Butterfly weed

lovelycherry(Z7 Long Island)December 27, 2006

Will butterfly weed grow from seed? or do I need to buy plants?

If I am able to use seed do I need to start them in pots or can I directly sow them?


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

All of these are possibilities but your rate of success will be greater if you buy them already grown or start them in pots. I am bad at growing from seed so you will have to get more detailed advice from someone else if you plan to do anything other than buying already grown plants.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 9:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

From seed very well. May not bloom until 2nd year, however, and full sized about 3rd year and after. To get best germination, sow now outside or in pots in area that stays 40 degrees or less, and they'll germinate in about March to early April. Keep them well watered if in pots after germination and plant out in late summer or early fall or whenever you think they're big enough to make it on their own.

They're a pleasant, reliable, hardy plant that will then self sow a little giving you more plants or seedlings to be pulled like weeds. Have fun. Might check winter sowing forum for germination technique; my guess is they'll come very well that way.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 9:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh, just noted you inquired about sowing outdoors. I've not done that, but they self-sow readily, so I assume just putting soil lightly over seeds and watering now will produce seedlings in March - April. By sowing in pots and watering and fertilizing, you can provoke a bit more first-year growth for bigger plants.

If you want instant gratification, buy plants, but I like growing from seed.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 9:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OK, I just looked at your hillside. It's quite a mess. Butterfly weed and other milk weeds, asclepias incarnata, for example, ought to be happy there. For something bigger, though also yellow-orange, you might get some oxeye sunflower, heliopsis helianthoides. Grows pretty fast, gets big, makes flowers for a long time, self sows. How's the moisture level? What else you can grow may depend on that.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 9:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lovelycherry(Z7 Long Island)

I am hoping to create a native species flower/butterfly/ erosion control/ natural fence garden.

My soil is sandy on the hillside.
I have been adding leaf mulch to the hill which I am certain will help over time.

I am not opposed to watering but the soil drains quickly.

I planted a mugo pine which should be indestructable looks like it might be dead.. needles are not bright green anymore, I think it is lack of water.

I have never done anything like this before.
I feel overwhelmed by the process.

Milkweed and butterfly weed both are things I would like to have on my hillside.

I have gotton some incredible help from the garden Web. They have helped me go from I CAN"T DO THIS TO I CAN. So now I am looking at plants for my hillside. It will not all get done in one year.

I don't have anyone here at home that shares my passion for this project
So full sized plants would be better. Where do you purchase from?

Here is a link that might be useful: My hillside.. that will be a garden someday

    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 9:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Check out Prairie Nursery in the link below. They sell both plants and seed. Look for the stuff that can handle drought. For stuff that germinates easily, you really might want to try seed. Pluses -- cheap, fun. Minuses -- takes a while to get full sized plants, although some like milkweeds really do grow fast. You've got a fair amount of territory to cover, so the expense of plants may be substantial.

Look at the native grasses as well. I bet you could cover the whole bank with little bluestem, with some perennials interspersed. In good soil it will grow 3 feet high and look very nice into the winter. Roots go nearly that deep and hold the soil. This summer, I saw it growing in the middle of Sleeping Bear sand dune in Michigan, as forbidding an environment as you could wish. It wasn't flourishing, but it was definitely holding on. With the grass base, you don't need so many flowering plants to cover the ground and keep out weedy stuff.

Check out Meadows and Prairies forum. Folks there could help, probably.

Here is a link that might be useful: Prairie Nursery

    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 12:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Talk to AllPro horticulture about native grass selections (know the native species you want before calling them) as they are within driving distance from you and you can save a lot on shipping costs.
Butterfly weed is sold by many mail order companies and even in some local nurseries.
Here are a few mail order companies you might want to check out:


Wildlife Nurseries, Inc.
P.O. Box 2724, Oshkosh, WI 54903 Tel: 920/231-3780 Fax: 920/231-3554



Genesis Nursery, 23200 Hurd Road, Tampico, IL 61283
Tel. 815-438-2220

    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 6:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

American Meadows sells a native northeast seed mix. Here is the web address:


    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 6:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ahughes798(z5 IL)

Sounds like a good plan...just don't forget to plant the grasses, too!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 6:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You can WS aslepias very succesfully on LI, grasses too.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 5:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As Trudi says, you can successfully winter sow many native plants that are either perennial or hardy annuals (self-sowing). I've winter sowed many species (native) of asclepias this year, including incarnata, purpurescens, verticillata, viridis, syriaca (common), exaltata. There are many native species of milkweed.

Another native is verbesina encelioides or Golden Crownbeard, which is a lovely, lovely nectar plant for the butterflies you will attract (Monarchs) on your milkweed. It also is a host plant for many checker spot butterflies.

Silphium laciatum is another good native for nectaring butterflies. Zizia aptera and z. lutea are great host plants for the Black Swallowtails (they are native). If you want to plant a tree, think about wild cherry (prunus serotina), which is a host plant that will attract many different species of butterflies, such as the Red Spotted Purple and Viceroy. Black willow (salix nigra) is great, but probably not for the location you want it to grow in and it is a host plant for many butterflies and sphinx moths as well.

Honeysuckle (lonicera sempervirens) is a great plant for hummingbirds, butterflies and moths.

