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Asclepias, Red Butterfly

Short Description

Fiery orange-scarlet flowers.

Full Description

Unusual clusters of fiery orange-scarlet flowers attract butterflies all summer until frost. Plants thrive in hot weather. GARDEN HINTS: In milder areas, sow directly outdoors after all danger of frost. For flower arranging, cut when blooms are 2/3 open.
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Item#: 35675A
Order: 1 Pkt. (50 seeds)
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Product properties

Sun The amount of sunlight this product needs daily in order to perform well in the garden. Full sun means 6 hours of direct sun per day; partial sun means 2-4 hours of direct sun per day; shade means little or no direct sun.

Full Sun

Height The typical height of this product at maturity.

36 inches

Spread The width of the plant at maturity.

12 inches

Ornamental Use Ways in which the product may be used in the garden for ornamental effect.

Borders, Dried Flowers

Life Cycle This refers to whether a plant is an annual, biennial or perennial. Annuals complete their life cycles in one year; biennials produce foliage the first year and bloom and go to seed the second year; perennials can live for more than two years.


Sow Method This refers to whether the seed should be sown early indoors and the seedlings transplanted outside later, or if the seed should be sown directly in the garden at the recommended planting time.

Direct Sow/Indoor Sow

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Annuals Tour #1
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Asclepias may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost, or sown directly in the garden after frost.

Sowing Seed Indoors:

  • Sow indoors 8 weeks before outdoor planting date in spring using a seed starting kit
  • Soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting
  • Sow seeds ¼ inch deep in seed starting formula
  • Keep the soil moist at 70-75 degrees F
  • Seedlings emerge in 10-21 days
  • As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
  • Thin to one seedling per cell when they have two sets of leaves.
  • Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • Transplant after all danger of frost has passed.


  • Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.


Transplanting to the Garden:

  • Select a location in full sun with well-drained soil.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
  • Set plants 12 inches apart in the garden. Once planted leave plants undisturbed as asclepias develops a tap root.


Sowing Directly in the Garden:

  • Direct sow seeds in average soil in full sun after all danger of frost. Asclepias prefers well-drained soil.
  • Prepare the soil by removing weeds and working organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
  • Most plants respond well to soils amended with organic matter. Compost is a wonderful form of organic matter with a good balance of nutrients and an ideal pH level, it can be added to your planting area at any time. If compost is not available, top dress the soil after planting with 1-2 inches of organic mulch, which will begin to breakdown into compost. After the growing season, a soil test will indicate what soil amendments are needed for the following season.
  • Sow seeds thinly and evenly.
  • Firm soil lightly with your hand, water and keep evenly moist.
  • Seedlings will emerge in 10-21 days.
  • Asclepias should be thinned to 12 inches apart.
  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
  • Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For annuals an organic mulch of shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
  • Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It's best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
  • Remove spent flower heads to keep plants flowering until fall.
  • Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
  • Remove plants after they are killed by frost in fall to avoid disease issues the following year.
  • Deadhead asclepias to promote reblooming.
  • Asclepias grows well with coreopsis, daylilies, achillea and ornamental grasses.
  • This flower is a must have for any butterfly garden.
Full Sun
36 inches
12 inches
Ornamental Use
Borders, Dried Flowers
Life Cycle
Sow Method
Direct Sow/Indoor Sow
Bloom Duration
6 weeks
Flower color
Orange, Red, Yellow
Asclepias, Red Butterfly is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 9.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful! I bought this last year and we planted it with other native plants. By the end of the summer it was COVERED in caterpillars. We had tons of butterflies in this garden as well as honey bees.
Date published: 2016-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorite! I buy these every year, and can't image my garden without them. Absolutely beautiful. The trick to growing these is to start them in the house early. I'm planting the seeds in January, as I did last year. They flower a lot earlier and the blooms keep coming.
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not one seed germinated Planted the seeds in multiple sunny locations. Kept the beds moist and not a single seed sprouted.
Date published: 2016-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I've always had these plants. They are known to us as milkweed. I also have the all yellow blooming plant of same type. I save the seeds and plant them close to spring. They attract monarchs butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. I love them. Easy to grow.
Date published: 2016-09-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Asclepias Did not germinate at all.....................................
Date published: 2016-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful & Hardy Be patient when seeding these indoors. The germination is sporadic over about three months. Once they've got a few leaves on them, I transition them outside. They're not fast growers, but they're heat, drought and light freeze tolerant. They produce clusters of brilliant red and yellow flowers. I rarely see butterflies on them, but they're always loaded with eastern black swallowtail caterpillars. I transfer the caterpillars to a fennel plant otherwise they'll decimate the asclepias. If a caterpillar does strip the plant to the stalk, trim it down to a few inches above the root and it'll start growing back in a month. They're also attacked by orange aphids on a regular basis, so keep a spray bottle of diluted dish soap handy. In spite of being a bit high maintenance, I absolutely adore these plants. It's very unusual to find a plant that produces beautiful blooms and tolerates central Texas summers yet persists throughout our "winters" without complaint.
Date published: 2016-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Robust Butterfly Attractor Love this plant. Even after 2 years of careless storage in a garage, the seeds germinated very well. I started them indoors and set them in a sunny window where they quickly grew big enough to be moved to the garden After I transferred them to my backyard, I made sure they didn't dry out during their first couple weeks outdoors, but have not had to spend hardly any time caring for them since. They grew tall and gained blooms within a couple weeks of being moved and have ever since been heavy with little flowers. Plant also does well in drier conditions too. When there is no rain for an extended period, the leaves begin to droop a little but still look ok, and they perk right back up with a little watering. Flowers do not appear to be affected by dry periods at all, which is awesome. And the butterflies love them! I have a monarch and a tiger swallowtail that hang out on my plants for a few hours every day. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great plant for sunny gardens I grew these from seed this spring...I started indoors in March, and then moved them outside. They are the 'backbone' of my large flower garden since I ended up having so many plants. Their height is not overwhelming, and they have flowered all summer. The traveling monarchs laid their eggs on them this spring, and have now returned to feast on them on their way south. I will go to all the trouble of growing them from seed again this spring, since they were so easy to grow, bug free (except for monarch caterpillars), and a butterfly magnet!
Date published: 2009-09-09
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