All rights reserved. Milkweed is a perfect nectar-rich plant for a butterfly garden. With your help, both milkweed plants and Monarch butterflies can make a comeback with your butterfly garden. The flowers are a great source of nectar for butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other beneficial insects. Add in some goldenrod or black-eyed Susans to complete the look. Keep this plastic bag with your seeds in the refrigerator for 1-2 months. W… Swamp milkweed will eventually form a large clump and is best spaced 2-3 feet apart. Don’t cut milkweed until the end of September at the earliest. No milkweed, no monarchs. A monarch butterfly moves around a milkweed plant in Cedar Rapids in this archive photo from July 23, 2015. Milkweed doesn’t do well with being transplanted, so plant your seeds or seedlings in their permanent location from the beginning. Some species grow exclusively in specific regions while others will thrive in jus… You can plant milkweed seeds in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked, but they will need to be stratified for 2 to 3 months in the refrigerator before planting in spring for better germination. This means that home gardeners play an important role in stepping up to help this species of plant and the Monarch butterflies recover. Milkweed seeds need a process called stratification to help them germinate. Milkweeds (Asclepias) get their name from the sticky white sap that oozes from the leaves when they are damaged. When the caterpillars hatch, they feed on the leaves of milkweed. First, however, you’ll want to gradually accustom them to the weather outdoors by taking them outside during the day and back in at night. Do not attempt to dig up and divide or transplant established milkweed plants. Milkweeds make great plants for a sunny border. Pollinator Plants of the Central US provides an overview of milkweed establishment practices for the lower Midwest and central United States. By planting seeds outdoors in late fall, you’ll be getting the winter weather to do this for you. There’s no need to water your seeds, since nature will take care of that for you during the coming months. You can do this by scattering them on the surface of your prepared soil and covering them lightly with more soil to keep the seeds from washing or blowing away. At this stage in your milkweed's growth, all of the energy is … Refuge ranger Scott Davis oversees the project. Plants flower with delicate, star-shaped blooms that will be various colors depending on which species is grown. Yet, it is often not even considered by many gardeners, perhaps because of the word “weed” in its name. For the purpose of helping Monarch butterflies, you should plan to plant in groups to make it easier for the butterflies to find the milkweed. Seed pods will form on plants after flowering, typically in the fall. Planting several varieties is also a good idea. It is not picky about soil. More than 100 species of this herbaceous perennial are native to the U.S. and Canada. Gardeners should also cut it back to ground-level once a year. Most types of milkweed need to be planted in full sun (meaning areas that get a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight a day). This is perfectly normal! Milkweed (Asclepias) is actually a beautiful American wildflower and an important native plant. Here are some of the main types grown, but check with this guide to find suggestions for the region you live in: Butterfly weed usually has bright orange flowers, although some cultivars are red- or yellow-flowering. Although you can plant Milkweed in the spring after cold stratification and starting seeds indoors, fall is the easier — and more natural — time to plant. If you plant the native varieties in late summer (which is when nurseries seem to stock it), when the weather grows cold you can expect it to die back into its rootstock, the way your bulbing flowers like narcissus would. It requires full sun. If you are growing just with monarchs in mind, find native species for your region that we know monarchs prefer. Milkweed plants benefit from vernalization, a process of cold treatment, before sprouting. For Chill in a refrigerator at least 30 days. By planting milkweed in your garden, you’ll be providing both nectar and leaves for Monarchs and helping to save a species! This milky substance can cause skin irritation and is toxic to dogs, cats, and other animals when ingested. The plant originated in Central America and has gradually moved north. And once the plants are established Germinating Milkweed Seeds is easy if you follow some key steps. There are many different varieties of milkweed plants native to different regions of the U.S., Canada, and South America. There are a few more commonly grown species of milkweed but over 70 in total that are native to every region of the U.S. as well as parts of southern Canada. Milkweed grows naturally in meadows, fields, and ditches throughout the state. 7 Spring Planting Tips for Magnificent Milkweed There are, of course, different procedures if you plant in winter vs. in the spring (and it has been a spring-ey February). Monarch Joint Venture No milkweed, no monarchs. Spacing will also depend on the species and cultivars you’re growing. Milkweed doesn’t do well with being transplanted, so plant your seeds or seedlings in their permanent location from the beginning. Monarchs are beautiful, orange and black-winged butterflies native to the Americas. Each milkweed also has its own fragrance and unique characteristics. Bloodflower, tropical milkweed, Mexican butterfly weed Plant Type Evergreen perennial shrubs Mature Size 3 feet tall Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade Soil Type Well-draining Soil pH 6.1 - 7.5 Bloom Time Summer, fall 8a - 11 The experts are going to tell us how to raise our milkweed. What is the best time to plant milkweed