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Asclepias, Butterfly Weed

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Short Description

Prolific bloomer from June to August.

Full Description

An excellent choice for its vividly orange blooms, these easy-to-grow, long blooming natives make lovely cut flowers and are magnets for butterflies, particularly Monarchs. Crown-shaped flowers form clusters up to 2" across. In the fall, upright pods crack open, releasing seeds glistening with silky hairs. This butterfly milkweed is perfect in meadows, wildflower gardens and as dried pods in arrangements. Sow outdoors in spring after last frost or in late summer.
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Item#: 30452A
Order: 1 Pkt. (30 seeds)
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$4.95
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Item#: 20484
Order: 1 Plant
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$12.95
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Product properties

Zone null

3-10

Sun null

Full Sun

Height null

12-36 inches

Spread null

24-36 inches

Bloom Season null

Fall

Resistant To null

Deer, Drought

Ornamental Use null

Borders, Cut Flowers

Planting Time null

Fall, Spring

Genus null

Asclepias

Life Cycle null

Perennial

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  • How to Sow and Plant

    Asclepias may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost, or sown directly in the garden in summer, or grown from potted plants.

    Sowing Seed Indoors:

    • Sow seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost date using a seed starting kit
    • Sow seeds 1/8-1/4 inch deep in seed-starting formula
    • Keep the soil moist at 70-75 degrees F
    • Seedlings emerge in 14-21 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.
    • 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.
    • If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 2 pairs of true leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots
    • 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.

    Sowing Directly in the Garden:

    • In milder areas, sow directly in the garden after all danger of frost.
    • Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth. 
    • Sow seeds evenly and cover with 1/4 inches of fine soil. 
    • Firm the soil lightly and keep it evenly moist. 
    • Seedlings will emerge in 14-21 days.
    • Thin to at least 12 inches apart when seedlings have three sets of leaves.

    Planting in the Garden:

    • Select a location in full sun with good rich moist organic soil. Asclepias is sensitive to clay soils.  
    • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12, inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
    • The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
    • Plant on a cloudy day or in late afternoon to reduce transplant shock.
    • Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
    • Unpot the plant and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root growth.  Be careful as asclepias is sensitive to transplanting.
    • Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand.
    • Use the plant tag as a location marker.
    • Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds.

    How to Grow

    • 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 germination. 
    • Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For perennials, an organic mulch of aged bark or 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.
    • Careful watering is essential in getting perennials off to a good start. Water thoroughly at least once a week to help new roots grow down deeply. Soil should be damp at about 1 inch below the soil surface. You can check this by sticking your finger in the soil. Water early in the morning to give all leaves enough time to dry.  One inch of rain or watering per week is recommended for most perennial plants. You can check to see if you need to add water by using a rain gauge.
    • Until plants become established, some protection from extreme winds and direct, hot sunlight may be necessary.  Good air movement is also important.
    • After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer such as Garden-tone, as higher rates may encourage root rots.
    • “Deadhead”, remove spent flower heads to encourage continuous flowering and prevent seed development.
    • Remove and discard foliage after a hard frost in fall. 
    • In colder regions, apply another layer of mulch (1-2 inches) after the ground freezes in fall. Evergreen boughs (from Christmas trees) provide additional protection. Remove this mulch in the spring.
    • Asclepias does not divide well as it has a tap root. To propagate, wait until the plant seeds itself (in this case do not remove spent flowers) and transplant seedlings when they are young.

    Growing Tips

    • Many gardeners do not cut back perennial flower seed heads in the fall, but wait until early spring before the new foliage appears. This provides food for wildlife over the winter.
    • For flower arranging, cut when blooms are 2/3 open.
    • Note that butterfly weed is not the same as milkweed as it does not provide food for monarch butterfly larvae, but the flowers do attract the pollinating adult butterflies for nectar.
  • Zone
    3-10
    Sun
    Full Sun
    Height
    12-36 inches
    Spread
    24-36 inches
    Bloom Season
    Fall
    Resistant To
    Deer, Drought
    Ornamental Use
    Borders, Cut Flowers
    Planting Time
    Fall, Spring
    Genus
    Asclepias
    Life Cycle
    Perennial