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Butterfly Weed Options

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May 21, 2020

Dr. Gary Bachman: A native plant you should consider for your landscape is butterfly weed, today on Southern Gardening,

Announcer: Southern Gardening with Gary Bachman is produced by the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Dr. Gary Bachman: Chosen as a Mississippi Medallion Native winner in 2012, butterfly weed, commonly known as milkweed is low maintenance, attracts lots of butterflies, especially monarchs and is deer resistant. Known botanically is Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed grows 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 is 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 curassavica. 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 to 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, 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.

Announcer: Southern Gardening with Gary Bachman is produced by the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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