Nursery Grown Butterfly Weed

(Zone 5a)

I've been doing a lot of native gardening and the various types of Milkweed in the yard are slow in establishing. I cannot find last year's Butterflyweed, but heard it can pop out of the ground by late this month... hoping. I also have Swamp Milkweed seeds somewhere, and one lone Spider Milkweed came up from our dormant root plantings last fall. There's a bit of Common Milkweed out in the pasture.

This winter, I talked to the local nursery owner to see if he could start Tropical Milkweed without chemicals. I want these to be eaten, so didn't want anything nasty on them. My plan was to yank these out of the ground at the end of the season and throw away seed pods to not risk any spread. I read they are easy to grow, so I thought they would be a quick food source for the Monarchs.

When talking to the owner in April, he said the first batch failed due to fungus. So he was on his second batch that he said was not quite ready as he was growing them outside. We picked them up last week. Some look good and some leaves are yellowish. A couple have a tinge of red on them. He gave us a great deal and he spent a lot of time on these, so I am not complaining. :)

I am used to planting bare-root natives in cold soil. The nursery owner said to wait on these until the soil warms. The thing is, these are not Asclepias curassavica, but Asclepias tuberosa. I asked him about that and he said he talked to the company he gets seeds from and they told him these were the best for our area. That is completely fine as I was feeling a little guilt about planting Tropical. Some are labelled Asclepias tuberosa and others "Asclepia -Gay Butterfly" (Just looked this up... it's a cultivar of tuberosa).

My questions are: Should I really wait? I am eager to get these in the ground. If the tuberosa is native to Iowa, I think they should tolerate it. With lack of success on these plants, I want to do it right.

And do you think the yellowish ones should be put in the ground at all? Is there a chance they can bounce back? Or could this spread to the others?

Thank you for any help and sorry for the wordy post.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

USDA plants database shows Iowa as being the northwest edge of A tuberosa but shows it growing farther Northeast. So cold isn't the limiting factor. Also, you said your grower was growing it outside? If you have had it sitting outside in your yard and it hasn't started looking stressed, it will probably be okay. You might want to sit a rock or brick on northwest side for a couple weeks to act as a windbreak and heat reflector.

Dallas, TX

If you are looking to buy seeds for several types of Asclepias you might take a look at this website:

They sell seeds (cheap!) and also have some rooted plants (also cheap). I have not purchased anything from them as I have just learned about them. If nothing else, there's some good reads on their site.

Somewhere on the site they sell packets of mixed seeds that are all for plants that attract butterflies.

Not sure if this is what you're looking for or if you feel you have enough plants as is.

I'm down here in Dallas (Zone 8) and have A. Curassavica and A. Tunerosa growing in the same bed. The curassavica came back from last fall. I was surprised as we had snow in Nov. and in March, both unusual for us. And then May gave us floods. But the four plants I have are blooming and setting pods. A couple pods opened but I wasn't able to capture many seeds by the time I got out to the garden. I know there will be more.

This message was edited Jun 10, 2015 10:39 PM

(Zone 5a)

I read the curassavica is coming back up further north of us even, so I was very happy when the nursery fellow chose another Asclepias to grow. I do not want in any way to introduce yet another alien species into the area that potentially can spread. I wanted to grow them because I thought they would be an annual, rather than perennial.

I got most of the butterfly weed in the ground. Because I ran out of room in that patch, I'll give the rest away. Many look good, but some still kind of stunted.

Sadly, my one Spider Milkweed got trampled by a rabbit or something. :( Also, I see no signs of the Swamp Milkweed. Looking at random Common in the area, I haven't seen any Monarch caterpillars on them. Bummer. We did finally see a couple of the butterflies again, so hopefully eggs will be laid soon. With all the work planting the tuberosa, the caterpillars better make use of some. I like their pretty flowers, but that is not why I am doing this. I have plenty of other plants for pretties.

