Mexican Butterfly Weed, Asclepias curassavica, is another plant that is xeriscapic, evergreen and perennial. This means that this plant is used in landscapes where conserving water is a main consideration, it remains green when other plants do not and it has an expected life span of longer than 2 years. Mexican Butterfly Weed is also known as Orange Milkweed and is a host plant for Monarch butterfly larvae.
Larval host plant for Monarch butterfly. Plant may be stripped of all its leaves by caterpillars but will re-leaf. Reseeds readily.
This bushy, 1 1/2-2 ft. perennial is prized for its large, flat-topped clusters of bright-orange flowers. The leaves are mostly alternate, 1 1/2-2 1/4 inches long, pointed, and smooth on the edge. The yellow-orange to bright orange flower clusters, 2-5 inches across, are at the top of the flowering stem. The abundance of stiff, lance-shaped foliage provides a dark-green backdrop for the showy flower heads.
This showy plant is frequently grown from seed in home gardens. Its brilliant flowers attract butterflies. Because its tough root was chewed by the Indians as a cure for pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments, Butterfly Weed was given its other common name, Pleurisy Root. Although it is sometimes called Orange Milkweed, this species has no milky sap.
Blooms and Leaves:
Mexican Butterfly Weed blooms three out of four seasons each year. They begin in the spring and continue on through the fall with their beautiful red and orange blooms. These beautiful blooms are formed in cluster found on the top part of the plant. Butterfly weed is a member of the milkweed family. Each Butterfly Weed plant can grow up to 4 feet in height and 2 feet in width.
Caring for the Mexican Butterfly Weed includes planting it in the correct area where it will grow the best. This area is generally sunny but can have some shade. It is also a plant that requires a low amount of water so it will do best in soil that drains and is even drought tolerant. A little salt in the soil will not bother this plant either.
Mexican Butterfly Weed does usually get aphids. These can either be left for ladybugs to eat or they can be sprayed with soapy water or even just sprayed off with the pressure of a stream of water.
As the Mexican Butterfly Weed becomes a an older member of the landscape, it will become more woody at the bottom and will need to be pruned back. This will stimulate the plant and encourage new growth making it look better for several more years.
Propagating Mexican Butterfly Weed is done either by taking root cuttings or by planting seeds. Root cuttings should happen during the fall and is done by cutting the taproot of the plant in sections that are 2 inches. These cutting should be planted vertically in an area that is kept moist until the plant is established. Seeds can be collected in the late part of summer or early fall when they are mature. One long pod will contain hundreds of seeds. It will take this plant up to 3 years before it blooms. Mexican Butterfly Weed can self seed and become invasive.
Mexican Butterfly Weed has many uses. It can be used as a cut flower, showing off its ornamental blooms. It can also be used in the landscape design as an addition to a butterfly or hummingbird garden or even in a perennial garden.
University of Florida
LadybirdJohnson Wildlife Center