En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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


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?


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 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

Asclepias tuberosa

Asclepias tuberosa

Asclepias tuberosa

More Propagation Questions

How can I propagate Giant Ball Moss?
March 11, 2009 - Recommended methods for propagation of Giant Ball Moss? (Bromeliaceae, Tillandsia baileyi rose ex small) Thanks
view the full question and answer

Grafting different colors of Tecoma from Casa Grand AZ
April 01, 2014 - Is it possible to graft different colors of tecoma and if yes, is the process same as process for grafting roses?
view the full question and answer

Do Fleming yaupons make pollen
November 09, 2010 - I have been told that all Will Fleming yaupons are male and can serve as effective pollinators for female yaupons (the females I have are Pride of Houston variety). Is this true? Also, can dwarf yau...
view the full question and answer

Best place for picking wildflowers in Austin
February 14, 2014 - Where is the best place to find wildflowers for picking near or in Austin around the end of March?
view the full question and answer

Overwintering Newly Rooted Hydrangea
September 05, 2013 - I am in the process of rooting a hydrangea shoot in a pot, should I bring this inside to winter? I thought burying the whole clay pot to winter outside, is this feasible? I'm in zone 6b. What would b...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center