2017 Perennial of the Year: Asclepias tuberosa

by Anne Milne

The Perennial of the year for 2017 is the Asclepias tuberosa, or as most of us know it, Butterfly Weed.

Butterfly weed is a hardy perennial that grows from 1/3 meter up to 1 meter (12 to 36 inches). It is a relative of milkweed, and is non-invasive. Butterfly weed is native to eastern North America. Its hardiness zones are 3 to 9.

Butterfly weed grows in clumps and produces orange or yellow clusters at the top of its stems. Blooms last from early summer to early fall. Keep the plant dead-headed to encourage reblooming. This plant likes full sun, and medium, well-drained fertile soils. It is drought tolerant, thus it does not like to be overwatered or overfertilized. It is also resistant to deer!

Butterfly weed attracts butterflies, and is also very attractive to humming birds, bees, ladybugs, and other beneficial insects. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the plant and the larva feed on its leaves. Monarchs also depend on its nectar as a food source.

Asclepias tuberosa can be grown from seed. Plant seeds in spring, after frost. Plants from seeds will likely not bloom for 2 or 3 years. Butterfly weed plants are also available at most reliable nurseries. Aesclepias tuberosa will also reseed itself. The seed pods will burst and float around your garden to start new plants.

Butterfly weed has few problems, but may have aphids or mealybugs. Because this plant is so vital to our Monarchy butterfly, rather than using pesticides, use your hose to spray and dislodge the pests from the plant.

Grow this plant in bunches, along with butterfly bush, bee balm and cone flowers, and you will make an outstanding display.

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