Tale of two plants – Butterfly Weed and Swamp Milkweed

I have tried countless times to keep Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) alive in my garden and have failed each and every time … until a few weeks ago.

This spring I had purchased a few of these butterfly loving perennials and stuck them in the ground in an inconspicuous place, just to see if I could get them to grow with one last attempt. If they didn’t thrive, so be it. I finally came to grips with the fact that they prefer a dry soil and that is exactly the opposite of what I have to offer in my yard.

As expected, these plants virtually disappeared within weeks of being planted to the point that I even forgot that they even existed. But then one day, a few weeks ago, I noticed a sweet pop of orange out of the corner of my eye. I immediately ran over and when I realized that two of the Butterfly Weed plants had miraculously recovered, I fell to my knees and thanked the Lord for presenting me with such a miracle:

I didn’t even care that the orange color looked completely out of place when compared to other nearby flowers. This was one of those surprises that gardeners get all giddy over.

Because I had failed with this plant so many times in the past, I had no idea that they formed seed pods and was equally excited to discover these just the other day:

Now I am way anxious to watch these open up and disperse to their heart’s content and hopefully, I’ll find some more of these next spring. This is what keeps gardening so damn interesting for me.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) which started off with a bang after planting a bunch this spring:

As anticipated, they were a magnet for all sorts of creatures. I would just stand there for minutes on end and watch the visitors stop by and hang out and drink the magical nectar.

But once the blooms dried up, things got nasty.

The aphids have absolutely taken over and dirtied up the joint.

I considered the options on how to remove them but settled on doing nothing. If that is how nature wanted it, who am I to get in the way? Plus, we are talking a complete aphid inundation so they are beyond hope. My plan now is to leave them be (luckily they are out of plain view) and see if they end up doing any permanent damage. From all accounts, they should be just fine so I am not all that worried.

Another learning experience and another reason why … gardening is so damn interesting to me.

Have a great long weekend.

7 thoughts on “Tale of two plants – Butterfly Weed and Swamp Milkweed


    I dug up some wild butterfly bulbs and discovered that they were an at a unreal depth in the soil. It was like two and a half feet down. I did the same when transplanting the bulbs and they grew just fine , but your right drier soil is preference for this flower.

  2. hollyjmike

    Congrats on the butterfly weed! Despite producing seed pods the ones in my garden did not seem to self-sow in the first year, but now they’re popping up with regularity. So be patient with that, too, it might take them two years to start showing up where you didn’t plant them. At least where I am the monarch cats loved these, except there was not one this year. 🙁 Hopefully they come back.

  3. Deborah

    John, you may want to mark where your butterfly weed stands, as
    it doesn’t show itself until later in spring,to know where to find it next year.
    Mine have spread in various parts of my garden and feel I have
    enough, so after the flower clusters fade, I cut them off to
    prevent pods from forming. ..and by doing so, I will many times have new (yet smaller clusters of flowers) return!

  4. Jason G

    Butterfly milkweed had been a dud in my garden until this year. If the success continues I think it will serve as a fantastic, low foreground plant in some drier planting beds. Swamp milkweed has gone nuts in my yard and is now featured throughout my lawn (and I don’t really care). The aphids have taken over but at least I had 4 Monarch cats this year at the Jersey shore.

  5. Swimray

    I had aphids multiplying on my cardoon last year and things were getting pretty bad. In a few weeks, lady bug larvae discovered the smorgasbord on their own. Problem solved without trying.

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