Asclepias tuberosa

(Question)

I’ve tried 7 times to establish this in my garden – from seeds, to purchases from very reputable nurseries, they never make it to spring. Everyone else – buddleia, echinops, monarda, etc, is happy to grow and prosper in my garden but not Ascelpias tuberosa. Butterflies and bees are very important to me, I’m grateful for any suggestions.

(Answer)

I can understand your frustration at the lack of success in growing butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).  You did not describe any of your growing conditions so I will just review these.  Hopefully they will give you a clue as to why you are not able to grow Asclepias tuberosa in your garden.

Butterfly weed, also known as Butterfly milkweed and Pleurisy root is a perennial native to the U.S.  It is grown for its brilliant flat-topped orange or yellow flower clusters which bloom from early summer to frost and attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

Asclepias are best grown from seed in a sunny location (minimum of 6 hours of sun a day) in well drained, loamy soil. They are difficult to grow in clay soil. They have long tap roots and do not like to be disturbed once established.  Direct sow outdoors in the fall, perhaps in a few different spots.  They are late to emerge in the spring.  You might want to identify the location so the seeds do not accidentally get disturbed in the spring.  The plants take 2-3 years to become fully established and reach their stunning floral display. They like to be well watered in the first season.  After that they are very drought tolerant.  In fact, this plant is quite suitable for xeriscaping.

The seeds may also be sown in a cold frame in early spring.  If you did not sow any last fall, you could still try now, especially with this cold weather.

I wish you success in finally establishing an Asclepias tuberosa patch in your garden. The bees, butterflies and hummingbirds will thank you.