Whether you planted seeds last fall, started seeds and cuttings over winter, or delayed all your milkweed plans until now, most of us will be spring planting some milkweed.
Spring is the time to execute your final (initial) milkweed plan for the season. Your milkweed patch(es) may need revising during the season, but starting with a good plan now should keep alterations to a minimum.
7 Spring Planting Tips for Magnificent Milkweed
Spring Planting Milkweed Seeds Indoors
1. Introduce Milkweed to Adoring Fans…with Pitchforks?
If you’ve started seeds indoors, remember to use an oscillating clip fan (or a floor fan) to promote stronger, straighter stems. Leggy seedlings won’t often survive planting outdoors, or grow up the way you would like.
We recently staked Asclepias erosa seedlings with a simple method that doesn’t require tying them to anything. We used this simple staking technique in addition to the fan:
You can break off fork handles to adjust the height for smaller seedlings.
Two species that are known to start leaning are Showy Milkweed and the peculiar-podded Balloon Plant Milkweed , but you can use these techniques on other milkweed varieties or any plant species that is having a hard time staying vertically motivated…
2. A Soilless Start?
Did you forget to cold treat seeds? Milkweed seeds can be started directly in water with no cold treatment, although germination rate might be less for some species:
- Put milkweed seeds in a bowl of water
- Place the bowl inside a plastic baggie OR
- just place seeds in a container
- Set everything together on top of a heated seed mat
- When the seeds germinate plant the root side in soil with the attached brown seed cover sticking out of the dirt.
- If it’s too early to plant, stick them in a spring sowing container
Spring Planting Milkweed Seeds Outdoors
3. Water First
Wet the soil before planting your seeds so they won’t be instantly washed away to a location of your unchoosing or try spring sowing milkweed seeds
For returning perennials, water the soil and emerging shoots with a hydrogen peroxide mix (4 parts water to 1 part peroxide) to kill fungus that could negatively impact plant growth. We try to do this for any garden plant we’ve had past fungus issues with and all milkweed:
4. Protect Your Weed
Fence off your seedlings if there is a good chance of trampling by overzealous pets or small children. You’ll be surprised to find that some garden pests (like rabbits) might even give your milkweed a nibble between mouthfuls of their favorite fresh veggies.
Check out my fall planting guide that can also be used for spring planting seeds:
Spring Planting Milkweed Cuttings
5. Root Cuttings in Water for at least One Month
Cuttings are easiest to take from non-native tropical milkweed. Place them in distilled water for a month or longer. Cuttings are much sturdier than seedlings so they’re unlikely to be wiped out by stormy weather or a storming of the garden by unwelcome pests.
For more detailed instructions on growing milkweed from cuttings check out this post:
6. Water Wisely
After planting, water your cuttings every few days until they’re actively putting out new growth. Although most milkweed varieties are drought tolerant, this doesn’t apply to your baby cuttings and seedlings.
Spring Planting Milkweed Plants
7. Give Weed a Chance!
Are you sometimes too impatient waiting for milkweed plants to return in spring? ? Don’t give up on milkweed too early and dig up perfectly good plants! A good rule of green thumb is to put all questionable plant replacements at the end of your gardening to-do list.
While you’re focused on other garden preparation, some of the perennial plants you wrote off for dead might just surprise you…??
8. Grow a Patch
Grow at least 6 plants together so your monarch caterpillars don’t run out of food. If you have lone plants growing around your yard, check them regularly and transfer monarch caterpillars to other milkweed, if necessary.
Most milkweed species require moderately acidic soil with optimal PH levels between 4.8 and 6.8. If you’re having problems growing milkweed, consider a PH testing kit to see if this is a problem.
9. Grow SEVERAL Patches
Grow patches in different areas of your yard and garden. Weather and wildlife are the ultimate wildcards in your milkweed’s performance. Within the same yard, these two wildcards can affect each patch differently.
A couple years back, a freak hail storm wiped out all the plants on the north side of our house, but left the south garden virtually untouched. Imagine if our entire milkweed supply had been planted on the north side…
Planting all your milkweed in one patch is like putting all your pastries in a cookie jar, and giving them to a binge-eating blue monster for safe keeping…