Category Archives: Milkweed

Free Milkweed Plants for Schools and Non-Profits

Monarch Watch is offering free milkweed plants to schools and non-profits.

Here are the details.

“If your school or non-profit educational organization is interested in this conservation measure, we can help you create a habitat for monarchs and pollinators.

Please apply using this form:

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Swamp Milkweed Cuttings

Asclepias incarnata

RESULTS – this seems to be working,
The cuttings seem to be rooting in just two weeks.

See the picture below.

Incarnata cuttings after two weeks.

I’m testing out Asclepias incarnata cuttings – Swamp Milkweed.

I’m using my standard cuttings method using rooting hormone.
I took two cuttings from this tall plant and hopefully both will root.

I have tried just putting these in water, but that method did not work.

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Clipped Seeds – Milkweed

Native milkweed seeds usually need one to three months of cold stratification for the seeds to germinate and even then, I’ve found that sometimes the seeds won’t germinate outside.

One technique I am trying out is clipping off the pointy end of the seed and then put them in water which I change daily.
I’ve found that fingernail clippers work well to cut off the end.

While the “directions” I got maintain that I need to use distilled water and change the water every 12 hours, I’ve had good results using tap water and changing the water every 24 hours.

About 60% of the seeds germinate within 2 to 3 days.
At that point I put them in my potting mix with the root pointed down into the soil.

I water the mix around the seed and make sure not to move the seed.

I then cover the cells with a clear plastic top and put my lights right on top of the mini-greenhouse.

I’m also testing, clipping the seeds and putting them directly into my moist soil mix.

I’ll post pictures later to see how these plants do.

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Monarch Population Down 26%

The latest data from Mexico shows the Monarch population is down 26% from the previous year.

graph showing winter monarch population numbers

If you’d like to provide support for the Monarchs as they come north, you need to plant as much milkweed as possible. Here are some varieties that I have tried in the past.

Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed – Asclepias incarnata
Does best it wet soil, but will grow for three years in typical garden soil. Save the seeds and replant in the fall or start inside after cold stratification. If you have large clumps, you can also separate them as new plants. This is the one milkweed in St. Louis that will come up and be available for egg laying in April.

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed – Asclepias tuberosa
Does best in poor dry soil. Like lots of sun.

Tropical Milkweed

Tropical Milkweed – Asclepias curassavica
Easy to grow annual. I start these seeds around March 15th to have plants ready for Monarchs around April 15th.

Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed – Asclepias syriaca
While this plant is easy to grow in almost any setting, it does wander all over the garden and out into the yard. If you have the space where it can wander then give it a try. I took mine out. I’ve grown it in a large pot for a couple of years, but it died out.

Other Milkweeds I have tried, but without long-term success.

  • Asclepias-exaltata Poke milkweed
  • Asclepias hirtella – Tall Green Milkweed
  • Asclepiad purpurescens – Purple Milkweed – lovely, but doesn’t last.
  • Asclepias Speciosa -Showy Milkweed
  • Asclepias sullivantii – Sullivans Milkweed
  • Asclepias verticillata Whorled Milkweed

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Doubling Milkweed

Rooting Tropical Milkweed

One of the easiest ways to double your tropical milkweed plants is to take cuttings from the new seedling plants and put them into water. I’ve found that aluminum cans works well. In around two weeks your cuttings will have roots which you can plant into new containers.

Below is what my old plants look like after I cut them down and let them grow back for two weeks.

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Ten Day Vacation Germination

Since I had a ten day Florida vacation planned, I thought I’d try and germinate my tropical milkweed seeds while I was gone.

March 11, 2020

The trick is to keep the seeds moist and warm during that time and make sure they don’t dry out. I not only watered the seed bed well, but I also covered it with a plastic well-fitting top. I put the shop lights right above the plastic lid. I then left on vacation and after ten days, this is what I came home to.

March 21, 2020
March 21, 2020

I came home to hundreds of seedlings and look forward to transplanting them into other containers.

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Separating Milkweed

Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, is one plant that lends itself to separating after growing a year or two.

We recently had a nice day for cleanup and pulled up some milkweed by mistake. This actually turned out to be good since this gave us an opportunity to divide some of the clumps.

In most cases there are natural divisions which are easy to pull apart. In this one picture I ended up with five plants from one clump.

Another advantage of dividing plants is that swamp milkweed is a short-lived perennial in our area and this gives you more plants to grow.


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Swamp Milkweed Importance

It’s April 21st and in St. Louis we have just been visited by our first Monarch butterfly. This was a female looking for milkweed to lay eggs on.

What is interesting to note is that just six days ago, we had frost yet the cooler temperatures have not hurt the monarchs or the milkweed.

Unless you have started milkweed from seed, most people won’t have any milkweed to provide the visiting monarchs.

Swamp Milkweed is one of my favorites in spring as it has a lovely form and beautiful flowers.

The problem we have is that it only lasts three or so years before it dies off. The problem is probably the hot dry summers we have, which is not conducive to any plant with swamp in it’s name.

To avoid having to buy new plants every year, make sure you collect the seeds when they ripen on the stem, put them in a paper bag and then plant them in late fall where you want them to grow. Next year you will be rewarded with lots of new plants free of any cost. You can also buy seeds online and plant them outside in the fall.

Another trick I have learned is that your can dig up plants early in the spring and divide them. This way you may end up with six plants instead of one.


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Monarch Plants Needed

Tom back0Try planting directly into soil May 1st. – 120
Tom front70
Kennerly School20Plus 200 seeds for kids
Concord Elem.20
Jean’s school20
Note – as of March 15 I have 280 plants – 80% germination.

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113,000 Seeds – $17.59

asclepias-113000I just found a deal on milkweed seeds that I thought I’d share. I just bought 113,000 asclepias curassavica seeds for just $17.59.

I got them from The link will take you to this offer.

asclepias-oregon-800Note – the main Monarch migration is going through St. Louis right now, so get outside and enjoy this phenomenon.


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