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Blood Flower, Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed

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Bright Orange and Yellow Blood Flowers or Milkweed

This variety is the one I have seen most often of butterfly weed.  The bright orange and yellow flowers really stand out in the garden.

This variety is the one I have seen most often of butterfly weed. The bright orange and yellow flowers really stand out in the garden.

Buds of Milkweed

Butterfly Weed, Milkweed, or Blood Flowers - Information

Butterfly weed flowers also go by the common names of blood flower or milkweed. They are easily grown by seed and great in the garden as prolific bloomers. They are especially welcome in butterfly gardens or any garden that hopes to attract butterflies.

Here I will share some photos and basic information about these fun and different flowers, including how to grow them from seeds. It is so easy and well worth the benefit of time put in, which is next to nothing.

For my purposes, milkweed flowers became a part of our garden about a decade ago when I first started taking butterfly gardening seriously.

Spangled Fritillary Butterfly on Pink Blood Flower

Yellow Butterfly Weed Flowers

Basic Information about Blood Flowers, Milkweeds and Butterfly weed

Butterfly weed flowers grow well in zones 9-11, but also grow in other zones. I have seen some say it grows well in zones 3-9, so it depends on your particular area. I live in the Midwest USA, and they grow well here, reseed, and even come back year after year without effort. I have to dig them up, in fact, to get rid of the first ones I planted years ago.

They will grow to a height of about 2 to three feet! So you want to plant these accordingly. They will take up some room. They would be nice toward the back of a flower garden, as a backdrop to shorter flowers.

The time that milkweed flowers will bloom is approximately June through October. So there is a long bloom time there. After they bloom, they will go to seed. They create these long, slender seed pods that eventually burst and blow away in the wind. They are great at reseeding themselves this way!

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly on Orange Blood Flowers

Solid Orange Milkweed flowers, with a beautiful Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly on it.

Solid Orange Milkweed flowers, with a beautiful Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly on it.

Common Milkweed Flowers

Blood Flowers as Food for Butterflies

Butterfly lovers everywhere are usually fond of, or at least know about the amazing Monarch butterflies. These butterflies have such a fascinating journey and need many places to stop along the way to refuel. As they are living out their life cycles, the butterflies lay their eggs on these butterfly weeds.

I have seen them do this in my own yard. The monarchs will come, and lay several eggs, but not all together. There is better hope for survival for those that emerge from their eggs as larvae, and then begin feeding on the leaves of the milk weeds, if they are not all together.

Later on, when the monarch caterpillars have had their fill, and it is time to go into their chrysalis stage, they also have more chance of survival if they are spread out. Nature is always so amazing to me. It is just brilliant.

The monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves in spring and summer time. Part of what happens, is that the caterpillars, after they begin to eat the leaves, absorb toxins into their bodies, that make them very distasteful to a hungry bird. Enough so, that the birds learn to leave them alone, and they then survived that situation!

As you saw in the photo above, the nectar in the flowers help to aid many butterflies, including the Great Spangled Fritillary and others. This will be the case for many other butterflies throughout the warm summer as well.

So you can see, these are a great host plant. If you want butterflies in your yard, and only have the nectar plants, then a butterfly that needs to lay its eggs on a particular type of plant won't stop in your garden. You get the idea. If you have more of all the possible things a butterfly could want, they will come and stay longer. I have done this myself, and been greatly rewarded.

Monarch Butterfly on Orange Milkweed Flowers

Painted Lady Butterfly on Pink Blood Flower

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Planting Instructions for Butterfly Weed, Blood Flower, and Milk weed

1. As soon as you know when your last possible frost is in your area, you can plant the seeds of the butterfly weed. It is smart to choose a spot that is about 2ft by 2ft in your garden. You will want this spot to get full sun or close to it, for most of the day. These flowers grow the best in rich, evenly moist soil that is well drained. If the soil is "light," then it is even better.

2. You will want to create the light soil mentioned above, with a spade. Loosen the top of the soil and set some off to the side to add back onto the top after planting.

3. Put the seeds across the soil in an even manner. Cover these seeds with only a 1/8 inch of soil.

4. Now it is time to gently water, with a light hand. You just don't want the soil too soggy or anything, yet enough to thoroughly dampen the area.

5. For the next several days, check the soil often to make sure it is not drying out. You don't want them to get too dry and then scorch in the sun when the tiny root systems are beginning to dig into the soil. If you water them every day, that should be sufficient. Depending on where you live, the level of heat, and the wind on a given day, soil can dry out more quickly than on other days. Later, you won't have to watch it so carefully.

Know that once established, these flowers need very little care, which is part of the beauty of them! You want to be careful what you give to the flowers in the way of fertilizer. It is not harmless to them, and could be toxic.

Fritillary Butterfly on Swamp Milkweed Flowers

The caption where this image is from, states that this butterfly is a Great Spangled Fritillary, in particular.

