I always fail with milkweed, need some advice

novicegardenerevanOctober 7, 2012

For some reason I can never get milkweed (be it swamp, showy, or prairie) to germinate; they just never do when I winter sow. Milkweed is one of my most favorite flowers do you have any advice on properly germinating them?

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nan-6161(Zone 7 Long Island, NY)

I have had both the orange and the rose pink wintersow easily with good germination in the containers. You've tried WSing them? And nothing germinates?

We all have our "holy grail" plants - - -ones that ohters can get and WE CAN'T for whatever reason. Mine is Monkshood. :(

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 11:09PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

I have planted the rose pink twice and don't remember my experience the first time, but two years ago, I found that they were rather late in sprouting. I had all my perennial containers with the tops off and nothing was happening to the milkweed until after a night of heavy rain. Perhaps you may be discarding the containers too soon. Try giving them a little more time - well into May and see what happens. They are so beautiful and really attract the Monarchs.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 2:24AM
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I don't have trouble wintersowing milkweed, it's getting it to thrive in the garden that's been a problem for me.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 7:27AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Try both wintersowing and heavily direct sowing in prepeared soil and just raking the seeds into the soil gently and watering in.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 8:41AM
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I'm a novice and haven't WS milkweed before but I have grown it from seed at random times and have found that it does take some time to germinate. For that reason I have ws some A. incarnata and A.tuberosa seeds this month (I know it's early but maybe it'll work?). Anyone else try early sowing for seeds that take their time?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 7:05AM
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really, just get tons and tons of seeds and throw them on the ground all over the places you want it. It will germinate someplace that it likes and go nuts.

Dont even bother with the bottles.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 7:34PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

If you need tons and tons of seed to "throw on the ground" I have tons collected from the past several years. I'll never use them all, and it's a shame for them to go to waste. I have mostly A. incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) Let me know if any one want some for a SASBE.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 7:07PM
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Yeah I have to say that I agree with dorisl on this one because I've never had much luck doing Milkweed in jugs but when I did have it in my yard I always got at least 1 or 2 volunteers the next year. I haven't had it in a few & I miss it so I might also take docmom up on her seed offer. :)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 7:18AM
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I also agree with doris1. I planted, must be well over 500 seeds (orange-flowering and swampt milkweed) in the ground last fall. Only about 20 of them sprouted this year.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 8:32AM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

I only have tuberosa, but they like lots of sun and good soil drainage. They don't need much water. Amending the soil with compost helps.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 7:42AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I have a Monarch Waystation, and raise Monarchs, so I'm always trying to grow milkweeds. I've winter-sown at least 10 or 12 species, and they have all sprouted pretty well. In my experience they don't need much cold stratification and can be sown in late winter or early spring.

It's possible that you have bad seeds. One way I check the viability of larger seeds like milkweeds is that I take a sharp blade or scissors and cut the seed in half. You should see a little white seed embryo inside.

Getting Asclepias species to grow successfully in the garden is another story! What a fussy genus. I still haven't figured much out, but it seems that the plants must be matched with growing conditions they like. And even then, they are subject to all manner of insects, wilts, critter damage, etc. I've waited 3 and 4 years for the Asclepias purpurascens to bloom and some dumb critter keeps nipping the buds off!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:26AM
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I have had a great deal of luck propagating my milkweed from cuttings...........it roots very easily in water. Then you can plant it where you want it. Trying to move it from one place to another rarely works...they are just too sensitive to moving.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 3:48PM
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and they come back year after year.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 3:50PM
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I like this post, I've went thru lots of seed pack and got no germination. I was thinking of buying a plant from the nursery.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 6:13PM
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mechele211(TN 6b)

The first time I ws'd butterfly weed I waited until February to plant it and I had good germination. Those original plants have done well and reseeded around the yard, which is a good thing because I have never been able to get it to germinate again from ws'ing. Go figure. Just keep trying. Once you have it started it is very long lived and will likely spread on its own.
This year I had several monarch caterpillars. I brought one inside with a leafy stem and it ended up crawling away and attaching itself to the wall. Luckily I was home when the butterfly emerged. Sorry for the picture quality. I snapped it with my phone.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 11:27PM
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Wow, that's awesome, Mechele!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 7:04PM
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i have a hobby farm and 2 or so natural milkweed spots that keep spreading. i have tried for over 15 years to eradicate it with out success this is n il farm country they seem to spread to the east which is where the wind blows them this is the end of the year and they have been gone [pods empty] for at least a month. they have been a weed to me as long as i have known them. i didn't know there were different kinds. my instructions as a child with a hoe was to kill em all

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 4:27PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Krt1 - You are probably referring to common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. It is a hardy plant, but not a great garden plant because it spreads by runners hither and yon. It is weedy, and IIRC it may be somewhat toxic to livestock. So I guess many gardeners and farmers consider it a pest.

Monarch populations have been declining over the past decade or two because their habitats are declining. People should try to preserve a patch or two of Milkweed if they can. Even a few plants growing in the corner of a yard makes a difference, but the more the better.

Some pics from my Monarch year 2012. These are large 5th instar caterpillars, inside a butterfly enclosure, eating their milkweed stalks.

Here are the same caterpillars emerging from their their chrysalises - there are 25 Monarchs here, the most i've had eclose in one day.

This is the milkweed field where I collect stalks of milkweed to supplement feeding the caterpillars, also have collected eggs here.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 2:49PM
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