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butterfly weed easy to grow from seed

In early Autumn, pods will open with Butterfly Weed going to seed. After blooms have faded pods 2-4″ long by 1/2″ wide will form on Butterfly Weed. These pods contain the seeds and will start maturing in late Summer to early Fall.

In Fall and Winter, Butterfly Weed can be cut back to the ground. Once the leaves and stalk appear dead or dry, simple take pruning shears and cut the plant to ground. It will reemerge in Spring.

Butterfly Weed seed pods

The Lifecycle of Butterfly Weed is a perennial. It will emerge in late Spring, later than most other plants. Rapidly it will grow to a height of 1-2′ and bloom by early Summer for about one month. By late Summer to early Fall, seed pods will form. The pods will ripen, open, disperse their seed and die back to ground.

[6] – Lemoine NP (2015) Climate Change May Alter Breeding Ground Distributions of Eastern Migratory Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) via Range Expansion of Asclepias Host Plants. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0118614.

I’ve successfully germinated Butterfly Weed seed in May, and had it bloom by August in it’s first growing season. I did this at my in-laws garden, who have extremely fertile soil. I was able to do this by transplanting it as soon as it had two sets of ‘true’ leaves, and protecting the seedlings from rabbits with Liquid Fence.

You can plant it as a border around a vegetable, fruit, or herb garden, and it makes an excellent plant for a native wildflower garden or meadow. Plant it with other perennials that feed pollinators at different times of the year to support them throughout the whole growing season.

Besides enjoying the display butterfly weed puts on, you can also use some stems for cut flower arrangements. The seed pods that develop in late summer and fall are very decorative and make a unique addition to flower arrangements.

If starting seeds outdoors isn’t practical, you can also do it indoors in late winter or early spring.


A big benefit to butterfly weed is that it rarely has pest or disease problems.

As you might imagine, butterfly weed is a great companion plant because it draws in pollinators and beneficial insects.

A little known fact is that monarch caterpillars feed only on milkweed species. Other plants can provide nectar for the adult butterflies, but without butterfly weed and other varieties of milkweed, the caterpillars can’t survive.

Butterfly weed is a bright and beautiful perennial that will add a lot to your garden. True to its name, this plant attracts butterflies, including the endangered monarch butterfly.