Asclepias curassavica
Common Name: blood flower 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Apocynaceae
Native Range: Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to October
Bloom Description: Red-orange with yellow hood
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer


Blood flower is winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11. In colder climates, it can be grown as an annual. It is easily grown from seed each year. Start seed indoors in pots 8-10 weeks before last spring frost date. Plant seedlings outside after last frost date. Grows best in light, rich, evenly moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerates some light shade. Tolerates some soil dryness. Plants are noted for being weedy in their native tropical habitats and have become naturalized in warm winter areas where they will self-seed somewhat profusely. Container plants may be cut back and brought inside into bright sunny locations in winter. May also be grown as an indoor plant in bright sun with regular watering during the growing season and with reduced watering in a cool location in winter.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Asclepias curassavica, commonly called blood flower, tropical milkweed, or scarlet milkweed, is a tender, evergreen perennial in the dogbane family. It is thought to be native to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, but has escaped cultivation and naturalized worldwide in many tropical and subtropical areas. It is considered an invasive species in parts of southern Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas. It typically grows as a subshrub to 2-3’ tall on upright stems clad with pointed, opposite, lanceolate leaves (to 6” long). Leaves are medium green sometimes with white midribs. Showy flowers with five sepals and five lobes appear in rounded axillary clusters (cymes) in late spring to early summer. Flowers are red-orange with yellow hoods. Hummingbirds, butterflies and bees are attracted to the flowers. Monarch butterflies lay eggs on this plant and the resulting larvae (caterpillars) use the plant leaves as a food source. Always plant milkweed species that are native to your area to provide the greatest benefit to monarch butterflies. Flowers are followed by long, narrow seed pods (3-4” long) which split open when ripe releasing silky tailed seeds for dispersal by wind. Stems and leaves exude a milky sap when cut or bruised. Plants can be poisonous to livestock.

Genus name honors the Greek god Asklepios the god of medicine.

Specific epithet means of Curacao of the Dutch Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea.


No serious insect or disease problems. Somewhat weedy and can spread in warm winter locations where it will self-seed. Watch for aphids. Sooty mold may develop if aphid populations are not checked. Consider wearing gloves when working with these plants because the milky sap is poisonous if ingested and can cause skin irritation. This milkweed may not be appropriate to plant in certain areas. Contact your local extension service or other botanical institution for recommendations on which milkweed species will offer the most benefit to native pollinators in your area.


Attractive foliage and flowers for beds, borders, cottage gardens, meadows and butterfly gardens. Also a good cut flower. Dried seed pods are attractive in arrangements.