How to Propagate, Plant and Care for Swallow Tail Plant

If you’re looking to add a touch of elegance and beauty to your garden or home, the Swallow Tail plant is an excellent choice.

With its vibrant foliage and graceful appearance, this plant can enhance any space. They prefer full sun to partial shade, making them versatile additions to both sunny and partially shaded garden beds.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to successfully cultivate and maintain Swallow Tail plants, from planting tips to care techniques and troubleshooting common issues.

The Swallowtail plant, also known as the Brazilian Butterfly Plant or Christia obcordata, is a tropical evergreen shrub.

The Swallow Tail Plant, scientifically known as Papilio Machaon, is a delightful addition to any garden.

This perennial herbaceous plant, adorned with vibrant yellow and black markings reminiscent of a swallowtail butterfly, is not only visually appealing but also holds cultural and medicinal significance.

Benefits of Growing Swallow Tail Plant

Growing Swallow Tail Plant
  • Swallow Tail Plants offer a plethora of benefits beyond their aesthetic appeal.
  • They attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, contributing to the health of your garden ecosystem.
  • Additionally, certain varieties of Swallow Tail Plants possess medicinal properties, serving as natural remedies for various ailments.

Characteristics of Swallow Tail Plants

  • Swallow Tail Plants typically feature elongated leaves with striking yellow and black patterns, resembling the wings of the swallowtail butterfly, hence their name.
  • These plants can vary in height, with some species reaching up to three feet tall.
  • Their unique appearance makes them a standout choice for gardens seeking a touch of whimsy.
Characteristics of Swallow Tail

Swallow Tail Plant
Swallow Tail Plant

Common NameSwallowtail Plant, Butterfly Wing Plant
Botanical NamePapilio machaon
Plant TypeHerbaceous Perennial
Native toEurope, Asia, North America
Soil NeedsWell-draining, loamy
Sunlight NeedsFull sun to partial shade
Growing Zones3 to 9
FlowersYellow, black markings
Flowers SeasonLate spring to early summer
Height2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm)
Spread1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm)
Pot typeClay or ceramic with drainage holes
Soil PHNeutral to slightly acidic (pH 6.0 to 7.0)
ColorsYellow, green, black
Where to PlantGarden beds, borders, containers
PestsAphids, caterpillars
DiseasesPowdery mildew, leaf spot
Growth HabitUpright, clumping
ToxicityNon-toxic to humans, may be toxic to pets
PropagationSeeds, division
Drought TolerantModerate
Lifespan2 to 3 years
Watering NeedsModerate
Feeding NeedsBalanced fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks during growing season
An informative table outlining details about the Swallowtail Plant

Swallowtail plants can be propagated through several methods, including

  1. Seed propagation
  2. Stem cuttings.

Here’s how to propagate Swallowtail plants:

1. Seed Propagation:

  1. Seed Collection:
    • Allow the Swallowtail plant to produce seed pods after flowering.
    • Wait until the pods turn brown and dry before harvesting the seeds.
  2. Seed Preparation:
    • Open the seed pods and collect the seeds.
    • Discard any damaged or malformed seeds.
  3. Seed Sowing:
    • Sow the seeds in seed trays or small pots filled with well-draining potting mix.
    • Press the seeds lightly into the soil surface, ensuring good seed-to-soil contact.
  4. Germination:
    • Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
    • Place the seed trays/pots in a warm location with indirect sunlight.
  5. Transplanting:
    • Once the seedlings have developed several sets of true leaves, transplant them into larger pots or directly into the garden.

2. Stem Cutting Propagation:

Propagate Swallow Tail

Here’s how to propagate Swallowtail plant through Stem Cutting:

Total Time: 25 days

1. Stem Selection:

Choose a healthy, non-flowering stem from the parent Swallowtail plant.

2. Cutting Preparation:

Using clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears, take a 4 to 6-inch cutting from the stem, just below a leaf node.
Remove the lower leaves from the cutting, leaving only a few leaves at the top.

3. Rooting Hormone (Optional):

Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone powder or gel to promote root development.

4. Planting:

Plant the cutting in a small pot filled with well-draining potting mix.
Insert the cutting about 2 inches deep into the soil and firm the soil around it.

