Perennials at Gorge Top Gardens: Asclepias
The bright tangerine orange flowers of
Asclepias tuberosa, affectionately known to gardeners as Butterfly weed, brighten up the
perennial garden for three months. Flowers begin to open on flat umbrels during the
last weeks of May and continue blooming through August. While the most popular color is
the intense orange, Asclepias also comes in yellow, red, and white. Butterflies just adore
this plant, especially the Monarch, - not just for its nectar but as a spot to lay eggs.
The plants grow to about 18 - 26 inches tall with a mature spread of around 2 feet.
Plant in full sun and in a well drained soil. The plant is very drought resistant
and actually prefers poor dry soil conditions. Remove faded blooms to increase flowering
but leave a few so that you can collect the seed. Asclepias produces a long oval
shaped seed pod after flowering which opens to reveal silvery-white silky seeds.
Butterfly weed is an outstanding, low maintenance perennial that is easy to grow.
Zones: 3 - 9
Problems: aphids can be a problem - spray with insecticidal soap
Notes: Asclepias are very slow to break dormancy and are usually one of
the last perennials to peek above the ground in spring. They are also slow to establish
themselves in the garden and will spend the better part of the first year getting used to
their new homes. It usually takes at least three years for transplants to reach a
mature size - but the wait is well worth it.
Growing Asclepias from seed:
Gather seeds by picking an entire seed pod just as
it starts to break open. For best results plant the seeds immediately after you
harvest them, dried seeds have a very poor germination rate. Asclepias develops a long tap
root so it is better to sow directly into the garden rather than in a small pot.
Provide adequate moisture during the fist stage of germination. When the seedlings start
to emerge cut back on water until you are finally letting the soil dry between waterings.
Asclepias plants grown from seed will flower in their second season.