Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is beginning to bloom in NW Ohio. This herbaceous perennial prefers full sun, but can tolerate some light shade. The preferred garden location should be fertile, moist and well drained, but once established, it is drought tolerant.
Impatient gardeners in the spring can sometimes become anxious as this perennial can be slow to start. But once it gets growing, it can be a show stopper in the landscape. Some gardeners will deadhead flowers to encourage a second bloom later in the season.
Butterfly weed can grow between 18 - 36 inches tall, and 12 - 24 inches wide. It is better behaved than its relative the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and smaller in stature. The butterfly weed, like other milkweeds, is a host plant for the monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar. Most gardeners would gladly give up some of their plant's foliage to enjoy seeing these leaf-eating machines in their garden.
And what eats, must poop! Often missing leaves and frass collected below on remaining leaves not yet eaten are sure signs that monarchs are calling your garden home, at least seasonally, as they are like snow-birds and in the migrating business.
Hopefully there will be many monarch butterflies in our future, bringing enjoyment and smiles to everyone's faces.