Butterflies actually prefer native plants over non-native introductions. They provide more nectar and a lot of them provide food for their caterpillars. If you want more information, check out the Butterfly Forum here at GW.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 10:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I looked at the photos you posted and I don't really see a sunny hillside on which you could plant the butterflyweed. Some of the photos show a hillside with trees and shrubs overhanging the few open areas. A shady spot such as this wouldn't really be a good spot for butterflyweed, which likes full sun.

My advice is to first take an inventory of what is already growing on your hillside and think about how you want the area to eventually look. Then you can decide if you want to keep some plants, keep all of the plants, or maybe remove all of the plants that are there, and which new ones to add. If you are going to keep some or all of the trees there may be very few spots where butterflyweed will grow well. I recommend you try to select plants that are well suited to the location, not just plants that you like but which are not well suited - in the end it will save you a lot of heartache trying to grow plants that won't thrive. If you are going to remove trees and shrubs then start your butterflyweed from seed in small pots. You shouldn't plant them in the ground until you have the trees removed or a safe spot that won't be disturbed in the future.

So,first determine which trees and shrubs you want moved and whether earth has to be moved - for example, is there a gully to fill in? Avoid planting anything in these sorts of areas where there will be disturbance. Once you have some sort of overall plan in mind, then you will be able to find spots where you can start a small clump of butterflyweed or other desirable plant. By starting small you can see some early results while you work on the rest of the hillside. One problem starting with butterflyweed is that is is quite difficult to move once it gets large and it cannot be divided the way many perennials can, so if you put it in the wrong place, too bad. For this reason it might be a good idea to start with other flowers. Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is a favorite of mine. It grows fast and can be moved or divided easily if need be. Wild bergamot is somewhat better adapted to shade than butterflyweed is. For a woodland edge situation wild sunflowers can't be beat. I grow several species, including Wood Sunflower and Jerusalem Artichoke. Both produce many blooms throughout summer and fall and tolerate part shade. The oxeye sunflower that somebody else suggested is another good choice. There are lots of good choices. Just start one plant at a time, and try to put plants in places where they can stay while you remove trees or whatever you have to do.

I would start with plants or grow your own from seed, then plant them in clusters when they are larger enough (typically if you start seeds in spring they are ready to plant out by mid to late summer). Sowing seeds directlyin the ground on a semi-wild hillside may be pretty frustrating for you because you might never know if they sprouted, and since here are surely lots of weeds you'll want to remove it will be incovenient to have lots of wildflowers sprinkled among the weeds.

Sandy soil is fine for many types of wildflowers. If you are going to have lots of sun then I don't think there is any need to amend the soil with leaf mold. In fact, I think a sandy, low-nutrient soil can support a nice variety of native grasses and flowers without supporting fast weed growth like you get in richer, ammended soil. Ammending the soil can lead to slightly larger wildflowers but might also encourage more larger weeds, so it will end up working against you, unless you don't mind pulling weeds.

It might seem like you have a very overwhelmingly larger area to work on, but I think as time passes it will start to seem small. I'd start with a few clumps of a few plants, get them growing well and perhaps mulch around the base to control weeds. Once you have a small area planted and growing, add on with more plants. Soon you will start to get the hang growing things on your hillside - do you need to water? which types of weeds are a problem? what grows well and what doesn't? As you become comfortable and start to see progress you'll be better able to tackle larger areas.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 12:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Butterfly weed, butterfly plant, aka Asclepias tuberosa, belongs to a group of native plants with seed that requires exposure to both moisture and freezing weather before it will germinate. If you were to collect seed in the fall, store it indoors all winter, and sow in June, the rate of germination might only be one percent. If the same seed was started in small pots, in February or March, on an unheated but sunny outdoor location, you might see 80 percent germination by late June. This plant has a long tap-root, and once established in a good location, it will generally come up reliably year after year. Full sun, all day long, is best, but this species will do quite well in a location that provides full sun for one-half day. It should never be planted in a location that is often damp or has standing water, because the root will tend to blacken and rot if it remains wet for too long.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 12:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
inthegarden_k(z7 NC)

swamp milkweed will grow in damp locations. monarchs love it!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 3:48PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Arum italicum - how to eradicate
I've just learned how invasive this plant can be. I'm...
Most Underused Native Trees
What are the most underused native trees?
Callery Pear Forests
Today I had a shock. We were driving through the way...
ID needed - tall, yellow button flowers
These are currently in bloom, wondering what it is?...
Tips on growing ferns from spores? Have prothallia!
This year I decided I'd try my hand at growing ferns...
Sponsored Products
Oken's Brownist Yellowfly III
$349.00 | FRONTGATE
Emerald Rustic Weathered Dinette Table with Butterfly Leaf
Lush Decor Beige/Taupe 84-inch Butterfly Dreams Curtain Panels (Set of 2)
Each 84"L Butterfly Sheer
$238.00 | Horchow
Kidsplace Flushmount No. 40096 by Philips
$66.60 | Lumens
Monarch Pillow
$54.99 | Dot & Bo
Princess & Frog Rocking Horse
Classic Hostess
Dogit Nylon Adjustable Collar - Butterfly - D0502
$11.99 | Hayneedle
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™