Asclepias tuberosa

Description & Overview

Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa, also known as Butterfly Milkweed, Orange Milkweed, Pleurisy Root, Chigger Flower is a slow-to-emerge perennial bearing fragrant clusters of orange flowers which attract butterflies. The seedpods are quite ornamental. Drought tolerant once established, requiring well drained soil.

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 2-3 feet
Mature Spread: 9-18 inches
Growth Rate: Perennial
Growth Form: Clumping
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Dry, well-drained soil. Drought tolerant once established.
Flower: Orange, fragrant
Bloom Period: June-July
Foliage: Green, lance shaped
Fall Color: N/A
Fruit Notes: Seed Pod, maturing in Fall

Suggested Uses:

Butterflyweed has many uses in the landscape, in Butterfly Gardens, Cut Flower Gardens, Natural Prairies, Dry Sites, as a Massing or Specimen Plant or Border.

Left: seed pods | Middle: buds | Right: flower

Wildlife Value:

The flowers of Butterflyweed are of high value to native pollinators and hummingbirds. Butterflyweed is a larval host to the Monarch, Grey Hairstreak, and Queen butterflies. It is of great importance to our native bumblebees and honeybees.

Maintenance Tips:

The heavy clay soil commonly found in Southeast Wisconsin means Butterflyweed requires special care when planting. When installing a Butterflyweed, create its own little berm of soil, to raise it up and allow better drainage. Use bark mulch to protect the roots through the winter. Be prepared for them to take a few years to truly establish. The soil needs to warm to a specific temperature in spring to break dormancy, so don’t despair if they aren’t popping up right away.


Butterflyweed can get aphids, but using insecticides can kill beneficial insects as well (like Monarchs). Biological Controls like Ladybugs can eat the aphids and resolve the issue naturally. However, if the infestation is heavy an insecticidal soap can be used as long as care is taken to not spray pollinators.

Leaf Lore:

The Perennial Plant Association’s 2017 Plant of the Year! And why shouldn’t it be? Butterflyweed supports Monarch Butterflies and has bright orange flowers in July, a color that isn’t common among perennials. Butterflyweed likes as much sun as it can get but doesn’t like too much moisture.

The genus Asclepias is named after the Greek god of healing, Asklepios, the originator of the staff and serpent commonly associated with medicine today.

The roots of Butterflyweed have been used by First Nations People as a medicinal plant for pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments (giving it its other common name of Pleurisy Root). All other parts of the plant are toxic when eaten in large quantities.

Companion Plants:

Blazing Star, Hairy Wild Petunia, Whorled Milkweed, Coneflowers

johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32