Prepare peat or other biodegradable pots before removing the butterfly weed seeds from the refrigerator. Fill 3-inch starter pots with a mixture of half seed-starting compost and half coarse sand. Moisten the mix and press it firm.
Snip off the pod using pruning shears. Slice lengthwise along the edge using a utility knife. Pry open the seed pods. Scoop out the seeds and fluffy matter inside and place it in a bucket.
Watch for germination in two to three weeks. Turn off the propagation mat one week after the seeds sprout. Move the pots into a cold frame outdoors or against a south-facing wall with noonday shade.
Butterfly weed and milkweed seed pods may be harvested and planted to support Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Butterfly weed grows well from seeds, which must be harvested in late summer and either sown immediately in the garden, or started in spring after a lengthy chilling process. The seeds are viable and will germinate with little care, although they must be planted at the appropriate depth to ensure successful sprouting.
Arrange the starter pots on a propagation mat near a source of bright, indirect light such as near a partly shaded south-facing window. Set the temperature on the propagation mat to 86 F during the day. Turn it off at night.
Water the butterfly weed seeds whenever the compost feels barely damp when pressed. Apply the water by the spoonful or use a spray bottle to keep from dislodging the seeds.
Before you begin to harvest the butterfly weed pods, sterilize your cutting tools. Dip the blades into a full-strength household cleanser, such as Lysol or Pine-Sol. Repeat between cuts to prevent the spread of diseases.
Make a 1/4-inch-deep planting hole in the center of compost mixture. Drop one butterfly weed seed in the planting hole. Cover it with a loose layer of compost. Mist the compost to settle it.
Transplant the butterfly weed into a permanent bed in spring just after the last frost. If planting butterfly weed in clay soil, dig in 2 to 4 inches of compost to lighten the soil, or consider building raised beds to increase drainage.
Leave the bucket outdoors for two or three days to let the fluff blow away. Stir the seeds occasionally to loosen more fluff. Do not worry if some of the fluff remains, since it won’t inhibit the germination process.
Place the butterfly weed seeds in a plastic bag filled with 1 cup of moistened perlite. Store the bag inside the refrigerator for three months. Mist the perlite with water every few days to keep it from drying out completely.
Gather the butterfly weed seeds in late summer or autumn, once the pods dry to a light, rosy-beige color, but before they split open. Put on rubber gloves before handling the pods to protect your hands from the mildly toxic sap.
Sometimes called pleurisy root, butterfly weed ( Asclepias tuberosa ) is a perennial wildflower grown for its showy, reddish-orange flower clusters and textured, lanceolate leaves. A member of the milkweed family, it thrives throughout U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 9, where it is frequently added to butterfly gardens and native plant landscaping.
Spread a 1-inch-thick layer of mulch around each plant. Water weekly to a 2-inch depth during their first summer, then cease supplemental irrigation.
Plant your seedling. Amend soil with a handful of compost if desired.
Seeds are readily available though, and by far the most economical way to obtain plants. We’ve had great luck with certain companies that we link to on our recommended products page.
Native American Tribes used Butterfly Weed Medicinally for centuries. There are over 31 documented uses for Butterfly Weed medicinally and other ways with several different Tribes .
Related – Learn to determine your exact soil type with our MASON JAR TEST Here.
Blooms of Butterfly Weed last up to 8 weeks, generally starting sometime in June and ending in August. Although, occasionally you are treated to additional blooming in late August / September.
Butterfly Weed Light Requirements.
The primary disease that can kill Butterfly Weed is Chlorosis, or Root Rot .
You can deadhead Butterfly Weed to increase the summer blooming season. However, the amount of blooms you will get will be less than the initial blooms.
2 – Fill pots with a general potting soil that is moist , but not soggy.
These small orange aphids (also known as Milkweed aphids) will suck sap and nutrients from the stalks. These orange or yellow bugs on your Butterfly Weed will not harm the plant. They are just very ugly.
 – Fishbein, M. and Venable, D.L. (1996), Diversity and Temporal Change in the Effective Pollinators of Asclepias Tuberosa. Ecology, 77: 1061-1073. https://doi.org/10.2307/2265576. Retrieved January 2021.
If you notice the entire leaf turning yellow before Autumn, it could mean several things. A nutrient deficiency, or too much water. Or, many native plants have lower leaves turn yellow and fall off as they no longer receive sunlight.
Butterfly Weed is toxic to most humans in large doses. The sap and roots are the primary toxic compounds.
Stalks will reach heights of 12″-30″, branching in the upper portion where flowering occurs. Multiple stems will shoot up from a central root crown when mature. The stalk is kind of a dark-purple color, and covered with fine hairs.
Additionally native Plants have evolved to be disease resistant. They have built up natural defenses to common pests and diseases that non-native plants just don’t have. This means less care and fewer problems.
Butterfly Weed Diseases.
RELATED ==> Learn how to save Butterfly Seeds cleanly here.
The sunlight requirements for Butterfly Weed are Full Sun or Partial Sun . Full sun is considered at least six hours per day of direct sunlight. While partial sun is 4-6 hours per day of direct sunlight.
