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What's wrong with my Butterfly Weed?

(Zone 6a)

I bought this last year at a flea market. Two of them actually. They were perfect when I planted them. Within a month or two, both of them did what this one in the photos is doing and I thought they were both dead and gone.

Well, this one in the photo was one of the two originals and it came back this year. It looked great while the foliage was coming along. Then one by one the each stalk started to wilt and die back. I thought maybe some bugs were doing it so I put sevin all over it. Now the biggest stalk is wilting and just about dead. It didn't even get to the blooming point yet! :( Anyone know what caused this? Weather has been good and rain has been good too. Not sure what's up.

On a good note, I did find one growing in the field today while mowing! I dug it up and brought it to my flower bed. We'll see what that one does.

Thumbnail by hczone6
(Zone 6a)


Thumbnail by hczone6
Raleigh, NC(Zone 7b)

what do the roots look like? I think you will find that they aren't looking so good and not allowing the plant to take up water-hence the sudden wilt. That can happen from too much fert or a root fungus. Thats my best gues!

(Zone 6a)

I haven't dug it up to check on the roots since it was still alive. What I might try it watering it directly and making sure it soaks in. Since it was a potted plant, maybe the surrounding soil was too tough for the roots to break into. I don't know. Worth a try I guess - it can't get any worse! :)

Peoria, IL

Butterfly weed, Asclepias Tuberos perfers a well drained, sandy soil. It doesn't like alot of moisture, it doesn't like clay...

When found in the wild it grows in sandy and rocky hill prairies in habitats that are also suitable for prickly pear cactus to grow.

Perhaps you have moist soil, clay soil, or are over watering it?

You put sevin on it? You do realize that most people plant butterfly weed to attract butterflies and to get caterpillars? You do realize that sevin would not be good for the butterflies or the caterpillars?

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

Please, please - don't ever put an insecticide on any plant in the milkweed family - such as asclepias or butterfly weed. That is a death sentence for Monarch caterpillars, which use it as a food plant.

There are other plants that are food plants for butterfly caterpillars, too. Never apply pesticides to them either. A little research may be necessary....

Wilt and dieback are usually not symptomatic of insect damage. It is usually a problem with the roots. The probable cause is either too much water (root rot), or too little water.

(Zone 6a)

I specifically bought it for the butterflies...BUT...if it's dead, it won't do them any good right? :) That was my thought process when putting sevin on it. I rarely ever use anything like that because there's almost never a need to in my garden. Things are usually healthy enough to withstand the matter how many there are.

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

The butterflies won't know there is Sevin on it. They will just know it's a food plant for babies and lay eggs on it.

NW Qtr, AR(Zone 6a)

Howdy, hc ..

In an attempt to offer up a good dose of aid ...
Perhaps there's a varmint that has taken a likin' to the tuber underground (a vole) .. or, perhaps this site may provide some insight and info, for ya. Here >

Hope you're able to determine the problem and get a 'fix' going soon, hc ...


- Magpye

(Zone 6a)

I know I do have voles...plenty of them. I see those small holes in several places in my beds...but not near the butterfly weed. It's possible they could be tunneling under it though. Not sure. I've got lots of moles too :( I haven't been very diligent lately about mole exterminating via trap. The only problem with moles is they can kill my smaller/new plants when they're pushed out of the ground or the soil is removed from around the root ball, leaving the plant to basically sit there with no soil to grow into except for a little sliver on the sides.

Back to the Sevin thing. I do agree completely that it's best to never use products like that and it's rare that I do. That's why the bag of sevin I have is maybe 5 years old and it's still almost half full. However, on the 18 acres of trees, meadow and lawn we have, I'm ok with having one single plant with a little sevin on it.

Peoria, IL

You never really said what type of soil you have... Is it clay?

(Zone 6a)

Mostly hard clay. Where this was planted it was somewhat amended, but not too much.

Interesting note. The one I found growing in the field the other day was in fairly heavy clay and it was doing great. After digging up as much soil as I could with the plant and moving it, it's doing pretty well. It wilted down a little as expected (90 degrees and sunny when moved), it's perked back up some - and I didn't even cut it back :) I think it'll so ok.

(Zone 6a)

Here's the one I dug up and moved from the field about a week ago. It looks good :) I think this one will do well.

Thumbnail by hczone6
Peoria, IL

There are some variants of butterfly weed that will grow in clay. I know prairie nursery has cultivated a clay variant. Perhaps you have found of those ....

Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

I have seen my favorite Butterfly weed growing in red clay all over NC. And I have spent atleast $100. on plants. I now believe the only way I will have some is from seed planted where I want them to grow.
They have a taproot that is very long and they don't take to being transplanted. If you dig a wild one be sure and get as deep as possible under the plant. If I had one in my lawn, I would just put a little fence around it and make it an "island" garden. Might cut the bottom out of a 3# coffee can and sink it around my Butterfly weed.

(Zone 6a)

I'd say I dug down about 1 foot. The ball of soil was about 1 foot across as well...a fairly big clump of soil. I did see a small piece of tap root coming out the bottom, but it wasn't very big. I guess I got most of it in the soil I dug up.

St. Louis, MO(Zone 5b)

I have this EXACT problem with Butterfly weed. I think I may have overwatered the one last year, even though it bloomed and managed to produce seed before it died and didn't come back. This year I planted in a hot dry spot in less rich soil, and one branch on one of them is wilting in the exact way you describe above, just like last year's.

I'm not sure what's going on, I have chipmunks but see no holes near this year's new flower bed.

I have been planting asclepias tuberosea but this year I am also trying an a. incarnata to see if it does better.


mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

it may look dead, but if you just cut it back and don't water so much, i have a feeling new growth will sprout up soon.

Peoria, IL

Incanarta is much easier to grow. And the monarchs prefer it over tuberosa.

A. incanarta prefers moist rich soil, just about opposite from a. tuberosa, although i have grown them both side by well drained soil.

In a landscape setting, A. tuberosa is known to be bit finicky... commonly referred to as a short lived perrenial.

My incanarta last year was so inundated with caterpillars it never bloomed... it was just about eaten down to just sticks.

Roach, MO

I had one Butterfly Weed wilt this year, others in the same area are fine. I, too, sprinkled it with Seven but it withered and looks dead now. Will go out in the morning and cut it off so the butterflies don't see it and lay eggs on it!

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