5. Rooting:

Keep the soil consistently moist and place the pot in a warm, bright location with indirect sunlight.
Roots should begin to form in 2 to 4 weeks.

6. Transplanting:

Once roots have developed, transplant the rooted cutting into a larger pot or directly into the garden.

By following these propagation methods, you can easily propagate Swallowtail plants and expand your garden with these beautiful and vibrant flowers.

Whether you choose seed propagation or stem cutting propagation, with proper care and attention, you’ll soon have healthy new Swallowtail plants to enjoy.

Swallow Tail
Planting Swallow Tail

Planting Time

Plant Swallowtail plants in the spring or early summer after the last frost has passed.

Choosing the Right Location

  • Before planting your Swallow Tail, it’s crucial to select an ideal location that meets its sunlight and soil requirements.
  • These plants thrive in well-drained soil with full to partial sunlight exposure.
  • Choose a spot in your garden or home that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day.
  • Avoid areas with soggy or compacted soil, as this can lead to root rot and other issues.

Preparing the Soil

  • Prepare the soil by loosening it to a depth of 12 inches using a garden fork or tiller.
  • Remove any weeds, rocks, or debris that may hinder the plant’s growth.
  • Incorporate organic matter such as compost or aged manure to improve soil fertility and drainage.
  • Swallow Tail plants prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

Planting Swallow Tail Plants

  • When planting Swallow Tail plants, ensure proper spacing between each plant to allow for adequate airflow and growth.
  • Dig a hole slightly larger than the plant’s root ball and gently place the plant in the hole.
  • Ensure the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
  • Backfill with soil and pat it down gently to remove air pockets.
  • Water the newly planted Swallow Tail thoroughly to help establish its roots.


  • Water newly planted Swallowtail plants thoroughly to settle the soil and encourage root establishment.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

Swallow Tail Plant Care
Swallow Tail Plant Care


  • Provide bright, indirect sunlight for Swallowtail plants.
  • Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, which can cause leaf burn.


  • Swallowtail plants prefer warm temperatures between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C).
  • Protect them from cold drafts and temperatures below 50°F (10°C).


  • Maintain high humidity levels around Swallowtail plants, especially in indoor environments.
  • Use a humidifier or place the plant on a humidity tray filled with water and pebbles.

Watering and Moisture:

  • Proper watering is essential for the health and vitality of Swallow Tail plants.
  • Water deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
  • Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot and other moisture-related issues.
  • During hot, dry periods, increase watering frequency to prevent drought stress.

Fertilizing Swallow Tail Plants:

  • Fertilize Swallow Tail plants once a month during the growing season with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.
  • Avoid overfertilizing, as this can cause nutrient imbalances and harm the plant.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates and timing.
  • Reduce fertilization frequency in the fall and winter months.

Pruning and Maintenance:

  • Regular pruning helps maintain the shape and vigor of Swallow Tail plants.
  • Remove dead or yellowing leaves, spent flowers, and any damaged or diseased growth.
  • Prune back overgrown stems to encourage branching and bushier growth.
  • Sanitize your pruning tools with rubbing alcohol between cuts to prevent the spread of disease.


Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or compost, around the base of the plant to conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.


  • Repot Swallowtail plants every 1 to 2 years or when they outgrow their current container.
  • Use a well-draining potting mix and choose a slightly larger pot than the current one.

By following these planting and care guidelines, you can enjoy healthy and vibrant Swallowtail plants in your garden or indoor space.

With proper attention to their needs, Swallowtail plants can thrive and delight with their unique foliage and delicate flowers.

While Swallow Tail plants are relatively pest and disease-resistant, they may occasionally encounter issues such as aphids, caterpillars, or fungal infections.

Monitor your plants regularly for signs of pests or diseases, and take appropriate action if detected.

Insecticidal soap or neem oil can help control aphids, while caterpillars can be handpicked or treated with biological insecticides.

Managing pests and diseases in Swallowtail plants is crucial to maintain their health and vigor.

