Butterfly weed is low maintenance, attracts a lot of butterflies, and is deer resistant today on Southern Gardening?
Butterfly weed is a common sight along the Interstate during the late summer months. The deep orange flowers standing out on cut embankments are a testament to the low maintenance requirements. This plant was named the Mississippi Medallion Native Plant winner for 2012 and deserves a place in your garden.
Known botanically as Asclepias tuberosa, grows up to 36 inches tall and 24 inches wide. This plant has an upright, clumping growth habit. The clusters of tubular flowers are various shades of orange, but some will have flowers shaded towards yellow or red. Remove seed pods to reduce reseeding. Removal and drying the seed pods just before opening will provide you with good dried arrangement material.
Butterfly weed can grow anywhere in Mississippi as long as there is good drainage. This plant does not like to have wet feet. However, the swamp milkweed is a close relative that likes it wet. Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, has red to pink to white flowers.
Both plants are magnets for Monarch butterflies. Several years ago I had a planting of the swamp milkweed that was covered with literally 100s of Monarch caterpillars. There were cocoons attached to everything. One day I came out and all of the cocoons were empty. I didn’t see a single butterfly emerge.
Combination plant the orange flowered butterfly weed with bluish purple globe thistle and the blue haze of Russian sage for a dynamic color contrast. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.