Who grows milkweeds?

Grosse Ile, MI(Zone 6a)

Would be interested in discussing growing different milkweeds such as butterfly weed, common milkweed, swamp milkweed from seed. I am developing a large area of my property into a native plant garden and will be incorporating various milkweeds into the mix. Would like to get detailed growing techniques from anyone who has grown them from seed. Thanks. John

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I am planning on growing more varieties of milkweed this upcoming year, too. I don't have any practical experience yet, the two I have now were started from plants - one seeds itself back well in nearby cracks and crannies.
I've had good luck with Thompson and Morgan's instuctions, online says "slow & irregular germination, 30-120 days, at 65-85 degrees F". It doesn't say anything about needing light or needing dark. Another guide says to remove the silk before sowing. If you are going to direct sow, you might want to consider fall sowing - that is what Mother Nature does.
Having another native plant nearby to attract beneficial insects would probably be a good idea, Butterfly larva aren't the only thing that munches on them, there is also milkweed beetle(s) - if they get the buds then there aren't blossoms for the butterflies, which happens frequently on wild patches in this area. One of the reasons I'm planting them is that they attract aphids, which in turn attract ladybugs and lacewings. So far, I only get butterfies on them in the fall, & no larva, I'm hoping more and different types will help.

NE Medina Co., TX(Zone 8a)

I remember what someone said about milkweeds once. Something about milkweed having the word "weed" in it...and yet they can be very difficult to grow. I think different milkweeds requires certain growing conditions. And many of them won't grow or won't last unless it had its own particular habitat or conditions. The only native milkweed that does very well on my property is the kind that grows here in the wild anyway. Another local native milkweed does grow, but does not exactly thrive on the property...at least I haven't seen that YET...but hope to. And then there is the nonnative Mexican Milkweed, which does fairly well, other than sometimes dying over the winter. Since Mexico isn't that far away from here, I figure it's kind of like a native also, more native here than a milkweed from the NE or NW U.S.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Yes, a lot of our Xeric and Native plants were weeds until just recently - and may be weeds again! For the milkweed, I'm going to get named variety weeds (with the help of DG plantfinder) and start them in pots under lights. I'll probably end up killing them with kindness.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

I generally do Scarlet every year... i get a few volunteers, but they rarely go to seed
I ran out of Silky Gold, didnt get any seed this year.
I have Swamp, believe it or not, in quite dry conditions... they did great last year.
this year should be the first blooming year for Butterflyweed
and i will be trying "Purple" this year.

I have plenty of "Common" MW in the field next to my home.

all of mine grow in a xeriscaping environment... as i do not water out where they are, as my hose does not reach.... If they do not tolerate dry conditions, I don't grow them.

NE Medina Co., TX(Zone 8a)

It's surprising how these tough native plants can survive! We had the worst summer I've seen here and the driest two years. And yet some milkweed out on the property survived...this fall, lots of rain returned and then the milkweeds reappeared where they had been before. Nature is amazing! Texas Milkweed...what they look like when they bloom.

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Buffalo, NY(Zone 6a)

I grow swamp milkweed and butterflyweed in clay soil. Both originally came from seed. The swamp milkweed flourishes; the butterflyweed requires lightening of the soil with extra compost, and even then, it's not abundant. If given a bit of light fertilizer after germination, the swamp milkweed can mature, bloom, and set seed in its first year!

Linden, TX

I've had very good luck germinating butterfly weed this year. I put them in moist sand in a ziplock bag and in the refrigerator for 30 days back in the hot part of the summer. Then I put them in a flower pot which I first filled with potting soil and then did a light sifting over the potting soil of a mix of course sand and dried powdered clay. Water this and then put in the seeds. The seeds need light and heat (I used the summer heat) to germinate. I put some seeds into a pot to germinate in my greenhouse about the time the cold weather arrived and although they started germinating the absence of heat (I barely heat my greenhouse) has slowed their growth. Also I had some seeds this summer that I had put in peat in the refrigerator to stratify and when I took them out, I took to the hot greenhouse, but I forgot about them and came back several days later and practically all of the seeds were sprouting.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

OH.. i want to add.... I have success winter sowing all the milkweeds that I have... nothing special, just WS then plant them out... water as seedlings, then they are on their own.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Just found this photo of the Swamp Milkweed I WS'ed in 2008. The seeds were marked Butterfly Weed... and when the blooms were PINK, i knew that was an incorrect ID.

you can see how dry the soil is, and they are just about to open. This was June 30th of this year. they bloomed, produced seed pods, and i pretty much missed the whole thing... by the time i got home, all the pods had blown their seeds and i was not able to collect any.

