Asclepias tuberosa L.

Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Milkweed

Newly planted

Newly planted


Family: Apocynaceae

Genus: Asclepias

Category: Perennial

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: 2 to 3' tall, 2' wide

Growth Rate: Moderate

Exposure: Sun, Filtered Sun, Part Shade


Dies back to the ground in winter and sends up shoots from the underground tuber in spring. Orange to red flowers in summer, on erect hairy stems. Watery sap in the stems and leaves. Prefers well-drained sandy soils in full sun to light shade. Caterpillars of monarch butterflies feed on foliage and many butterflies enjoy the nectar. Will naturalize. Does not transplant well once established because of the deep taproot. Slow to emerge in spring. Aphids love them.


Native to the US.

Published in Sp.Pl. 1: 217 in 1753.

Published also in Bot. Reg. 1: 81 in 1815.

From Bot. Reg. A plant very generally native in most of the states of America, where it goes by several denominations; such as "Butterfly-weed," from being a favourite resort of the insects of that tribe; "Pleurisy or Ache-in-the-side plant," from its medicinal virtues, said to be of considerable activity...

Cultivated in 1690 in the garden at Hampton Court.

Other names listed in Bot. Reg.:

Asclepias decumbens L. - synonym

'Tuberosa' means tuberous, referring to the taproot.


My Experience: 

I purchased a 4" pot from Santa Rosa in April 2011 and planted it by the conservatory. The deer nibbled on it so a I put a wire fence around it and it started to grow. Bloomed occasionally but not strongly. In spring 2014 it put on a strong showing and was not attacked by deer - perhaps it had been rabbits eating it. In autumn I dug up some pieces and potted them all up except one which I planted in the Helipad And Tiers garden.

Sources of Information

© 2010-12 Lisa J. Miner