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Asclepias tuberosa, 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. (40 seeds)
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Item#: 20484
Order: 1 Plant
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Product properties

Zone This refers to the USDA hardiness zone assigned to each part of the country, based on the minimum winter temperature that a region typically experiences. Hardiness zone ranges are provided for all perennial plants and you should always choose plants that fall within your range.


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, Part Sun

Height The typical height of this product at maturity.

12-36 inches

Spread The width of the plant at maturity.

24-36 inches

Bloom Season The time of the year when this product normally blooms.

Fall, Summer

Resistant To Adverse garden conditions, such as heat or frost, deer or rabbits, that this product can tolerate well.

Deer, Drought

Plant Shipping Information

Plants begin shipping week of:

Mar 27, 2017

(Click here for Spring shipping schedule)


Item 20484 cannot ship to: AA, AE, AK, AP, AS, CN, FM, GU, HI, MH, MP, PR, PW, VI
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Introduction to Perennials
Perennials return year after year blooming on their own. Watch this introduction and discover how easy and rewarding growing perennials can be.
Watch video
Perennials Tour #1
Take a garden tour and see favorite perennial plants in a garden setting. In this video- Shasta Daisy, Ornamental Grass, Butterfly Bush, Echinacea and Hydrangea.
Watch video

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, 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.
Full Sun, Part Sun
12-36 inches
24-36 inches
Bloom Season
Fall, Summer
Resistant To
Deer, Drought
Ornamental Use
Borders, Cut Flowers
Planting Time
Fall, Spring
Life Cycle
Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly Weed is rated 3.1 out of 5 by 8.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pleasantly Surprised I purchased 2 packages of these at a local garden center that carries Burpee's seeds. In March, I planted part of them directly in the ground. The other part, I planted in a modified milk jug using the winter-sowing technique. Both seeds germinated fairly quickly. The milk jug plants grew faster and were huskier than the directly seeded ones. I didn't expect much, so was quite surprised at the results. The transplants were planted in the same bed as the direct seeded plants. I didn't think they would bloom the first year, but they did! The plants were short and somewhat squat, but they had great blooms. In the late summer, they started to die back. I left them alone, because I thought they had butterfly eggs on them. About the third week of November, I pulled out the Asclepias that were in the front (circle bed) and trimmed back those in the center so I could plant Dianthus (we can do winter annuals here). Now, there are tiny green sprouts coming up where I trimmed back, and I take that to be a good sign. There are also volunteers here and there around the yard. We have not yet had a killing frost. For those of you who have had little success, do not deeply cover the seeds. I scattered them on the ground and my milk jug potting soil in an effort to mimic nature. This plant must get full bore sun; nothing less will do. I think the orange aphids that another reviewer mentioned are actually milk weed bugs. They look like squash bugs with orange/black coloring. I go out in the morning with a cottage cheese container of soapy dish water, pick them off and drop them in the water. If you aren't afraid, you can also squish them between your fingers. Haste must be taken in eliminating these bugs, because they will destroy your plants. Because of the butterflies, do not use chemicals. I also follow the Farmer's Almanac regarding planting, it does make a difference. These are a native plant that no garden should be without!
Date published: 2016-12-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Seeds didn't germinate. I was so excited to plant some butterfly milkweed to help the Monarch butterflies. I was very disappointed that not one of the seeds germinated.
Date published: 2016-09-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I planted the seeds they came up about 3 inches and died.
Date published: 2016-09-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Arrived half dead none survived Not happy with the condition of the plants upon arrival. Planted six of them, 2/6 were surviving but then they died too. I take very good care of my garden, they were the only things that didn't do well. This is my first time ordering life plants from Burpee and also my last. I am glad that their guarantee refunded the purchase.
Date published: 2016-09-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Somewhat Disappointed The seeds germinated slowly compared to other seeds started in the same sunroom. After transplanting, the plants never grew higher than 6"-8" tall (possibly over watered). They did get orange flower heads in early August, but did not attract many butterflies, although other plants in the garden had many butterflies, until early September. In September they did attract Monarchs as well as other butterflies. All of the plants have formed seed pods as advertised.
Date published: 2016-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A beautiful plant This would have been a beautiful plant - it was growing wonderfully - if the community I live in hadn't plowed it under along with other garden plantings. The plant was planted in a vacant lot, and just when the garden there started to flower, someone plowed it up.
Date published: 2016-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from No Better Plant I bought seed packets a few years back. They look great, they feed Monarch Caterpillars, and they're native to North America. They're also a great size for all garden types. They bloom all summer, and in Autumn, you can collect the seed pods and grow as many new plants as you want. I started with about 12 plants and just this Spring have grown another 100 for myself and family. As far as I'm concerned, if you have a garden in the US, you need to have this plant!
Date published: 2016-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! I purchased a packet of these seed some time ago. Did not expect the unbelievable display, now several years in the running. My garden is full of butterflies! In the fal, exotic looking pods scatter delicate seeds just where I could use a new plant. Outstanding color, and long-lasting in the vase arrangements too! They were very easy to start, and to grow, seemingly thriving on neglect. Since I discovered that deadheading will encourage more blooms, I get a non-stop show-stopper. Love it!
Date published: 2011-07-24
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