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Grosse Ile, MI(Zone 6a)


Really nice photo of your swamp milkweed in bloom, it amazes me how tall it can get in its first season from seed. Just curious what the blue tarp is doing there, is it to smother weeds? John

Grosse Ile, MI(Zone 6a)


Have you grown butterfly weed in prior years also, and if so how long did it take for them to get their first blooms? I hear it can take a couple years sometimes. John

Grosse Ile, MI(Zone 6a)

I don't have very much common milkweed growing in my area, actually I think there is more swamp milkweed than any other kind. Last year I drove all over the place searching for common milkweed and gathered a quart jar full of common milkweed seed, that's right, not the pods but cleaned seed only! O.k., I guess I overdid it, there must be a billion seeds in that jar, way more than I need, if anyone needs some give me a yell. I hear these take a couple years to bloom from seed also, anyone have experience growing these from seed to flower stage? Just curious how long it took for yours to bloom. Common milkweed is the most fragrant of all milkweeds in my opinion, wow do they smell great, especially if you find a big patch of them! John

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

John... it's 'sort of' covering a dirt mound. The tarp is pretty well dry rotted, and the pile of dirt is getting smaller... but it's still there. OH.. but the worms love it in there. I find tons of them. The weeds are getting a bit out of control though... the neighbor does not pull the weeds on her side...

the pile itself sits half way on their side, half way on our side... though it isn't even our property... but we maintain it. DH and the neighbor, they use the soil to fill holes, retaining walls etc. In the 8 yrs we've been here... it's out 3rd pile.

this was spring of 2008... the first year i planted around the pile. I, very thoughtfully, left a spot open where you can get in with a wheelbarrow ... the neighbor lady did not. Her side is filling in very nicely with my winter sown plants.

Should be very pretty this year again.

This message was edited Dec 15, 2009 2:12 PM

Thumbnail by tcs1366
Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

jmgi- I grew my common milkweed from seed that I collected locally and fall-sowed with little regard to detail (pre DG days) In spring I found telltale seedlings with opposite leaves in that spot, I don't recall if they bloomed first year or not. That was fifteen years ago at least. At this point, it would take heavy artiliery to get all the common milkweed out of my garden, It makes thick deep rhizomes. It blooms every year. Milkweed moths and bugs come and go but I have flowers every year, the bugs don't hurt my buds, just get into the seedpods. This was my best year ever for monarch cats, maybe because frost came late. I agree it smells wonderful! I pull some so the bed doesn't get overtaken.
I grew swamp milkweed from WS seed and its in its second year, it seems very tough but hasn't bloomed yet.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

The milkweed I planted this past year was orange-flowered A. tuberosa, I think it must be what you are calling Common Milkweed. It was a tiny plant from a nursery in a 2" pot. It did not bloom the first year. I planted it two years ago also, but it turned out to be a mislabled penstemon with the exact same leaf shape - the penstemon did bloom the first year.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

A. tuberosa is Butterfly Weed. Second yr bloomer... i'm hoping to see some flowers this year.
I also hear it does not like to be moved.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

pollengarden-- getting a Penstemon instead of the Asclepias, is not such a bad deal! What I am calling common milkweed, is A. syriaca, the pink flowered one. Sorry for being unspecific.

Auburn, AL(Zone 8a)

I grow butterfly weed(A. tuberosa) Blood flower(A. curvassica) and a new entrant last year A. tuberosa var. Hello Yellow. The strange thing is that the scion out of butterfly weed outperforms its parent. I have never had a milkweed bloom so much.
This past year when the monarchs came through they ate most of the hello yellows and only left stems. Within a month they had filled back out and were blooming again. If you are interested in feeding monarchs in the south you need this milkweed as it continues to bloom and provide a food source long after our other milkweeds. Was still blooming when it hit 25 degrees and that stopped it.

North Little Rock, AR(Zone 7b)


Does the Hello Yellow have shiny leaves or are they more rough and sort of hairy? I have just finished cold stratifying this seed and am waiting for it to germinate. I hope I have as much luck with 'Hello Yellow' as you've had.


Adairsville, GA(Zone 7b)

You guys sold me on Hellow Yellow. I ordered 2 plant yesterday. I also have Cinderella seeds sprouting the the greenhouse. I planted my first milkweed last year, regular orange butterfly weed; I just hope it returns this year. Is it a pretty hardy plant?

Grosse Ile, MI(Zone 6a)

The orange butterfly weed is very hardy once it gets established, it should come back the second year without any problem, unless it stays too wet where it is planted, they prefer very well drained locations.

This message was edited Mar 25, 2010 7:51 PM

Adairsville, GA(Zone 7b)

Thanks, jmgi!

Farmington, NM(Zone 5a)

we get a lovely wild (at least, not planted by me) light pink milkweed all along the edge of our patio where the rainspout drips. i've tried spreading it but it seems to only grow where it decides to go on its own. it often gets 4-5 ft tall by the end of summer on the east side of the house and i use the pods and fluff for crafts, and the milk of course for insect bites. the butterflies and hummingbirds are always around it but i don't think the hummingbirds actually eat from it, they must just like the color and smell.

i have tried growing the orange butterfly weed several years now and still no luck. it sprouts well and as soon as i transplant it dies. i have also tried direct sowing the seeds outside and never saw any of those even sprout. i think it is just too hot and dry here for them, even though i went out of my way to buy from a high desert supplier so they should have been desert adapted.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

cerridwenn - I've wondered about the orange A. tuberosa too. It is supposed to be a native here - but I have never seen it growing in the wild, but I have seen several other types growing wild. I have finally got some started, but it hasn't impressed me yet.