 – Thogmartin Wayne E., Wiederholt Ruscena, Oberhauser Karen, Drum Ryan G., Diffendorfer Jay E., Altizer Sonia, Taylor Orley R., Pleasants John, Semmens Darius, Semmens Brice, Erickson Richard, Libby Kaitlin and Lopez-Hoffman Laura. 2017. Monarch butterfly population decline in North America: identifying the threatening processesR. Royal Society Open ScienceVolume 4, Issue 9. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170760. Retrieved 15JAN2021.
Butterfly Weed aphids will generally be clustered on the stalk in dense groupings. These small yellow bugs or orange bugs will look like tiny bumps.
 – root rot Wilt and Root Diseases of Asclepias tuberosa L. Tsror (Lahkim), M. Hazanovski, O. Erlich, and N. Dagityar. Plant Disease 1997 81:10, 1203-1205 https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/abs/10.1094/PDIS.19220.127.116.113.
You can expect Butterfly Weed to bloom it’s second year after growing from seed. And by the 3rd or 4th year, Butterfly Weed should grow to it’s full size.
Butterfly Weed Companion Plants.
Dig a hole that is twice as wide and deep as your pot.
For pet owners, you should know that Butterfly Weed is poisonous and toxic to dogs and all mammals if ingested in large quantities.  It appears that livestock are more likely to ingest Butterfly Weed.
The Lifecycle of Butterfly Weed is a perennial . It will emerge in late Spring, later than most other plants. Rapidly it will grow to a height of 1-2′ and bloom by early Summer for about one month. By late Summer to early Fall, seed pods will form. The pods will ripen, open, disperse their seed and die back to ground.
Additionally Butterfly Weed is easy to grow from seed. So, by collecting a single pod in the fall you can literally germinate hundreds of plants if you want to!
However, Butterfly Weed prefers full sun . The more sun it receives, the larger it will grow. And the more blooms and vigor it will have.
 – Lemoine NP (2015) Climate Change May Alter Breeding Ground Distributions of Eastern Migratory Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) via Range Expansion of Asclepias Host Plants. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0118614. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0118614.
Leaves of Butterfly Weed are beautiful by themselves. They are a dark green in the center, and somewhat yellow on the margins. The upper surface generally has a shiny or waxy texture, and is often hairless.
Much of gardening is about the physical issues. The dirt, the water, the drainage, the weather, the maintenance, the beginning, and the ending. But there are those singular moments that float.
How plants set seed is an event any gardener would appreciate. How the milkweeds insure the survival of their seed is nothing short of miraculous.
This photograph from Wikipedia speaks volumes to the importance of the milkweed. Asclepias tuberosa is a favored nesting site for the Monarch butterfly. At summers end, the wild plants we have growing at the shop will be covered with their larvae. The Monarch larvae feed on these leaves. The butterfly weed is a favored host in my area. They will spin cocoons; the mature butterflies will emerge some four weeks, give or take. Only once have I witnessed a mature butterfly emerging from its chrysalis-it happens that fast.
There is a day every gardening season when I make the effort to launch the asclepias seeds. It feels good to think I am doing my part.
But the white fluff inside is what interests me the most. Each butterfly weed seed is firmly affixed to its own white silky and fluffy airplane. These white silky hairs catch the wind, and aid in the dispersal of the seed.
Any landscape designers best ally is what comes from the natural world. All it takes is a lot of observation, and then some serious thought. As my friend and colleague Susan Cohan says, art does not necessarily have to work. No artwork needs a white silky airplane to be. A work of art lives independent of time,conditions, and circumstance. Good landscape design is a craft, in that every moment needs to assess the conditions, fire up,and fly.
Once those seeds emerge, that fluff is everywhere. It will stick to your hands, your clothes, your shoes, your trowel, and your wheelbarrow. An individual seed is large, and relatively speaking, heavy. How this plant has evolved to insure that these big seeds get dispersed is but one of countless stories engineered by nature. I have had occasion to design and install fairly complex landscapes, but this design and execution is beyond compare.
Our local fields and meadows are full of the remains of the milkweed pods come November. They have an elegantly spare and ruggedly persistent shape.
From Wikipedia: The milkweed filaments from the follicles are hollow and coated with wax, and have good insulation qualities. As of 2007, milkweed is grown commercially as a hypoallergenic filling for pillows. This commercial use does not interest me as much as how the butterfly weed seeds itself. A milkweed seed with its virtually weightless attendant white fluff is a little and subtle miracle I never tire of. Every year, the marvel of it enchants me.
The milkweed seeds about to fly is a day in the gardening season I look forward to. I would hope these plants would find a foothold in many places. I like that the Monarch butterfly feeds and reproduces on a plant that has a plan to not only enable these beautiful creatures, but reproduce.
Once the seeds begin to ripen, the pods will split along their length.
Asclepias has much to recommend. The plants are long lived, utterly drought resistant, and carefree. The flower heads of asclepias tuberosa are orange and gorgeous. Asclepias incarnata has flower heads that are a quiet shade of dusky rose. But my main interest in them is the seed pods. The pods are large, ovate, and a compelling shade of bluish green. In late summer, this green phase dominates the plants.
Do these seeds need me? No. Nature saw to this efficient dispersal long before I ever took up a trowel. But I do it anyway. This white fluff I put in the air makes me feel good.