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Asclepias

asclepias-tuberosas.jpgAsclepias (ass-kleep-ee-ass), Milkweed, Milkweed Family (Asclepiadaceae). Tall, showy wild flowers, mostly native to the U.S. Vigorous, they are beautiful in masses in a native setting. As a perennial border or the pond margin, the elongated, pointed seed podswith their silky-haired seeds, follow pretty clusters of small flowers.

Ascelpias grows best in moist to wet organic soils, and tolerates drier conditions. Though it is perfectly cold-hardy in the north, mulching plants in winter will help prevent frost-heaving. Butterfly Weed prefers slightly acidic, sandy-humus-loam that is well-drained. It is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils, and drought tolerant enough to perform well in poor, dry soils. New growth tends to emerge late in the spring. Butterfly weed is a tuberous rooted, and does not transplant well due to its deep taproot. Mature plants may freely self-seed if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open. Plants are easily grown from seed, but are somewhat slow to establish and may take 2 to 3 years to produce flowers. In spring, trim back last year's growth, new foliage emerges a little later than other perennials. Once established, Swamp Milkweed requires little care.

Heavily laden with nectar and pollen, flowers are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects. Gather Asclepias all summer; long stems are wonderful for cutting and long-lasting. Sear cut stems ends over a flame to stop the milky sap from leaking out. Milkweed seed pods open to reveal seeds with long, silvery-white, silky hairs; great to use in dried flower arrangements.

A. incarnata (in-kar-nay-tuh) Swamp Milkweed. Found wild in swamps and wet places, this is a tall, slender species, growing to 4 feet tall. An excellant addition to the pool-side garden. Full sun and plenty of moisture are needed for this species.

A. tuberosa (too-ber-roh-suh) Orange Milkweed. Butterfly Weed. The handsomest of the milkweeds needs full sun and rather dry sandy soil. Often grown in perennial borders, it is 2 to 3 feet high and notably attractive to butterflies.

Attributes: bog plant, border plants, cut flower or foliage, dried flower or seed heads, fragrant flowers or foliage, mass planting. Deer and resistant. Drought Tolerant. Butterfly gardens, meadows, prairies, or naturalized/native plant areas. Also effective in sunny borders. Whether massing plants in large drifts or sprinkling them throughout a prairie or meadow, butterfly weed is one of our showiest native wildflowers.

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