Some entity is doing a study to find which native Asclepias the Monarchs prefer, so they can encourage the planting of those. I know they like Common, but not everyone can do that in a landscaped setting with it being an enthusiastic grower.

The common milkweed is one of many plants the farmers are dumping the chemicals on so nothing, absolutely nothing (!) competes with their corn! One reason we stopped buying ethanol, besides getting better gas mileage that goes beyond the extra pennies we spend per gallon. Off topic, I know, but it is so frustrating what is happening around us.

Until I learn what Monarchs prefer, I think this will be my last on-purpose planting of Asclepias. I've got several seed packets of Asclepias incarnata that I'd like to try, but really do not want another failure. So discouraging.

(Zone 5a)


Silly me ended up grabbing the last two flats of the plant from the nursery. I was so tickled that they had no chemicals on them. He had a large potted specimen I would have taken, but AAH! he put the blasted neonic on it.

Oh, but I started a second patch of the butterflyweed and replaced a couple sickly ones in the first patch. The rest I gave away, some of them are quite delighted. I hope they do well for my friends.

The plants are doing well, though shorter than I'd like and some are already forming buds. Nothing is eating the leaves at this time.

I broke down and planted Common Milkweed plugs in one yard patch. They look so teeny. I hope they grow a little more. There are some "wild" ones growing under some type of gangly evergreen tree. We had that last year, but they do not seem to flower. Maybe it's the shade.

(Zone 5a)


I had been going through the Common Milkweed in and around our property, never finding the caterpillars. Well, the females know what the good stuff is and here's an inch long caterpillar on the nursery Butterflyweed! Oh and I was surprised to notice Butterflyweed in our pasture yesterday!

Thumbnail by Chillybean
Central, AL(Zone 7b)

So good to see monarch caterpillar. I am longing to see them in my garden.

Dallas, TX

I've seen 1 Monarch so far. Yet on that same day (maybe a week or little more ago) I was hand watering in my front yard when I had the distinct feeling that something was 'tailing' me. I turned my head and there was a beautiful swallowtail butterfly close to my shoulder! I kept on watering and would slowly turn to look over my shoulder. Each time I did, my 'friend' was still there. Time will tell if I get more butterflies but that encounter was something I will always treasure.

I do think that it might be a little early for the Monarchs to swarm Texas but don't really know. It makes sense, however, that they'd be in IA prior to TX.

Chillybean, it sounds like you're on the right track. I recently read where Lady Byrd Johnson said (probably via her Wildflower Center b/c with no disrespect, I doubt if she's talking from the beyond) that if one doesn't have at least 5 or more different types of flowers growing in their gardens, then that's not enough. Aside from the Asclepsias, include plants such as Gregg's Mistflower (it may have had a name change), Passaflora, etc., - - basically whatever grows in your area. Guess like most of us, the birds and the bees and the butterflies like a varied diet.

Best wishes!

(Zone 5a)

I appreciate your reply. This Milkweed is one of many native plants on my property.

I have a long list of other plants trying to make a nice refuge for wildlife of all sorts, plus I want more natural foods for the birds. I saw a distinct drop in feeder birds last winter. It was funny, ONE American Tree Sparrow that came to the feeding area, but I knew we had more. Later in the season, more came to the feeders. We have since planted a prairie patch in sight of the house, so we can see who is eating the seeds.

Part of my reason for doing this is I want to help pollinators, etc, but also I've been nearly sick (in thought) with the pesticides they put on bird seed to prevent meal moth, fly, and other insect infestations. Besides killing insects, the birds get that in their mouths as they break open seeds and if we do not use a scoop, we touch it with our hands. I wish the bags were labelled to tell you this.

I am not sure I can guesstimate the number of adult Monarchs, but there seem to be a lot flying about. It is encouraging, for sure. I tromped the back prairie patch and found two giant Common Milkweed; what a treat! I think I got out of that without a tick. :)

I hope you all see some Monarchs soon.

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