Butterfly Weed Options
Host: Gary Bachman, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist
A native plant you should consider for your landscape is butterfly weed today on Southern Gardening.
Chosen as a Mississippi Medallion native winner in 2012 butterfly weed commonly known as milkweed, is low maintenance, attracts a lot of butterflies (especially Monarchs), and is deer resistant. Known botanically as Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed grows up to 36 inches tall and 24 inches wide. This plant has an upright growth habit with clusters of tubular flowers with various shades of orange, yellow or red. In the late summer this plant a butterfly magnet and the primary food source for Monarch caterpillars. If you want a butterfly weed that blooms all summer long then consider the tropical milkweed, Asclepias currassavica. I wouldn’t rely entirely on this species as there is a bit of concern about tropical milkweed being a host to a protozoan parasite that can harm the butterflies. In the northern part of Mississippi the tropical milkweed is an annual being killed back due the cold winter temperatures, but in the coastal counties overwintering could be a concern. But I believe it’ll be fine transplanting a couple of these fast growing plants into your garden and adding to the forage available for the caterpillars. The close relative swamp milkweed is a good choice for wetter sites. Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, has red to pink to white flowers. I grew swamp milkweed several years ago and was amazed by the incredible numbers of Monarch caterpillars, there were literally hundreds of those yellow, black and white striped caterpillars munching away. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.