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. Small mammals may browse leaves.
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. The sap of this plant is not as bad tasting as other milkweeds and its leaves may be browsed by small mammals. It can be difficult to establish this plant without sufficient protection in the first year.

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Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly Milkweed - flowers

Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly Milkweed - with butterfly

Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly Milkweed