Here’s how you can effectively control common issues:

Pest Management:

  1. Aphids:
    • Use a strong blast of water to dislodge aphids from the plant.
    • Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to control severe infestations.
    • Introduce natural predators like ladybugs or lacewings to keep aphid populations in check.
  2. Spider Mites:
    • Increase humidity levels by misting the plant regularly.
    • Rinse the plant with water to remove spider mites from the foliage.
    • Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to kill existing mites and their eggs.
  3. Mealybugs:
    • Remove mealybugs by dabbing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
    • Prune and discard heavily infested plant parts to prevent the spread of mealybugs.
    • Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to control mealybug populations.
  4. Whiteflies:
    • Hang yellow sticky traps near the plant to attract and trap adult whiteflies.
    • Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to kill whitefly nymphs and adults.
    • Introduce natural predators like parasitic wasps to control whitefly infestations.

Disease Management:

  1. Powdery Mildew:
    • Improve air circulation around the plant by spacing them adequately.
    • Avoid overhead watering to prevent moisture buildup on the foliage.
    • Apply a fungicidal spray containing sulfur or potassium bicarbonate to control powdery mildew.
  2. Leaf Spot:
    • Remove and discard infected leaves to prevent the spread of leaf spot.
    • Avoid overhead watering to minimize moisture on the foliage.
    • Apply a copper-based fungicide to treat severe leaf spot infections.
  3. Root Rot:
    • Ensure proper drainage by planting Swallowtail plants in well-draining soil.
    • Avoid overwatering and allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions.
    • Treat affected plants with a fungicidal drench containing thiophanate-methyl or mancozeb.
  4. Botrytis Blight:
    • Remove and discard infected plant parts, including flowers and foliage.
    • Improve air circulation around the plant to reduce humidity levels.
    • Apply a fungicidal spray containing chlorothalonil or thiophanate-methyl to control botrytis blight.

Regularly inspecting your Swallowtail plants for signs of pests and diseases and taking prompt action will help keep them healthy and thriving.

Additionally, practicing good cultural practices such as proper watering, fertilizing, and pruning can reduce the risk of pest and disease infestations.


Swallow Tail plants
Swallow Tail plants

In conclusion, mastering the art of planting and caring for Swallow Tail plants is a rewarding endeavor that allows you to enjoy the beauty of these exquisite plants while providing essential habitat for butterflies and other pollinators.

By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to cultivate thriving Swallow Tail plants in your garden or home.

Embrace the joy of gardening and experience the delight of watching your Swallow Tail plants flourish!


Here are the common FAQs About Swallow Tail Plants

How often should I water my Swallow Tail Plant?

Water your Swallow Tail plant deeply once a week, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
Swallow Tail Plants prefer consistently moist soil so water them regularly, especially during dry spells.
However, be cautious not to overwater, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot.

Do Swallow Tail plants attract butterflies?

Yes, Swallow Tail plants serve as host plants for swallowtail butterflies and attract other pollinators to the garden.

Can Swallow Tail plant tolerate full sunlight?

Yes, Swallow Tail plants thrive in full sunlight but can also tolerate partial shade.

How do I propagate Swallow Tail plants?

Swallow Tail plants can be propagated through seeds or division of mature plants in early spring.

Can Swallow Tail plants be grown indoors?

While Swallow Tail Plants prefer outdoor conditions with ample sunlight, certain varieties can be grown indoors with proper care. Choose a well-lit location near a window and ensure adequate ventilation to prevent fungal issues.

What are the ideal growing conditions for Swallow Tail Plants?

Swallow Tail Plants thrive in well-draining soil and prefer full sun to partial shade.
Ensure adequate airflow around the plants to prevent fungal diseases, and maintain consistent moisture levels for optimal growth.

Are Swallow Tail Plants toxic to pets?

Swallow Tail Plants are non-toxic to pets, making them a safe choice for households with furry friends.
However, it’s always best to monitor pets around plants and discourage nibbling to prevent potential digestive upset.

Author Profile

Leafy Lines
Leafy Lines
Step into the world of plants and flowers brought to you by Leafy Lines, a devoted gardening lover and someone who enjoys playing with words about all things botanical.
With a love for nature and a talent for growing things, Leafy Lines is here to be your companion in the vibrant world of plants and gardening.
Leafy Lines started a gardening adventure driven by a passion to create, nurture, and feel connected to the earth. From the initial steps into potting soil to the thriving garden today, the path has been filled with trying new things, gaining knowledge, and a profound recognition of the therapeutic joys that come with gardening.

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