NE Medina Co., TX(Zone 8a)

I've never seen A. tuberosa in the wild here or in local nurseries either. I got two plants by mail, but they must have died last summer, haven't come back.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I was told that because of the tuberous root, they are tricky to establish - you can't keep them too wet or too dry. The one(s) that made it were from a local nursery in small 2" pots planted in a quart-pot-sized improved soil hole in buffalo grass. I watered them well for 2-3 weeks then forgot about them. I don't know if that is what they like or if I was lucky. Also, my soil is clay and they are supposed to prefer sandy soil. I've been reading about milkweed in the butterfly forum, and I think A. tuberosa probably grows too slow for people who are serious about feeding Monarchs. On the other hand, the slow growth seems less prone to aphids.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Hi everyone. I was going to initiate a new thread about-- the same topics, then I saw this thread. Different variety of 'milkweeds'. I love them for the benefit of butterfly attraction. More and more I'm leaning toward native plants for many different reasons. But, right now I've a specific question for those that may have had experience with growing 'Blue Milkweed' or Southern Stars, Tweedia cerulea. I just bought one. Would love to hear more about this lovely plant that will add a shade of light blue into the butterfly garden this year.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

No one is familiar with this particular milkweed? The Southern Star?

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

weird... when i googled it, i found this Plantfiles entry.... http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/54656/
Oxypetalum caeruleum

I'd never heard it of... but I guess when i was looking into different Milkweeds, i was using Asclepia as my search term.

that one sure is beautiful!!

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I'm not familiar with it, and it wasn't in Sunset.
AHS Encyclopedia says "Tweedia caerulea syn Oxypetalum caruleum: Herbaceous, twining climber with white-haired stems. Small, fleshy, pale blue flowers, maturing purple, appear in summer and early autumn. Has green fruits to 6in long. Height 3ft/1m. Symbols: Sun, well-drained (not toxic). USDA Zone 12-15, Heat zone 12-10." Also "Tweedia: Asclepiadaceae. Genus of herbaceous, twining climbers; only one species is in general cultivation. In cool climates may be grown as an annual. Grow in sun and in well-drained soil. Pinch out tips of shoots to encourage branching. Propagate by seed in spring."
I couldn't find it in the USDA plants database. Is it not a Native?

NE Medina Co., TX(Zone 8a)

It's from South America. I wonder if it would even work as a host plant for our Monarchs.

Hammond, LA(Zone 8b)

I have alot of Milkweed seeds if anyone would like some. They are the only host plant for Monarchs. I actually started a page on Facebook called "Spread the Love for Butterflies - Plant host and nectar plants!" is anyone would like to join. The more the merrier :-)

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Spread the Love for Butterflies - Plant host and nectar plants ...

I just joined. :-)

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

The light blue blooms of this plant is very attractive. I decided to keep it in a container for the time being. Lighting isn't right. Sorry the pic. didn't turn out very well. I'll see if Monarch will use this type of milkweed as hostplant this year.

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Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

I've just seen this thread so sorry for the lateness & it's lengthiness. I grow Tropical Milkweed & this was my 2nd yr. Last year I started them from seed in a planter, in spring last year & they came up beautifully.. I got over 12 Monarch caterpillars on them & though they decimated them the milkweeds came back later. This year I planted more TMW in a garden area as I heard they will reproduce a lot & they came up nicely ( again) but no Monarchs in my garden this year. I also grew Swamp Milkweed but only 1 came up & it was a short stem...it lost it's leaves but it didn't die totally. I read where it takes 3 years to fully mature for the SMW... so I am hopefull.
The onyl problem is when I went to save the TMW pods I didn't transfer them over in time to a dry spot so they are all mildewy & I threw them out. I am not concerned as these were only going to be for trade etc. TMW is a perenniel & will grow again next year....I did happen to just throw a few smaller extra TMW pods onto the garden so I'll see if anything happens next year.

I have seen other types of milkweeds in the field trips I've had this past summer..some are TX natives & are quite interesting. I would have more but they are poisonous & I have dogs.
Hope this has helped you.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

My Swamp MW [Asclepias incarnata] was mature, i think, in it's second year. and they get HUGE.
I had one in my Wisc garden that was probably 48" tall and 30" wide.

for the pods on any of the asclepias, just let them dry, and once the crack open, put them into a paper bag.... or you may be able to scoop out the seeds before it get to the "poofy" stage, and get them in a paper bag so they can fully dry.

Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

TCS we were going into a cold spell at the time so I didn't want to wait too long otherwise I knew they would be no good.. I did pick them early but they would have been good if I had transferred them to a paper bag instead of leaving them in a plastic one... as sure enough the 2nd day after I picked them we got frost & it wiped all of the TMW out!

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

another item i use for storing seeds until dry are coffee filters... the cone shaped ones.

You... luckily have a much longer growing season than we do up north... .but I had a Silky Gold still blooming in Nov. problem is, Cats are long gone as are the butterflies.... and no time to set seeds.

Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

Silky Gold huh... I'm going to look that one up!! Sometimes our growing season is longer but Texas has such fickle weather we can't always rely on that....hahaha

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