En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - October 31, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Propagation, Seeds and Seeding, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Winter care of Asclepias tuberosa from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have several asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed). Monarch caterpillars have found and denuded them. We are excited about all of the Monarch caterpillars, but unsure of what to do next. What do we do with the bare stems? Should they be cut back, should we wait until spring? Will the bare stems grow new leaves?

ANSWER:

We would not worry about the bare stems of the Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed). If you follow that plant link to our webpage on the plant you will learn that it dies back to the ground in the Fall. It sounds to us like it is doing its proper job at the proper time. Reading this paragraph on propagation from that webpage should reassure you:

"Propagation

Propagation Material: Root Cuttings , Seeds
Description: The easiest method of propagation is root cuttings. In the fall, cut the taproot into 2-inch sections and plant each section vertically, keeping the area moist.
Seed Collection: Watch plants closely for seedpods in late summer/early fall. Allow seeds to completely mature before collecting seed to establish new plants in another location. A long pod is produced containing hundreds of seeds with tufts of long, silky hairs (an adaptation for wind dispersal).
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Needs to be transplanted carefully and requires good drainage. It takes 2 – 3 years before A. tuberosa produces its vibrant flowers, which appear in 2 – 3 inch clusters of orangish-red. Once established, it lasts for years, becoming thicker each year."

This plant is a perennial, so it will be back next year in greater numbers,  but you can improve those numbers by following the instructions for root cuttings, and Fall is the precise time to do so. From our Image Gallery, the first picture below is of the mature plant, in bloom. The second shows the seeds and the third, the seed pods.

 

From the Image Gallery


Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

More Seeds and Seeding Questions

Wildflowers for April wedding near Austin TX
August 31, 2015 - Home wedding April 2016. Live North of Austin.on 200 acres ranch and would like to plant wildflowers. What to plant? When to plant? Flowers that will sustain in vase or bouquet?
view the full question and answer

Failure to come up of blackeyed susans in Lancaster PA
June 28, 2009 - My blackeyed susans have been blooming for ten years. All of a sudden this year they didn't come up at all..why?
view the full question and answer

Winter-interest plants in Wynnewood PA
July 11, 2010 - Could you please suggest flowering plants that provide winter interest after drying out (ie with seed pods or interesting dried flower heads)? I'm looking for something that grows in full sun. Thank ...
view the full question and answer

Why all the acorns from Austin
November 03, 2010 - What's the explanation for the huge crop of acorns falling from my live oak trees this fall. Do you recommend I dump them in my composter or just throw them in the flower beds? Thanking you in adv...
view the full question and answer

Germinating Hibiscus martianus, Heartleaf hibiscus
June 11, 2013 - Is there some secret to getting Heart Leaf Hibiscus to germinate from seed? I have tried several times, but have had no luck getting them to germinate.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center