Like other milkweeds, this plant is a nectar source for many species of butterflies, giving it its common name. It is also a caterpillar and larva host for the monarch butterfly, which may blend in with the abundant clusters of vibrant orange flowers that cover the tops of the plants in summer. Butterfly weed is native to prairies and glades in the Chicago area and the Midwest.
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area
- North America
- Zone 2
- Zone 3
- Zone 4
- Zone 5
- Zone 6
- Zone 7
- Zone 8
- Zone 9
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Dry sites
- Alkaline soil
- Dry soil
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Medium plant (12-24 inches)
- Mixed border
- Mid summer
- Late summer
1 to 2 feet and wide
Tree & Plant Care
Butterfly weed is slow to emerge in the spring and takes a few years to get established. Difficulting in transplanting because of the taproot, but will reseeds freely.
Great plant for naturalizing and butterfly gardens.
A natural for hot, sunny locations.
Wait to prune old stems back plants in late spring.
Disease, pests and problems
Crown rot can be a problem in wet sites.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Native geographic location and habitat
Common to dry prairies and sandy soils.
Attracts birds & butterflies
This plant is one of the hosts for the caterpillar of the monarch butterfly. It is also a good nectar source for many species of butterflies, including monarch, coral hairstreak, striped hairstreak, Edward’s hairstreak, banded hairstreak, Acadian hairstreak, Eastern tailed-blue, black swallowtail, tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, checkered white, American copper, great spangles fritillary, pearl crescent, and silver-spotted skipper butterflies.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate leaves; lance-shaped, 2 to 6 inches long
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Many-flowered orange umbels in late summer.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Seed pods (follicles) containing numerous seeds that have large tufts of white hair which help with dispersal of seed by wind.