Grow Native Butterfly Weed for Monarchs

Updated: Aug. 02, 2022

Native butterfly weed is a perfect pick to draw plenty of pollinators. Here's how to add this monarch host plant to your backyard.

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Native Butterfly Weed Care

Asclepias Tuberosa Apj16 3, butterfly weedCourtesy of Proven Winners
Butterfly weed in bloom

Scientific name: Asclepias tuberosa
Growing zones: 3 to 9
Light needs: Full sun
Size: Two to three feet tall and equally as wide

Why we love it: Butterfly weed is part of the milkweed family and this orange flowering perennial is a magnet for pollinators. The Monarch Joint Venture recommends this native milkweed for gardeners in the northeast, midwest and southeast regions.

Check out the ultimate guide to growing milkweed plants for monarch butterflies.

Benefits of Growing Butterfly Weed

butterfly weedCourtesy Jennifer Quam
Monarch on a butterfly weed plant

It’s easy to see why gardeners would choose to add this plant to their yards. Its gorgeous orange blooms persist through the summer, and it’s a favorite for cut flower gardens or dried flower arrangements. When planted in a meadow setting, it will naturalize and come back year after year.

It’s a relatively low-maintenance plant as well, and it grows in poor, dry soil and even on slopes. Handling extreme conditions with ease, it’s drought tolerant as well as cold hardy. It’s usually deer-resistant in addition to being disease-free. It doesn’t produce as much milk sap as other milkweeds, which makes it ideal for gardeners with sensitive skin and pets.

“On my way to take pictures at nearby lake, this monarch (above) decided to take a break on a native Minnesota butterfly weed plant. I really like how the colors on the flower match the butterfly,” says Birds & Blooms reader Jennifer Quam.

Interested in raising monarch butterflies? Here’s what you need to know.

What Pollinators Does This Plant Attract?

A monarch caterpillar climbs on the leaf of a butterfly weed plant.Jim McKinley/Getty Images
Monarch caterpillars

Increased pollinator presence is likely the biggest benefit of adding this plant to one’s garden. Native butterfly weed brings in plenty of good bugs! As a member of the butterfly milkweed family, it’s a monarch butterfly host plant. It’ll draw in black swallowtail butterflies, too, as well as other pollinators such as bees.

Psst—monarch butterflies were recently listed as endangered — here’s how to help.

Where to Buy Native Butterfly Weed

2828 Asclepias Tuberosa Gay Butterflies 7238, butterfly weedDoreen Wynja for Monrovia
Gay Butterflies milkweed

When it comes to buying native butterfly weed, you have plenty of choices. It’s available seed form, as bare milkweed roots, or as live plants in gallon-size containers. You can order seeds or plants online, or you can stop by your local garden center.

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One cultivar to try is gay butterflies milkweed (zones 4 to 11). Grown by Monrovia, it showcases blooms from mid-to-late summer with fiery gold, yellow and scarlet flower clusters.

Next, discover more monarch butterfly flowers you should grow.