Orange butterfly weeds (Asclepias tuberosa), North American wildflowers, work well in butterfly gardens, attracting many different types of butterflies to their showy flowers. This low-maintenance perennial blooms throughout summer and into the beginning of fall. Butterflies visit the blossoms to sip nectar and monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves, which feed the caterpillars. Song birds and hummingbirds also visit the orange butterfly weed.
Orange butterfly weeds are grown for their display of jewel-toned orange blossoms, which form flat-topped clusters. The flowers are held on top of 1- to 2 1/2-foot-tall hairy stems with lance-shaped green leaves 4 to 8 inches long. These perennials form clumps about 12 to 18 inches wide. The flowers are followed by spindle-shaped seed pods reaching 3 to 6 inches long.
Orange butterfly weed grows naturally in open wooded areas and fields in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. This perennial tolerates partial shade, but grows best in full sun. The key to growing a healthy group of butterfly weed plants is good drainage. These plants like dry to moist soil, but develop crown rot in wet, poor-draining soil. Space the young plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
Mature butterfly weed plants freely self-seed if you don’t remove the seed pods when they form. This results in butterfly weed plants springing around the yard. It takes two to three years for butterfly weed plants to produce flowers when planted from seed. While still young, these perennials transplant successfully, but once the deep taproot forms, it is best not to transplant them. Established plants should be left undisturbed.
Unfortunately, orange butterfly weed plants attract aphids and mealybugs while in flower. Spraying the plants with a strong stream of water knocks the pests off the flowers. On the positive side, these plants act as host plants for beneficial insects like predatory wasps. These wasps feed on aphids and mealybugs.