The caption where this image is from, states that this butterfly is a Great Spangled Fritillary, in particular.

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly with Orange Pearl Crescent

I love the large black and blue spicebush swallowtail butterfly here, but the little pearl crescent almost gets lost in the orange flowers.  Both are so beautiful to me!

I love the large black and blue spicebush swallowtail butterfly here, but the little pearl crescent almost gets lost in the orange flowers. Both are so beautiful to me!

My Personal Experience Growing Butterfly Weed

As I stated before, I planted some of my own butterfly weed, or blood weed, years ago. What was so unique about the variety I got, is that they were pink! As you can see, there are different colors, and that can be lots of fun.

I planted them in a spot that actually did not seem like an idea spot to really plant anything. I did have the seeds left over, and thought why not try to scatter some along the side of the garden. They didn't even have quite enough sun as is usually required. Still, it was a bright and warm summer, and they grew like they were as happy as could be. The soil was compact and often water logged. Later on I realized that sometimes these grow best alongside creeks and streams, which made complete sense.

Since that time, these flowers have drawn many interesting visitors, but my favorites are the butterflies.

Once on a camping trip along the Gasconade River in Missouri with my family, we saw several of these plants growing wild along the stream. They had several butterfly visitors there as well. It may sound strange, but I very distinctly remember being so happy to see this as we walked along the river, the night before the ride on the river the next day.

My plan is to plant fresh new ones this year, and to enjoy as the butterflies come again. It is a very pleasant and rewarding thing to do. I would highly recommend it.

Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly on Milkweed Flowers

Butterfly Milkweed, Blood Flower, and Milkweed Poll

© 2014 Paula


Paula (author) from The Midwest, USA on October 29, 2014:

Linfcor, I hear what you are saying about enjoying seeing butterflies through the windows, what a joy that is! I was thinking just today, that where I am in the Midwest is cooling down with the fall, and my butterfly flowers are having less and less visitors on the cool days, naturally. So I am really keeping an eye out for them more than ever, because its about to get cold. Just yesterday, I saw a newly emerged monarch from its chrysalis, and it was such a joy! Not in my own yard, but where I work. It was amazing to see, and I hope he can migrate soon. Thanks for your comment and visit.

Paula (author) from The Midwest, USA on October 29, 2014:

Rebecca, yes, these flowers have a very unique look to them. Its such a great plant for multiple reasons. Thanks for your visit and nice comment!

Paula (author) from The Midwest, USA on October 29, 2014:

Whonu, thank you for visiting and sharing your kind words. I love to share this information with people, as butterflies are a beauty and a joy to our environment. This plant helps them so much!

Paula (author) from The Midwest, USA on October 29, 2014:

Hello Mary, and thank you for your kind words. I, like you, have interest in the monarchs and helping support their population through butterfly milkweed. I love to find others that feel the same way! I shared some seeds this last spring with my parents, who live about half an hour away, and they planted and grew somewhere they live. I think its wonderful to pass the word along. Thanks for sharing and helping the monarchs!

Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on October 28, 2014:

I live in Florida and one of my favorite things is growing plants to feed the butterflies. I enjoy watching them from all of my windows. I just love all the butterflies I see through my windows

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on October 28, 2014:

So pretty! I've seen the orange milkweed, but I didn't know that's what it was. A very nice hub!

whonunuwho from United States on October 28, 2014:

Beautiful photos and very interesting information my friend. Thank you for sharing this beauty. whonu

Mary Hyatt from Florida on October 28, 2014:

One of my hobbies is planting Milk Weed for the Monarchs to feed on and lay their eggs. I wrote a hub about saving the Monarchs by planting milk weed.

I love all butterflies, but I think the Monarch is my favorite one. I enjoyed reading this Hub and looking at the beautiful photos, too.

Voted UP, etc. and shared.

Paula (author) from The Midwest, USA on March 09, 2014:

Hello Imogen French, I too love to plant things that will attract butterflies and bees, any pollinators really. Thanks for reading and the visit, so glad you liked the flowers and butterflies!

Imogen French from Southwest England on March 08, 2014:

Such beautiful flowers and butterflies. I love to plant things in my garden that will attract the butterflies and bees, but of course we have different varieties in the UK. Nice hub, thanks.

Paula (author) from The Midwest, USA on March 08, 2014:

Hi Gail, If you do get to plant some of these, I hope you are quickly rewarded with many butterflies. You just can't really go wrong with these flowers. Thank you so much for your kind words and votes, that means a lot. So happy you stopped by and read the hub.

Hugs and love to you, Paula

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on March 08, 2014:

Thanks for sharing this useful information and the stunning flower and butterfly pictures.

I have never planted any of these flowers but since I love butterflies I will consider doing so.

Am voting this hub up across the board except for funny. It was like viewing a breath of spring sunshine and color.

Hugs & Love,


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