How To Harvest Milkweed Seeds…Fluff Be Gone!
1. Don’t Pick Pods Before Their Time
If you pick pods and open them to discover light brown (or white!) seeds, you won’t have viable seeds for planting. However, it’s no fun to separate seeds after the pods have burst open because of the fluffy mess! So what’s a milkweed gardener to do?
2. Use Rubber Bands or Twist Ties
These common household items can be lightly secured around milkweed pods to keep them from bursting open. Monitor the pods to see when they start splitting open and then cut off the pods to bring indoors. You can also press on the seam of each pod to see if it starts to pop.
If a milkweed pod won’t pop open easily, leave it for another time.
2a. Tie Organza Bags around the pods to collect the seeds. These are a great idea for gifting seeds for the upcoming holidays:
3. Wash or Spray Pods with Water
I got this idea when picking pods after a rain storm. All the fluff (coma) was matted down and the seeds were easy to separate. Leave the seeds in a bowl until they are thoroughly dry. This technique works well when you are picking a couple pods at once. If you have a massive amount of pods and seeds, it’s better to let the pods/seeds dry before separation.
Wash Warning: This one isn’t for milkweed seeds, but for your hands. Remember that milkweed sap can be an eye irritant, so always wash your hands thoroughly after handling.
4. Harvest Milkweed Seeds without the Fluff Part 1
5. Harvest Milkweed Seeds without the Fluff Part 2
Sometimes the fluff may have already started coming out of a pod you want to collect. Simply empty seeds and fluff into a paper bag with a few coins and shake. The coins help to separate the seeds. Then, cut a small hole in a bottom corner of the bag and shake out the seeds.
6. Harvest Milkweed Seeds without the Fluff Part 3 (Your Fired!)
While this method seems to separate the fluff, there is no mention of germination rate afterward. I have heard reports that this method kills some of the seeds. If you try this method, be careful not to blacken that green thumb!
Have you tried this fiery technique before? If so, please post a comment below and let us know your seed germination rate the next season.
7. Harvest Milkweed Seeds without the Fluff Part 4 (You’re Late!)
Did you forget to separate seeds upon harvesting? You can still separate the fluff indoors without making a mess…
Empty the contents of the seed pods inside a paper bag and put in a couple pennies. Close the bag and shake. The pennies will help separate the seeds.
After shaking vigorously, cut a small hole in the corner of the bag and the seeds should start pouring out. Shake more if necessary…
8. Storing Seeds
If you’re planting seeds next spring (or starting seeds indoors), it’s best to store them in your refrigerator. This gives them the cold stratification they need to come out of dormancy and sprout, when you finally plant them.
You can store milkweed seeds in paper or plastic bags.
If you store them in plastic bags, make sure they are completely dry before putting them in to avoid mold. I do this by leaving the seeds out in a bowl overnight. I have never had moldy milkweed seeds.
For an added layer of protection from refrigerator spills, you can place them inside another container. You’ll also want to clearly mark them so they don’t get thrown out, or used to spice up a Thanksgiving side dish!
I store seeds I’m not planting next season in a cupboard. Each bag is marked by milkweed species and the year they were harvested.
9. Fall Planting Seeds
This is you (hopefully) improving Mother Nature’s exterior design plan. Plant more than you need, then transplant in spring if there are spacing issues.
10. Extra Milkweed Seeds?
Donate your extra native milkweed seeds to Monarch Watch for their monarch habitat restoration efforts: Donate Milkweed Seeds Info
Questions or Comments about How to Harvest Milkweed Seeds? Please Post Them Below