Common Name: butterfly weed
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Native Range: Eastern and southern United States
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: Yellow/orange
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil
Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Drought tolerant. Does well in poor, dry soils. New growth tends to emerge late in the spring. Plants are easily grown from seed, but are somewhat slow to establish and may take 2-3 years to produce flowers. Mature plants may freely self-seed in the landscape if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open. Butterfly weed does not transplant well due to its deep taproot, and is probably best left undisturbed once established.
Butterfly weed is a tuberous rooted, Missouri native perennial which occurs in dry/rocky open woods, glades, prairies, fields and roadsides throughout the State (Steyermark). It typically grows in a clump to 1-3' tall and features clusters (umbels) of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers atop upright to reclining, hairy stems with narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Unlike many of the other milkweeds, this species does not have milky-sapped stems. Flowers give way to prominent, spindle-shaped seed pods (3-6" long) which split open when ripe releasing numerous silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. Seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements. Long bloom period from late spring throughout the summer. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars). Also commonly called pleurisy root in reference to a prior medicinal use of the plant roots to treat lung inflammations.
No serious insect or disease problems. Crown rot can be a problem in wet, poorly drained soils. Susceptible to rust and leaf spot.
Butterfly gardens, meadows, prairies, or naturalized/native plant areas. Also effective in sunny borders. Whether massing plants in large drifts or sprinkling them throughout a prairie or meadow, butterfly weed is one of our showiest native wildflowers.