Many fall flowers are striking, but the blood flower (Asclepias curassavica) is truly an autumn standout. Its vivid red and orange flowers, which bloom June through October, are nestled above long, slender, bright green leaves. Even when the plant has finished blooming, its beauty continues, with seedpods that release elegant, silky-tailed seeds to dance in the autumn breeze.
Common name: Blood flower
Botanical name: Asclepias curassavica
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 9 to 11; usually grown as an annual
Height: 2 to 3 feet
Family: Apocynaceae (formerly Asclepiadaceae)
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Moist, well-drained
• Moisture: Average to dry
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil and prevent weeds.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed or by division.
Pests and diseases
No major insect or disease problems, but aphids are common when flowering.
• Consider wearing gloves when handling blood flower. Its milky sap can be toxic to human skin and poisonous if ingested.
• Asclepias curassavica provides striking foliage and flowers for beds, borders, cottage gardens, and meadows. Its dried seedpods look great in arrangements.
• Blood flower attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Monarch butterflies will lay eggs on it, and caterpillars will feed on its leaves.
All in the family
• The Apocynaceae, or dogbane, family includes a variety of flowering plants, including trees, shrubs, and herbs.
• Several plants in this family are sources of lifesaving drugs such as cardiac glycosides, which affect heart function. The plants can be found in genera such as Acokanthera, Apocynum, Thevetia, and Strophantus.
• The genus Asclepias has more than 110 species of evergreen or deciduous perennials, as well as a few shrubs and subshrubs.
Where to buy
• Almost Eden Plants, Merryville, LA, 337-375-2114 , www.almostedenplants.com
• Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, Richmond, CA, 888-266-4370, www.anniesannuals.com
• Thyme After Thyme, Winterville, GA, 706-742-7149, www.thymeafterthyme.com
(Photo courtesy of Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden)