Butterfly Weed: A Must-Have Perennial

Many plants look flashy in their pots in the garden centre, giving us the overwhelming urge to put them in our shopping carts, but some of the best ones do not, and that’s a shame, as some of the most delightful perennials can be easily overlooked. Native butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa) is one of these, and it’s a perennial plant from the milkweed family that deserves a spot in every sunny garden. The one in my garden, pictured above, is two feet high, gently mounded, and is full of buds just starting to open. In the next few days it will pop and be absolutely gorgeous, in the most vibrant orange.

It took a mere three years to go from a few spindly leaves when it was first planted to the beauty that it is today. They are a fine example of the sleep, creep, then leap behaviour of many perennials. This means they spend some time creating a good root system, (a year or two). You might not see too much happening above ground for the first couple seasons, then on the third year they come back with a pow!

asclepias-tuberosa-closeup lr

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is one of the best native wildflower plants for pollinators like bees, beneficial bugs, monarch and other butterflies. It stays tidy, unlike many native wildflowers, making it suitable for either a manicured perennial garden or a more free-flowing natural one. Butterfly milkweed loves full sun, but mine gets shade for a few hours a day, so it’s quite adaptable. Mine is also growing in completely unimproved sandy soil, and has come through this year’s June drought without any additional watering, and that’s another point in its favour: it’s drought resistant and low maintenance. Plant a few of these, even if they don’t bowl you over in its starter pot. They are well worth it. I’m looking for more spaces to plant some more of these beauties.

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