Fall is the perfect time to get a head start on the monarch season for next year. If you’d like to start preparing for spring the easy way, plant your perennial milkweed seeds (and plants) in the fall.
Why is fall planting easier?
1. Cold Stratification Au Natural
Most milkweed requires a cold stratification process which helps your seeds to germinate. Old man winter takes care of this for you naturally by providing freezing temps outdoors.
2. Second Chances
If your seeds don’t sprout as planned next spring, you can easily replace them with seeds or plants. If you plant bad seeds in spring, by the time you realize it, it may be to late to replant for that season.
So plant seeds in fall, then make the necessary alterations next spring.
Milkweed ideas for fall planting
A wonderful addition to the butterfly garden if you stay one step ahead of it:
2. Asclepias viridis (Spider Milkweed)
A compact, early blooming milkweed that supports spring monarchs.
3. Asclepias purpurascens (Purple Milkweed)
Similar to common with richer purple blooms and a non-invasive growth habit
Host and nectar plant that prefers wetter soil. Ours thrives in partial sun.
5. Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)
Pretty pink and white star flowers that monarchs love. Also a Good Host Plant
6. Milkweed Plants
Seeds have a tendency to move around, so those who want to get their garden better-situated now can also buy plants. This will cost you a little more, but you won’t have to make ‘spring adjustments.’ Plants should be put in-ground upon arrival.
Planting your seeds
- Late October through November is prime time for fall planting- don’t plant too early down south
- Water the area first, so you can secure the seeds with mud instead of dirt
- Plant seeds about 1/4″ deep- if you stick your finger in the ground, this would be about the distance to your first knuckle
- Plant more than you need
- Thin out your milkweed seedlings in spring according to recommended distance for each species
- 6-10 milkweed plants is a good minimum per patch
- Give potentially invasive varieties like common milkweed more room to grow…perhaps outside the garden?
- Experiment- try growing the same species in different growing conditions (ie: amount of sun)
Those are 5 of the more popular milkweeds for butterfly gardens. There are many more you can try, but make sure they will grow in your region and research potential issues a species might have.
I don’t always stick to native plant guidelines, but I always make informed planting decisions. I research every plant before I add it to the mix, to make sure it’s something than can succeed in my region, isn’t invasive, and won’t require more effort than I’m willing to put forth.
Before planting perennial milkweed, learn what milkweeds are native to your region. Also, see if other milkweed species might be worth trying in your USDA hardiness zone. Garden experiments can be exciting…especially when they’re successful!