Milkweed Cuttings Make Plant Propagation A Snip
While starting seeds indoors always gave me satisfaction of seeing my baby plants magically transform each summer, there were definitely lots of growing pains along the way:
- Bad seeds can put your garden way behind schedule (or force you to buy plant$)
- Seedlings can get leggy unless you use grow lights and/or an oscillating fan to promote stronger stems
- Fragile seedlings can die inside
- Fragile seedlings can die during outdoor transplanting
- Seedlings can drown, bake, or get blown away
- Did I mention our rambunctious four-legged friends?…Oh Deer!
While milkweed seeds can do the job, they just don’t measure up to cuttings for growing new plants…especially in the case of annual varieties (for most) like swan milkweed (Gomphocarpus fruticosus), and tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica).
After your first season starting milkweed seeds, you’ve basically won the ‘milkweed lotto’ for life if you take advantage of your mature plants…you won’t even have to pay taxes!
Milkweed Cuttings Benefits
- No pots, no soil, no mess if you keep the cuttings in water
- Doesn’t require grow lights, window placement will suffice
- Require minimal care compared to seeds
- Cuttings will grow, flower, and seed much quicker than seedlings
- Cuttings are strong, sturdy, and dependable for transplanting
- Plant cuttings are the gift that keeps giving…100% free!
Check out this quick how to grow from cuttings video to see how much simpler your milkweed prep can be:
Tips to Grow from Cuttings (UPDATED AFTER VIDEO)
- Tropical milkweed (A. curassavica), butterfly weed (A. tuberosa), cuttings can be rooted in water. My balloon plant milkweed (G. physocarpus)and swan milkweed (G.fruticosus) cuttings rotted in water, although others have reported success with these varieties.
- Root overwintering plants anytime between January and April. Start to grow from cuttings at least one month before planting outside
- Fill cuttings containers (I use 20oz clear plastic cups) with distilled water (not tap water) because it has a neutral PH level and no additives or elements that could potentially harm developing plants OR
- If you have a floral tube set up for feeding caterpillars, try using those to hold stem cuttings instead
- Place plastic wrap over each cup and secure it with a rubber band
- Use gloves or wash hands thoroughly after handling milkweed to avoid getting milkweed sap in your eyes later. This can cause burning and a few unfortunate souls have even had to go to the emergency room for treatment.
- Make sure you only take milkweed cuttings from your healthiest plants
- Take cuttings under water or rinse cut area afterwards to insure water uptake
- Use hand pruners or scissors
- Cut at an angle just below a leaf node (while this is not as important for tropical milkweed, it’s a good habit to get into for taking cuttings in general)
- Your stem cutting should be roughly 4″ long or 3-5 leaf nodes. You can take multiple cuttings from the same stem.
- Pinch off all foliage (except the top two leaves). Leaves submerged in water can cause bacteria and give off an unpleasant odor
- Rinse off each cutting thoroughly with water (or soak in a 9 parts water, 1 part bleach solution) to remove potential OE spores
- Pierce the plastic with a small phillips-head screwdriver and then put each cutting through the plastic, except for the top stem and leaves. Give cuttings adequate space from each other for root growth and to avoid rotting
- Speed Tip 1– Use a heated seedling mat for faster root growth
- Speed Tip 2– try a liquid rooting hormone to stimulate root growth
- Speed Tip 3– Using a cloning machine? We replaced our foam inserts with rockwool cubes because the foam was causing the cuttings to rot at the insertion point. We still use foam to cover the holes where there aren’t any cuttings.
- Place cuttings in an area away from direct sunlight, but receiving some light. Ours are on a table where they get a couple hours of dappled sunlight every afternoon. This has worked well for root growth.
- If you keep milkweed cuttings in water more than a month, switch water and containers to avoid rotting
- Cuttings can be potted or transplanted after 1-2 months (or after you see a few 1″ white roots emerge )
- Fall cuttings give you a huge head start and more cuttings to choose from (however, you’ll have to pot the plants indoors after a couple months to prevent rotting)
- Spring cuttings can also be directly planted after last frost date if you use rooting hormone powder
- If stems start rotting you can try recutting if rotting has only occurred at the base. Otherwise, discard the rotten apples and start over…
So, a few months after starting tropical milkweed from cuttings, what new growth can you expect??