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Colorado Native Plant Feature - Butterfly Plant - Save the Monarchs!

Butterfly weed shown planted with Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) and Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera var. pulcherrima) in a non-irrigated naturalized planting

Common name: Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Plant, Butterfly Milkweed

Botanical name: Asclepias tuberosa

Mature height: 2.5’

Mature width: 1.5’ – 2’

Plant type: Herbaceous perennial

Availability: Available from nurseries, limited availability, typically not available until late spring

Bloom season: May – early August

Bloom color: Bright Orange. Can rarely produce yellow or even red blooms

Hardiness zones: 4-9

Soil type: Prefers sandy and/or rocky soil, will grow in clay with proper amendments, though lifespan is typically shortened. Tolerates a range of PH and fertility, but prefers slightly acidic soil.

Water usage: Very low - low

Sun exposure: Full sun

Native range: Midwestern US extending to east coast, from Texas into parts of southeastern Canada

Wildlife value: High. Extremely valuable plant for butterfly populations, as it provides a food source for migrating monarchs and a nectar source for countless butterfly and moth species. Also provides food for hummingbirds, bees, and other beneficial insects. The loss of the native plant range of the milkweed species makes this plant invaluable for native fauna.

Landscape value: It is striking in bloom, and will grow with little effort if sited and planted properly. Can reseed in ideal conditions, though not prolifically. Great for habitat and/or naturalized plantings. A large taproot makes it very adaptable to moisture fluctuations of Colorado.

Description: This is a unique plant with a wide distribution. It is unrivaled when in bloom, when it can be seen from far distances. The rich orange blooms contrast very well with the dark green foliage, and bloom color can range from orange to yellow and even red. This is also a great contrast plant for other blue and purple flowered low water plantings. It is long-lived and taprooted, as well as adaptable to a range of moisture levels, and tolerant of drought and heat. It needs full sun and good drainage. It is late to emerge in spring, but takes off readily once soil temperatures rise. This is the most drought tolerant of the milkweeds, most of which flourish in areas of higher moisture (sub-irrigated banks, etc.). Great as a specimen or planted in mass.

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