seeds? Milkweed is an herbaceous perennial plant native to North America. Most species- with the exception of swamp milkweed- prefer dry and at the very least well-drained soil. Many wild milkweeds have been lost due to the widespread use of pesticides and the destruction of their native habitats. First, make sure you have seeds for a perennial milkweed that can be grown in your region. Caring for milkweed plants is easy since they are very low maintenance. Without them, the entire Monarch population would be lost. Milkweed comes in a variety of heights and shades of pink, red, orange, purple, white, and yellow. Make sure they get good airflow to prevent damping off, and keep the soil watered but not soaking wet. Water your newly planted milkweeds daily for at least two weeks during the dry season (October-May) until the roots are established. All are perennials in their native climates, but some- like tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) – are annuals if grown in northern regions. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a native herbaceous perennial whose main virtue is its appeal to butterfliesespecially the monarch, which deposits its eggs on the milkweed. The whorled milkweed (A. verticillata) is a lovely plant for those who want something a bit more shy (reaching about two feet tall max) that grows in zones 4-9. It doesn’t need to be fertilized. If you’ve been thinking about planting fall milkweed this season, November is the best time for most of us to complete this simple garden task. Plant milkweeds in full sun to ensure that they grow and flower well. If you do plant one of the faster spreading species such as Common Milkweed or Showy Milkweed which spread mainly by their rhizomes, you can bury a wide barrier such as … According to the document, milkweed seed should ideally be planted in the fall. They have a more informal than formal look and do well with similar plants. Fold it over or place another wet paper towel over top. These seeds are from a reliable grower and have good germination rates. The plant is also a food source for Native American tribes. Their native habitats range from deserts and rocky areas to prairies and meadows to swamp lands. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Common milkweed. Description Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata, has slender gray-green stems that grow vertically to 4 feet from a woody base.The plant’s spread can reach 2 feet or more. For example, tropical milkweed has bright red and yellow flowers, but it can only be grown as an annual in northern regions. Seeds start easily when sown outdoors in the fall and can also be started indoors. A. Monarch caterpillars are tolerant of these chemicals⁠—in fact, cardenolides are the very compound that protects the monarch from predation. Starting Milkweed Seeds Indoors If you want to start the plants indoors, place seeds between moist paper towels inside a sealed plastic bag or plant the seeds directly into peat pots covered with a sealed plastic bag. If you see white, yellow, and black-striped caterpillars crawling on your milkweed plants and eating the leaves, congratulations! Tankless Water Heater Cost & Pros and Cons – Are They Worth It? Many milkweeds are suited to dry soils but some, like swamp milkweed, need moist and rich soil to grow well. The nectar of milkweed flowers attracts pollinators like native bees and honeybees, but the plant itself is a host plant especially vital to Monarch butterflies. When the seedlings are about 3-6 inches tall, they can be transplanted outside. In my completely unscientific Roll the seeds in a damp paper towel, or place them in moist peat moss, and then put them in a plastic bag. While some seed predation will occur, exposure to cold temperatures and moist conditions during winter will stimulate germination. Milkweed spreads both by seed and by underground rhizomes. Swamp milkweed will likely benefit from a layer of mulch to keep the soil moist and weeds down. Use a good quality seed starting mix for best results. Don’t let the name fool you. You can recognize them by their distinctive yellow, white, and black stripes as well as by the two black antennae or tentacles that come out of the head. Keep the soil moist by misting, but seeds can rot if allowed to sit in soggy soil. Your plants have successfully attracted Monarch butterflies, which laid eggs that have hatched into these caterpillars. Sow your seeds in the area you want the plants to grow permanently. Established milkweed plants are rarely affected by pests or diseases. Make sure you leave the caterpillars alone to eat in peace. This plant has gained attention in recent years because some types are the sole host plant for monarch butterfly larvae (babies). Water your seed trays well and leave them in a warm place to germinate. Planting Time: Milkweed plants can be planted in spring or fall. Pollinator Plants of the Central US provides an overview of milkweed establishment practices for the lower Midwest and central United States. St. Paul, MN 55114. Many have adapted to different regions of the country and a wide range of climates and terrains, from deserts and rocky areas to marshes and open prairies. B. Seedpods with 1 open and showing its layers of seeds with their tufts of long silky hairs. The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs Water your new transplants well and give them water as needed for the next week or two until they get established. Tropical milkweed, for example, has to be grown as an annual in cold regions, so trying to start the seeds outdoors in the fall will be unsuccessful. In cold climates, plant seeds directly into the ground in autumn. Plant into containers, if desired, and place under a grow light inside about six weeks before soil temperatures outside have warmed. You can topdress the soil with compost every year to add some