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Growing Butterfly Weed

By Tammy Lee Morris ; Updated September 21, 2017

For a bright splash of color and a plant that will draw butterflies, bees and even hummingbirds, butterfly weed is just the ticket. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa L.) is a perennial wildflower that is easy to grow. Butterfly weed has bright orange flowers and dark green leaves, making it a beautiful and colorful addition to any garden or landscape.

Grow butterfly weed from seeds or transplant. Butterfly weed can be grown from seed or established plants can be transplanted. Butterfly weed can be grown in any type of soil--moist or dry--and in full sun or partial shade, making this an ideal plant for any low-maintenance garden.

Find butterfly weed seeds. You can purchase packets of butterfly weed seeds at local garden centers or order them from online or printed seed catalogs. Butterfly weed seeds can also be harvested from mature plants in the fall and saved for planting in the spring.

Start seeds indoors or plant seeds directly into the ground. If you choose to grow butterfly weed from seeds, you can start the seeds indoors then transplant seedlings, or you can sow seeds directly into the ground. If you choose to sow seeds directly, wait until after the last threat of frost has passed for your area. Broadcast seeds across the area you want to grow the butterfly weed. These plants will grow easily in most conditions and need little help to become established.

Find established butterfly weed plants. Local nurseries or garden centers may sell mature butterfly weed plants for transplanting. Many locales have an abundance of butterfly weed growing wild along roadsides and in fields.

Dig wild plants. Before digging wild butterfly weed, check with your local department of natural resources to find out if it is a protected plant in your state. In addition, you will need to get permission from a landowner before digging. Butterfly weeds will multiply easily so you will not need to dig up a large number of plants--two or three will be sufficient. Be sure to gather plenty of surrounding dirt with the roots.

Transplant established butterfly weed. Dig a hole large enough for the plant's roots to be completely covered when you put the butterfly weed into place. Backfill around the butterfly plant, patting the ground around the plant. Water thoroughly upon planting.

Provide care for your butterfly weed. Butterfly weed requires little maintenance. Watering can occur through normal precipitation. If preferred, the plants can be watered weekly with a hose or watering can. Extra fertilization is not required for butterfly weed. You should allow the plant to grow naturally without pruning. Allow seedpods to form at the end of the season in order to harvest seeds for the following spring.


Things You Will Need

  • Butterfly weed plants
  • Butterfly weed seeds
  • Trowel or shovel


  • Butterfly weed will grow well in most conditions and locations, even drought, although it does best with full sun. It will grow to be approximately 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall at maturity and will bloom from May through September.


  • Always ask for permission before digging wild plants. If in doubt, do not dig.

About the Author


Tammy Lee Morris is a writer living in southern Illinois. She has been writing professionally for print publications since 1992 and contributing to online publications since 2006. Now writing a column for "The Weekly Review," she has also contributed to "Woman's World," "Countryside Magazine," Asylum.com and the Woman's Day website. Morris studied journalism at John A. Logan College.