By Rosie Lerner
The Perennial Plant Association has named butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), as its 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year. With much focus on pollinator habitat these days, butterfly milkweed is a terrific selection. Butterfly milkweed flowers play host to a wide range of butterflies, and milkweed foliage is the food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Bees, wasps and other insects are also frequent visitors.
Butterfly milkweed is native to much of the continental United States and is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4-9. Indiana lies within zones 5 and 6.
This species thrives best in full sun and well-drained soil and is drought tolerant. Plants reach about 2-3 feet tall with a similar spread. The bright orange/reddish-yellow flower clusters bloom throughout much of the summer. Elongated seed pods develop from the flowers and ripen to release numerous seeds with long silky hairs that aid seed dispersal. Pods should be cut back before they open to prevent unwanted selfseeding.
The Perennial Plant Association selects a different perennial plant each year to promote throughout the nursery and gardening industry. PPA members nominate plants based on several criteria, including low maintenance needs, adaptability to a wide range of climates, pest and disease resistance, wide availability, multiple seasons of interest and ease of propagation.
A selection committee then narrows the field to three or four choices from which the members cast their votes. For more information on the Perennial of the Year program, see http://www.perennialplant.org/.
Rosie Lerner is the Purdue Extension consumer horticulturist and a consumer of Tipmont REMC. Have a question about gardening? Use the form to send it to us. Or, questions about gardening issues may be sent to: “Ask Rosie,” Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224, or ec@ElectricConsumer.org.