extra nutrients, but using a store-bought fertilizer isn’t necessary. The plants can grow to be 2-5 feet tall depending on species. If you transplant between June and September, the daily rains should take care of watering for you. This means you’ll want to sow your seeds or plant your seedlings in a permanent location rather than planning to move plants later. Some may be affiliate links, meaning we earn commissions on purchases. Predicting if and when milkweed seeds will grow is a loosing game. Around here, the ideal time is mid to late October. My method for germinating milkweed seeds works with pretty much any type of Milkweed seed. Seeds start easily when sown outdoors in the fall and can also be started indoors. Images used with permission. How to Grow Milkweed. Place seeds into a container of moist soil, cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least three weeks. How to Grow Milkweed Because it is a native plant, provided you plant the right species, milkweed is easy to grow. Much of this decline has been caused by the destruction of native habitats and plants, especially milkweed species. The long, oblong leaves are light green and grow to about 8 inches long. In spring, your milkweed plants will likely arrive in a dormant state, with no green leaves above the soil line. Here are a few cultivars to consider for your garden: Certain species of milkweed are showier than others. Milkweed is a much overlooked plant in the gardening world. The many varieties of milkweed plants bloom with both subtle and bright colors, and the whole milkweed plant is vital to the life cycle of Monarch butterflies as their sole host plant, and has also been used as a food source by Native American tribes. Fill in around each plant with soil and firm it down with your hands. You’ll want to get your seeds started 4-8 weeks before you plan to transplant them outside. Here are some ideas for what to do with it in your garden: There are lots of ways to use milkweed in your garden landscape so that both you and the Monarchs can enjoy it! Now that more is understood about the Monarch life cycle and migration pattern, gardeners and conservationists have begun to understand just how important this native plant is to saving the butterfly population. Get a paper towel wet, squeeze it out, and place your milkweed seeds on it in a single layer. The stems and leav… DIfferent species of milkweed prefer different soil types, but most varieties are tolerant of poor and imperfect soil conditions. After stra… Dig holes that are slightly deeper and 1-2 times as wide as the root ball of your plants. When seedlings start coming up and get a few inches high, you can thin them to the correct spacing for the variety you’ve planted. Sow the seeds about ¼ inch deep and cover them over with soil. Mix it in with other nectar sources like goldenrod, asters, Shasta daisies. You can identify milkweed in three ways: via its flower, its foliage, and its seed pods. Once your seeds sprout, place the flats under grow lights or by a sunny window. Milkweeds are the only host plants for Monarch caterpillars. Partnering to conserve the monarch butterfly migration, MJV Welcomes Butterfly Pavilion as a New Partner Organization, FAQ: December 2020 ESA Listing Decision for Monarch Butterflies, General Inquiries: info@monarchjointventure.org. Mark where its root are, and leave it undisturbed until spring warms up – you should see resprout at that time. Suite 200 Under these conditions, tropical milkweed produces higher cardenolide concentrations. Anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months is fine. Milkweed species are the only plants that Monarch caterpillars feed on. Here’s everything you need to know about milkweed plant and how to successfully grow milkweed plants in your garden. When it’s time to plant your seeds, prepare a seed starter flat or cell packs with already moistened soil. They get this when planted outside, but to speed up the growing process, treat the seeds through stratification. Mix in some compost if necessary to improve soil texture and drainage. If you want to prevent the seeds from sprouting in your garden, clip off the seed pods before the seed pods have a chance to open. Butterfly weed, common milkweed, and whorled milkweed should be spaced at least 18 inches apart. If you want to keep it spreading by seed, clip off the seedpods before they have a chance to mature and drop. The name “milkweed” comes largely from the milky white sap that will ooze out of stems and leaves when broken. I generally winter sow, as that is the easiest if you are trying to get a set number of plants. When emerging milkweeds have three to four sets of leaves, thin seedlings to 6 inches apart. It is best to plant the seeds as early as possible, but make sure that you plant after the last frost. They won’t cause enough damage to harm your plants, and they will one day hatch into beautiful butterflies. Milkweed seeds require stratification to germinate. Plant Milkweed The good news is that planting milkweed is one of the easiest ways that each of us can make a difference for monarchs. This little critter is a Monarch caterpillar. Then, when you are ready to sow seeds, start by getting your garden area ready. Dr. Chip Taylor, founder of Monarch Watch, points out that Tropical milkweed is the plant on which Monarch butterflies evolved. You can plant a variety of milkweed species alongside ornamental grasses, like the Bluestems, for a naturalized prairie look. However, there’s much more to this native flower than the name suggests. Most milkweed seeds start to germinate in 7-10 days. Plant milkweed in your garden and you’ll get to enjoy lovely colors, enchanting fragrance, and the happy sight of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds hovering around the flowers. After clearly labeling the sealed bag as \"milkweed seeds\" and dating