Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What's Blooming: Butterfly Weed

The Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is putting on quite a show in our yard this year.

This plant is easy to grow in all kinds of soil, and thrives on neglect. In fact, you need to neglect it in order for it to thrive. That's because this plant emerges from the soil very late in the season. Many years we don't even see it peak out until about Memorial Day. The tricky part of growing this plant, then, is remembering where you planted it the year before. If you happen to disturb the roots or the little shoots before they come out of the soil the whole plant suffers and whithers away. The last few years I've been marking mine with the cut off tops of old nursery pots. Right after Halloween, I mark out the plants with these rings, and then don't move the rings until very late in May.

The pay off for this elaborately planned neglect comes in the form of butterflies and bees. Although monarchs seem to prefer many other types of milkweed as caterpillars, they will gladly land on this plant for nectar in the butterfly stage.

All the bees love these blooms, and the native solitary bees (which are often docile and friendly) love to stay all afternoon drinking hungrily at this plant.

Needs loads of sun.

Besides the the blooms, you get lovely seed pods which follow. Let them turn brown and then have the joy of making endless wishes on the seeds when they crack open. The pods themselves look like fairy wings, and make great craft material.

No comments: