New England aster
moderate salt tolerance. Some salt exposure should not be fatal to the plant but some leaf burning may still occur. deer resistant (please note that does not mean deer proof)