About Butterfly Weed: Butterfly Weed, one of the most striking of native plants, lights up the prairies with its blazing orange flowers. It thrives in rocky or sandy soil, typically in open fields or along roadsides. One of its common names, pleurisy root, refers to an old remedy for lung ailments that contained this plant. At one time, the silk from this plant’s seed pods was spun for fabric or used for stuffing pillows; in World War II, school children gathered the silk to provide a cheap filling for soldiers’ life jackets. Commercial attempts to make use of this abundant plant included the manufacture of paper, fabric, lubricant, fuel, and rubber; eventually these became impractical and were abandoned. Though this plant is toxic to most animals, butterflies are immune to the plant’s poison and actually become rather poisonous themselves as protection from predators.
Butterfly Weed Germination: In late fall, direct sow just below the surface in full sun and sandy or well drained soil. This plant also tolerates dry or rocky soil. Plant three seeds together every 15-18 inches. Germination will take place in the spring, after the last frost. When the seedlings appear, thin to the strongest plant; seedlings usually do not survive transplanting, since they resent any disturbance of their roots. For spring planting, mix the seeds with moist sand and refrigerate for 30 days before direct sowing.
Growing Butterfly Weed Seeds: Young plants should be watered until they become established; mature plants can tolerate drought, and the roots will be damaged by excessively wet soil. Butterfly Weed grows slowly, and this plant may take 2-3 years to produce flowers. Though not invasive, this plant will eventually spread if left to drop its seed. The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Deer avoid this plant. If aphids become a problem, dislodge them from the plant with a strong stream of water.
Harvesting Butterfly Weed: This makes a striking cut flower. Because the stems contain no milky sap, these flowers tend to have a longer vase life than most milkweed varieties. Cut the stems long, choosing flowers that have just opened.
Saving Butterfly Weed Seeds: After the plant finishes flowering, 3-4” narrow pods will form. Be sure to harvest the pods before they split and the silky fluff carries the seeds away on the wind. As soon as the seeds inside the pod ripen to their mature brown color, remove the pods and spread them out to dry. Split open the pods and take out the silky seed material. Remove the fluff from the seeds. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place.
Detailed Butterfly Weed Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Pleurisy Root, Orange Milkweed, Butterfly Milkweed Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Summer Height: 24-36 inches Spacing: 15-18 inches Light: Full Sun to Part Shade Soil Moisture: Medium to Dry USDA Zone: 3-10 Seeds Per Oz: 5,000 Produces a bushy, neat plant with dark green blade-like foliage and flat topped clusters of bright orange flowers.