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North American Native Butterfly Weed Named Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of YearMaster Gardener Scoop – January 25, 2017

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North American Native Butterfly Weed Named Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of Year

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By Majo Bates

Master Gardener

Department of Crop Sciences: Urbana, IL “With all the ‘buzz’ about bees and butterflies, the Perennial Plant Association is celebrating a plant known for its ability to support birds and insects, including a beloved North American native butterfly. The Association has just announced Asclepias tuberosa as its 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year.”

This was actually announced back in November, but I missed it! Recently I was looking through my plant catalogs I’ve been getting in the mail and my flower magazines that I enjoy in winter and low and behold it was announced in most.

If this plant is one you would like to add to your garden, it is recommended to order soon because they may run out!

It is easy to see why this perennial has been named as Perennial Plant of the Year because we need to be encouraged to plant butterfly weed for our pollinators that we so desperately need. Butterfly weed combines brilliant beauty, hardiness, and is beloved by all pollinators in Zones: 4-11.

The butterfly plants in most of the pictures is Gay Butterfly Milkweed; is easy to care for, a well behaved plant with fiery shades of red, orange, and yellow which needs little attention and provides wonderful high summer color. It is ideal for meadows and can be used for borders in yards. They bloom from mid – to late summer, require full sun, and the soil needs to be well drained. Their height is 1 to 3 ft. tall, 1 to 2 ft. wide.

Some reasons to add butterfly weed to your garden:

• Deer usually avoid butterfly weed

• Grows in full sun and is one of the best water-wise plants.

• Bright orange flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies

• Rarely subject to serious insect or disease problems

• Strappy leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars

The easiest way to add butterfly weed to your yard is to buy a plant from a garden center. You can start from seed, but it takes a little extra effort. Once planted, leave it in place and do not disturb its sensitive taproot, which can grow to a foot or more long. In fall, it forms narrow seed pods that, if left on the plant, add winter interest.

Over time, you may find that it self-seeds in the garden or especially if you plant them in a meadow or along the edge of woods.

The flowers of the butterfly weed are an important nectar source for many species of butterflies, as well as hummingbirds, wasps and bees. Each intricate flower of butterfly weed has five nectar cups that attract many insects. But that’s not all! This perennial is easy to grow in full sun, is deer-resistant, tolerates dry soil and doesn’t require fertilizing. It is pretty much known as a “plant-it and forget about-it” plant — but when it blooms, you’ll remember why it’s in your garden. The unique orange or yellow flowers cover the tops of one to three feet tall plants and bring in the butterflies for up to two months. Butterfly weed is native to all but the Northwest part of North America.

Remember, one butterfly that needs help from gardeners is the well-known and beloved monarch, which spends its summer in all parts of North America. Milkweeds are a vital source for monarch caterpillars; it’s their only food source so they’re dependent on it for survival.

I would like to encourage “us” all to plant some butterfly weed this year and give it a try. I have a feeling we will really enjoy watching it grow and also watching the butterflies as they fly around our yards. We will be helping to provide a habitat for them too!