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  • Writer's pictureLandscape Innovation

Native Plant Highlight: Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed

Asclepias tuberosa L.

Alternate Names:

Butterfly Milkweed

Orange Milkweed

Pleurisy Root

Indian paintbrush

Native Region:

Eastern and Southern United States

USDA Hardiness Zones:

3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9

Description: Butterfly Weed is the iconic, bright orange beauty that's a staple in every butterfly garden. This herbaceous perennial sports long-lasting clusters of small, showy blooms and stands 1-2 feet tall at maturity. This native wildflower is easily recognizable because of its unique flower structure, and is considered a “must” in any native pollinator garden!

Planting: Butterfly Weed grows wild in prairies, open woods, meadows, hillsides, and along the roadside. Growing this perennial requires very little effort. This flower thrives in full sunlight, and dry, sandy, or gravelly soil, making it well suitable to tolerate drought. Once established, Butterfly Weed is easily maintained, requiring little attention and produces it’s beautiful blooms from June to August. If you find yourself struggling with pests during bloom season, you can always spray with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, a more eco-friendly way to treat your plants! A little gardening tip - We recommend planting it among other mid-sized perennials! 

Keep reading for our suggestions on companion planting!


  • Ethno botanical: Butterfly Weed’s medicinal uses originated with the Native Americans. You can chew the fresh root as a cure for bronchitis, pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments explaining its other common name, pleurisy root. You can also chew the root and place it into wounds, use it as a salve for swelling and rashes, and relieve a sore throat. 

Fun fact - Butterfly Weed’s genus name honors the Greek god Asklepios, the god of medicine!

  • Landscaping: In the garden, Butterfly Weed looks great in mass plantings, along borders, in butterfly gardens, and rock gardens. We recommend co-planting with these fellow native plants:

- Coreopsis

- Catmint

- Purple Coneflower

- Grasses, such as fountain grass, switchgrass, or northern sea oats

  • Wildlife: Along with its beautiful addition to your landscape, Butterfly Weed provides a home to many local fauna and you can expect to see many pollinators making use of this plant. This native wildflower attracts Bumblebees, Honey Bees, Hummingbirds, Songbirds, and is a host plant for Monarch, Queens, and Gray Hairstreak Butterflies. 

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