in Tucson, Phoenix,
Arizona and California

Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

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Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly Milkweed

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Form: Herb.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Growth rate: Slow.
Mature Size: 1-3' high and wide.
Flowers: Small, bright orange or yellow, in flat-topped clusters.
Bloom: Spring, summer and fall.
Fruit: Seed pod.
Leaves: Narrow, pointed, smooth-edged, green, 1.5-2" long.
Stems: No thorns. Single stem when young. Older plants grow multiple stems from single tuber. This plant has a watery, translucent sap instead of the milky white sap of other milkweeds.
Roots: Deep, tuberous taproot. Does not transplant once established.
Wildlife: Attracts butterflies. Caterpillar food plant for Gray Hairstreak, Monarch, and Queen butterflies.
Toxic / Danger: Sap of entire plant and roots are mildly poisonous.
Origin: North America. Often found on bare, dry, sunny slopes.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 4-10.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Water once established: Once or twice a month.
Soil: Well drained, dry, sandy to gravelly, low in nutrients, pH 5.6-7.5 (acidic to neutral).
Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Prune: Deadheading spent blooms triggers another bloom cycle about a month later.
Litter: Low.
Pests: Prone to aphids.
Propagation: Easily grown from seed, but may take 2-3 years to flower.
Mulch: After leaf drop, mulch young plants in regions prone to freezes.
Uses: Ornamental. Butterfly attractor.

A Queen Butterfly is shown at right.

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Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly Milkweed - flowers

Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly Milkweed - with butterfly

Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly Milkweed