it, place it in a refrigerator for 10 to 12 weeks. Because they are native plants, there’s no need to fertilize milkweed, and plants will likely do better without it. Milkweed is an important native plant that supports pollinators and especially Monarch butterflies. Place the plants in their holes so that the top of each root ball is just level with the soil line. Given time and reasonable respite from caterpillars, pink swamp milkweed can reach 2-3 feet tall. You can buy milkweed plants at your local garden center or a nursery that sells native plants, but it is also easy to grow milkweed from seed. But it turns out that planting milkweed may not, in fact, always be the right thing to do to save But when the card… Before planting the seeds, soak them in warm water for 24 hours to ensure that moisture breaks through their hard shells and reaches their tiny embryos. Once established, plants are very low maintenance and will start attracting butterflies as soon as they bloom. The blossoms range in color from light pink to purple, except in Once you have your planting area(s) and spacing figured out, you can plant your milkweed outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Otherwise, leave them on for interest and wildlife. Top of flowering plant. Common milkweed plants grow to about 2 to 4 feet in height, with a thin, vertical growth habit. In addition to the concerns over OE and disruption of migration behavior, emerging research suggests that tropical milkweed may actually become toxic to monarch caterpillars when the plants are exposed to the warmer temperatures associated with climate change. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive regular updates. When growing milkweed plant, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t transplant well due to the long taproot it grows. Spring planting is also possible but artificial stratification of the seed is recommended to enhance germination. Put the seeds and paper towels in a plastic bag and seal it shut. If you want more milkweed plants, you can easily collect the seeds in the fall and sow them elsewhere in your garden. 2161 University Ave W. Milkweed is sometimes known as "the butterfly plant," as it is the sole source of food for monarch caterpillars. For a contrast, pair milkweed with blue, purple, or rose-colored perennials like asters, cool colored salvias, and balloon flowers. This is a great milkweed species for smaller spaces, since plants top out at 2 or 3 feet. Your milkweed patch (es) may need revising during the season, but starting with a good plan now should keep alterations to a minimum. Where helpful to the reader, some posts may contain links to products. Resembling Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed), Asclepias purpurascens (Purple Milkweed) is a rhizomatous perennial prized for its domed clusters of rich rose-pink, starry flowers, which bloom from late spring to midsummer. Sow milkweed seeds by scattering them on the soil surface 1/4-1/2 inch apart, and then cover with about 1/4 inch of additional soil Over the years I’ve germinated hundreds of Milkweed Seeds! Start checking on your garden area in the spring. Remove or secure seed pods before they split open if you don’t want the plant to spread throughout your garden. It’s too warm for the ground to be frozen but too cold for seeds to sprout before winter sets in. Fill cell packs with high-quality seed-starting soil mix and drop three to four milkweed seeds per cell over the surface of the soil. Start milkweed seeds indoors 8 to 12 weeks before the last frost in your area. Sadly, the Monarch Butterfly population has decreased by about 90% over the last two decades or so. There are several dozen species of this wildflower native to North America, so no matter where you live, there is at least one milkweed … How Much Does it Cost to Tile a Floor For Your Home? And that’s why we’re here. Most varieties should go towards the back of the border because of their height. Alternatively, you could direct sow in the fall, or winter sow the seeds. Spring is the time to execute your final (initial) milkweed plan for the season. Starting seeds indoors in winter Most other milkweed species prefer dry conditions and will do better without any mulch. Work through the soil to break up clumps and get rid of rocks, weeds, and other debris. Cover the seeds with a quarter-inch of soil and water thoroughly. The adult butterflies can feed on the nectar of a variety of plants, but the caterpillars only eat milkweed leaves. working together to protect the monarch migration across the United States. Milkweed works well with a variety of annual and perennial plants, especially other natives. After the chilling process, you can plant just as you would in the fall. Perhaps the simplest thing to do is plant milkweed, an herbaceous perennial that’s the prime larval food source for monarchs. Tropical milkweed blooms during much of the year and reseeds freely. Occasionally, they will be bothered by aphids or whiteflies, which you can hose them off with a strong jet of water. And while you’re at it, why not learn how to grow other native flowers like columbine and purple coneflower? To grow Swamp Milkweed from seed, cold stratify in a moist paper towel in the refrigerator for 2 months, stored in a zip lock bag. If you plant tropical milkweed in your home landscape, do so with caution. It’s not as showy as some ornamental plants but still deserves a place in your garden and will send up lovely, star-shaped blooms home to the beautiful Monarch butterfly. Before actually sowing the seeds, you can mimic the winter conditions that break down the seed coat to improve germination. They develop long tap roots that don’t respond well to being disturbed. If you'd like to attract butterflies to your garden, growing milkweed is easy to do. 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