A plant sometimes called pleurisy root or butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) might not strike you as one known for its beauty. Call it orange glory instead, and let your imagination take over. Growing orange glory has few challenges, and none of them diminish the pleasure of seeing its blazing-orange flowers surrounded by clouds of bright, nectar-thirsty butterflies. Plant the summer-blooming milkweed perennial, which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 though 10, where its mildly toxic sap won't endanger kids or pets.
The Planting Site
Orange glory has a deep taproot and resents being moved, so choose its planting site with care. The best spot has at least six hours of daily sun and room to space multiple plants 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart. The plant prefers dry, loose, poor soil with excellent drainage to protect it from crown rot. Test the drainage by filling a 1-foot-deep hole with water. If it doesn't empty in 30 minutes, till a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic compost into the soil's top 6 or 8 inches before planting. Use between 30 and 60 pounds of compost per 10 square feet of planting bed.
Watering and Feeding
Water newly planted orange glory to keep the soil moist -- not wet -- until you see new growth. A 1-inch layer of organic mulch, such as shredded leaves, helps preserve soil moisture during this time. Once the water-storing tap root is established, provide supplemental water only if drought dries the soil completely. Overwatering encourages crown rot. This native plant does best with no fertilizer.
Deadheading and Pruning
Pinching your orange glory's flower clusters off at the base as they fade stimulates a new round of buds. Flowers left on the plant form banana-shaped, pale-green seedpods that split to scatter the tufted seeds. Remove the pods before they burst to keep the plant from spreading. Orange glory's new growth doesn't appear until late spring. Don't prune the old stalks until then so you can find it.
Leaf spots or rust disease may blemish orange glory's leaves, but they're seldom serious enough to require treatment. To discourage these problems, keep the leaves dry when you water and the area around you plants free of mulch or debris that might harbor fungal spores or bacteria. Prune leaves with dark or reddish-brown spots and dispose of them in sealed plastic bags. Sterilize your tools in rubbing alcohol between cuts to avoid spreading the diseases.
Yellow oleander aphids often colonize orange glory's stems and leaves and feed on the sap. Other than the sticky, clear waste they excrete, the damage is minor. The more serious problem is that the aphids' natural predators, including lady bugs and lacewings, also feed on monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars. If you're growing orange glory to sustain the monarch population, check daily for the tiny, pear-shaped pests and scrape them off with a soft toothbrush. To control a severe infestation, prune the affected plant parts and dispose of them in sealed plastic bags.
- Floridata: Asclepias Tuberosa
- North Carolina State University Extension: Asclepias Tuberosa
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Asclepias Tuberosa
- Colorado State University Extension: CMG GardenNotes -- Soil Drainage
- Cornell University Department of Horticulture: Using Organic Matter in the Garden
- Hallson Gardens: Planting Instructions for Asclepias Tuberosa
- Cornell University Growing Guide: Butterfly Weed
- UC Statewide IPM Online: Rust
- UC Statewide IPM Online: Leaf Spot Diseases
- Monarch Butterfly Garden: How to Control Aphids on Milkweed Plants