Sunday, February 7, 2010
Butterfly Milkweed - Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is the most widely recognized native milkweed for the home landscape. It occurs across much of North America in a wide variety of habitats, but in Florida it is confined to areas of well-drained sandy soils and it will quickly perish if not provided these types of soils. Do not attempt to grow this plant from seed or stock which originates from sources outside of Florida. It may grow for a season, but rarely persists. Florida butterfly milkweed is often a rather gangly plant. It rarely becomes the fuller more floriferous specimens seen in other states. Often a single-stemmed individual with multiple branches, it emerges in early spring and eventually reaches a mature height of 12-24 inches. The leaves are oval and a rather dull green in color. What makes it so spectacular are its blooms. Butterfly milkweed may bloom at any time from late spring to late fall and individual plants will produce flowers successively throughout this time period. Large rounded umbels of bright orange to brick red or nearly yellow flowers provide a color accent few others can produce. Plant it in small clusters for the most impact and near the middle portion of a mixed wildflower planting. Butterfly milkweed is extremely touchy in regards to growing conditions. If you can provide the very well-drained sands it needs, use it in numbers. Many commercial nurseries in Florida list it in their catalogs, but it is in such demand that few actually have it available at any one time. Be prepared to look around a bit before actually obtaining your plants, but the wait will be well worth it. Once you have some, sow your seeds in good potting soil just below the soil surface and make more.