Blooms that glow as brightly as the Monarch butterflies they attract crown the orange glory flower (Asclepias tuberosa), also known as butterfly weed. This 1- to 2 1/2-foot-tall perennial is suitable for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9 and may be evergreen in Mediterranean climates. The pale green, 3- to 6-inch seed pods following the plant’s summer-long display of fragrant, yellow- or deep-orange flower clusters make attractive additions to dried floral arrangements. Orange glory has a deep taproot and resents being moved, so plant it in a permanent location.
Designate a planting site in full sun to partial shade. Good drainage is critical to protect orange glory against crown rot. The perennial’s tolerance of dry and salty soils and salt-laden winds makes it a good choice for arid and seacoast gardens.
Plant orange glory in fall if you live in a mild-winter climate, so it can take advantage of cool temperatures and winter rains as its roots establish. Elsewhere, plant it after the ground thaws in spring.
Dig a hole the approximate depth and twice the width of the plant’s root ball. The top of the root ball should protrude 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the soil line when set in the hole.
Grasp the orange glory around the base, invert its pot, and carefully slide it free. Check the root ball for tangled, or girdling, roots. Work the tangles loose manually, if possible. If they’re severely compacted, made three or four vertical, 2-inch-deep cuts with a clean, sharp knife around the lower half of the root ball and gently untangle the side and bottom roots. Cut girdling roots as well.
Center the orange glory with its roots evenly spread over the base of the hole. Begin backfilling with the reserved soil, periodically pressing it gently around the roots to eliminate air pockets. When the hole is 75 percent filled, water the plant to settle the soil.
Finish filling the hole, making sure the top of the root ball remains slightly above soil grade. Use the leftover soil to form a 2- to 3-inch berm around the lip of the hole. The resulting basin collects rain or irrigation water and steers it directly to the roots.
Water the orange glory slowly and deeply to hydrate the entire root ball. Spread a 2- to 2 1/2-inch layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark, over the irrigation basin to prevent evaporation and discourage weeds.
Things You Will Need
- Clean sharp knife
- Hose or irrigation system
- Shredded bark or other organic mulch
- Space multiple orange glory flowers 9 inches to 1 foot apart.
- Orange glory’s foliage is the only food source for Monarch caterpillars. The black-, yellow-and white-striped caterpillars won’t harm your other plants.
- Water the new transplants whenever they begin to wilt during their first growing season. Orange glory flowers don’t become drought-resistant until their deep taproots have fully developed.