Coveted by gardeners and butterfly enthusiast alike, this simple and exotic plant is a wonderful addition to any garden. Growing this wonderful and very rewarding plant is so simple and easy… but I am getting ahead of myself.
For years, in my childhood, we would look in the fields near my grandmother's place for the " just starting to open up" seed pods of the ever-wonderful milkweed. Knowing these plants would be covered with caterpillars and fun seeds to play with made it the highlight of a summer day. We had no idea of the value of this plant to the native world around us, and never saw one in a garden. But times changed and we grew smarter and wiser and now I would not want to see my garden without this wonderful and basic plant.
The biggest thing to know about this wonderful plant is--if you plant them, the butterflies will come. They will come and they will feast. They will lay their eggs, and they will grow up in this wonderful plant that they will come back for next season. They will grow and love this simple plant that anyone and grow with some tips and some planning.
The tap roots are the life blood of the milkweed family. Break the roots and the plant dies. This makes moving and transplanting milkweed very difficult at best. They hate to be moved, so normal methods of growing seedlings in little pots and moving them into the garden will not always work for this plant. Sowing the seeds in the fall in the area they are to grow in or in the pots they will grow in is the best method for growing this wonderful plant. If you are in areas where the tropical milkweed will grow, plant them in the pots they will grow in and plant them, pot and all, in the garden when you are ready.
Full sun is needed for most milkweeds and they are simple to grow. They like moist soil but, on the whole, do not thrive in water-clogged soil. The wonderful thing about this plant is there are few absolutes. Some will take standing water, some will take dry and rarely watered soil. Digging into the native milkweeds for your area is a very rewarding experience. Looking for the milkweed in the wild is the best way to find plants that will grow and love your yard and garden. Take long slow drives into the countryside around your garden and keep your eyes open for the milkweed growing all around the road sides - keep mental notes and watch for the seeds to start flying!
Want more blooms? Pinch out the flowers after they bloom but before the seeds start and they will start to grow new blooms. Given time, you can have three or four flushes of blooms before you let them go to seed. Gathering the seeds will be much better than letting them throw their seeds all over the garden unless you want a few of them everywhere. Once gathered, plant at once in any area you need a few plants growing and keep them moist over the winter. They need somewhere in the between seven to eight weeks of cold to start the growth process and they will grow and turn into wonderful and stunning plants that will turn into butterfly magnets in the garden.
Thank you to poppysue for the images.
About Mitch Fitzgerald
I am a pentecostal preacher, gardener,husband, and a father. I love natives, daylilies, iris, and roses. I love teaching others, be they children or adults, about the garden and plants.