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Butterfly Weed


October 7, 2017


I would appreciate suggestions about encouraging Butterfly Plant and Milkweed to thrive next spring.  I have enjoyed another summer fostering Monarch Butterfly larvae and seeing them through to emergence from chrysalis.  My milkweed is essentially leafless now, having fed three hatches of larvae. Aphids were not too severe this summer. The butterfly plant is still blooming, but clearly near the end.  Do I cut back the canes on the milkweed? The same for the butterfly bush? Should I dig them up, or mulch in place?  Do they need to be fed?



Milkweed or Asclepias, will die back to the ground completely with a killing frost. I have cut back several of mine since they too were leafless, or had finished setting seeds.  For your butterfly bush (Buddleia) wait until late February to give it a haircut. It can have spotty blooms through early winter.  Prune it hard in late February, since it blooms best on young wood.


July 1, 2017


Can you tell us what this flower is?  How do you take care of it?

Picture of yellow butterfly weed



It is commonly called butterfly weed or Asclepias tuberosa.  This is the milkweed that everyone recommends to plant for the monarch butterfly.  The more common color is a bright orange, but there are now yellow and even pink varieties.  They form a strong tap root so are not easily transplanted, but once established are tough, drought-tolerant perennials.   Deadhead the spent flowers to keep them blooming longer.  They do best in full sun.


August 29, 2015

Question  I would like to establish a row of milkweed plants at my home along a tree line. I have access to 12-14 wild milkweeds on some property in south Arkansas that are in danger of being destroyed.  Is it possible to move them? If so, when should I do it and how?  I also would be interested in buying new plants or seeds.

Answer  Milkweed plants are often sold at nurseries and garden centers in Arkansas, but probably more readily available earlier in the season.  That is not to say you can’t still buy them, but they won’t be as easy to find now.  Milkweed plants are notoriously difficult to transplant since they do form a fairly strong taproot, which is what makes them so drought tolerant.  That being said, if the plants are going to be destroyed anyway, give it a shot.  This fall as it cools off, try to dig up the plants getting as much of the root system as you can.  Replant as quickly as possible in their new location and see what happens.  They also should be loaded with seed pods.  Milkweeds form that canoe shaped pod that is loaded with tiny seeds with a hair connected.  Harvest mature seed pods and scatter the seeds into prepared soil this fall.  There are numerous species with the orange flowered butterfly weed Asclepias tuberosa being the most common, but there are also white, pink and yellow flowering forms, and all are good for the butterflies, so plant a combination.


August 2012

QuestionFeatured Story - Late Season Color


AnswerUnfortunately brown is the most common color in many landscapes across our beautiful state, unless someone has been watering. Rainfall has been spotty across the state, and thankfully some yards are finally getting a bit of a break, but it will take more than a few showers to get plants back up and growing. If you do see blooming plants in landscapes, you know they are tough performers to take this summer and stand up to it. If your garden could use a shot in the arm, there is help available at many nurseries and garden centers. Late summer into early fall provides a challenge for many gardeners, but there are some really good perennial plants that bloom every year in late summer or fall. Goldenrod is a late summer/ fall bloomer that has been blooming for a few weeks already, and there are numerous new varieties with bright yellow flowers, that are not invasive. Turks cap (Malvaviscus arborea) is a member of the hibiscus family that annually has beautiful orange flowers which attract butterflies and hummingbirds from late summer through fall. Other perennials that are still blooming are butterfly weed (Aesclepias) with orange blooms, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) with yellow flowers, garden phlox in shades of pink and white, purple coneflower (echinacea), blanket flower (Gaillardia), wand flower (Gaura), and Joe Pye weed (Eupatoria). Don’t overlook salvias. Many salvia plants struggled this summer, but should bounce back and shine in the late season garden. From small ‘Black and Blue’ to the large Mexican bush sage, there are some great choices with flowers ranging in color from pink to red, white, blue, and purple. They can be a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds. And Russian sage (Perovskia), a member of the mint family, is another tough as nails plant with open airy silver gray foliage and purple flowers. Other perennials that are just beginning or will be in bloom soon, include asters, chrysanthemums, Japanese anemones and turtlehead (Chelone). Toad lily (Trycertis) will soon follow along with Autumn Joy sedums. Ornamental grasses also come in all sizes and shapes and are drought tolerant to boot. The foliage is nice all season but it is in the latter part of the year that they begin to bloom and the plumage they put on gives you all fall and winter interest. The pink blooms of purple muhly grass make it a new favorite, but there are many grasses to try. Height can vary from 12 inches to 12 feet, so know the available space before planting the grasses. The only maintenance they need, is being cut back every year in late winter to early spring. Annual varieties like the purple fountaingrass, or the variegated‘Fireworks’, purple millet and fiber optic grass can give you the grassy texture and form, but have to be replanted every season.

 June 2010

QuestionWe live outside of Ash Flat and recently bought the old home place next to our home place. We know this place dates back to the middle 1800's from local stories. We are in the process of having it leveled so we can mow it and are trying to save all the wild flowers, etc. that we can. We have transplanted irises, jonquils and other plants. I am enclosing one that we found blooming today in the middle of a clump of weeds, young tree saplings and vines. I would like to know what it is and if it can be transplanted.


AnswerThe plant in question is a milkweed, one of the favorite hosts of the monarch butterfly. While most people are familiar with the orange flowering Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, there are milkweeds with white, red and pink flowers also. I believe yours is probably the common milkweed Asclepias syriaca or the Red Milkweed Asclepias incarnata, which produces rich clusters of deep rose-purple to pale-rose colored flowers. Almost all of the Aesclepias plants are the very best food plants for Monarch Butterfly larvae, the caterpillars will eat all the leaves off, but that is why you normally are growing it! The feeding doesn't hurt the plant, and you will have a lot of monarchs hatch out in your garden.      

 June 2010

QuestionMy friend is traveling by plane to Rhode Island to visit a friend who is a gardener. She would like to take some seeds that are representative of flowers or items that grow in Arkansas. It's more the idea of representative Arkansas flowers than what would really thrive there. Any ideas? I can think of Texas bluebonnets for Texas, but I am stumped for a special Arkansas flower!!


AnswerFinding seed for it may be a challenge but Amsonia hubrichtii is commonly called Arkansas blue star and is a great wildflower that would do well in Rhode Island. Coreopsis, purple coneflower, butterfly weed and many others are great native wildflowers for us, but not necessarily only found in Arkansas. A nice mix might be a good idea. The state flower of Arkansas is the apple blossom and the state wildflower is supposedly tickseed (which is a coreopsis) tickseed coreopsis is Coreopsis lanceolata. Hope this helps.      


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