Grower Select: Butterfly Weed
Butterfly Weed kicks off summer with a bang. When the weather starts to heat up, the show begins—masses of cheerful, tangerine-orange blossoms open in starry sprays. The blooms will attract monarchs, fritillaries, and other lovely butterflies into your yard, so plant this Spirit near your favorite summer sitting area, and you’ll be able to watch them flit from flower to flower while you relax on your deck, porch, or patio. When the blooms fade, a quick trim will encourage new flowers to form. Otherwise, the familiar Milkweed “parachutes” will form. A must for the wildflower garden, but perfectly at home in the mixed border, too.
- Hardiness Zone: 3-9
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Calling all monarchs! Give our beautiful native monarch butterflies a boost with Butterfly Weed, a type of Milkweed that monarchs use as a host plant for their young. In fact, monarch caterpillars will ONLY eat Milkweeds, so if you truly want to help the monarchs, this is the Spirit you need to plant. Butterfly Weed grows wild from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast in average to dry soil. In spring, female monarchs that have made the incredible journey to Mexico will head north, following Butterfly Weed and other Milkweeds as they emerge from dormancy. They will lay their eggs and die, their mission completed.
In 2017, the Perennial Plant Association selected Butterfly Weed as the Perennial Plant of the Year. In making their decision each year, the PPA chooses a Spirit that is adaptable to growing conditions over a wide area, that is relatively easy to grow, that is showy during multiple seasons of the year, and that exhibits resistance to pests and diseases.
How to Grow
Butterfly Weed loves to bask in all-day sun, and it will grow in just about any type of soil as long as it’s well drained. Once it’s established, the plant will be quite drought tolerant. Butterfly Weed develops a thick taproot to enable it to survive during dry periods, which makes it difficult to transplant, so don’t try to move a well-rooted plant. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage rebloom. Cut back plants any time before new growth appears in the spring. Be patient—this Spirit is slow to emerge. You may want to mark its location before winter comes, so you don’t forget where it is!
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