Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Milkweed Seeds

This is not a "how to" blog post.

This is a "what I'm doing" blog post.

After consulting various websites about how to grow milkweed from seed, I have settled on the following attempts.

I opened the pod watching in awe as the milkweed silk nearly bust out in a big pouf.  My wonderful husband helped me by taking these photos as my hands were full.

I put the milkweed silk and seeds into a plastic container which I have a lid for.

It took a bit to keep it from flying out even inside the house with no air moving.

I added a few coins to the container.  This is ALL the change I had in my purse at the time.


No photos here, but I'm sure you can picture me shaking and twirling the container (with the lid on) to remove the seed from the silk.  It worked fairly well.  I had to pull a few seeds from the silk by hand.

The seeds got a little chipped in this process but I'm sure it won't affect them germinating.  Maybe I shook and twirled for too long?

Butterfly Encounters says the best way to plant milkweed seed is to just put it out in November and let mother nature do her thing.  Milkweed seed needs cold moist stratification.  You can also fake this in the refrigerator.  I didn't use the horticulture sand mentioned by Butterfly Encounters.  I used a damp paper towel as I read on another website (which I've lost the link to).  I've decided to try both processes.

I put about half the seeds on the damp paper towel.

After folding the damp paper towel, I placed it in a labeled zipper bag.  This went into the refrigerator where it will wait until after the last spring frost to plant the seeds.

The rest of the seeds were planted in the garden.  To remind myself where they are planted, I made markers with these teal plastic forks.

I just barely covered the seeds with soil, watered them gently and put a little straw there too to help hold some moisture in the area.

Even if the label wears off over the winter, these are the only teal plastic forks in the garden.

In the spring, I'll plant the seeds currently in the refrigerator.  Hopefully, between the two methods, something will grow.

We'll see what spring brings!


  1. Good luck on your milkweed. Another way is the winter sowing method, but both of these should work also.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. I am so excited to see how this turns out. I LOVE and miss seeing milkweed, I took it for granted once as it was everywhere - along with echinacea in purple and yellow!!!! Ah I am looking forward to this.

    Great idea with the forks, I should use this method as I am horrible at keeping track of what went where.

  3. I think you've got a good chance at having both methods work! Good idea on the teal forks, by the way. I may copy that when I plant out some goldenaster seed that I collected a couple weeks ago.

  4. The milkweed silk is beautiful, but I can imagine how difficult it was to keep it under control. I look forward to seeing the results of your efforts in the spring, but both of your methods should work well.

  5. Wishing you success with the milkweed seeds. Looking forward to the end results.

  6. That trick with the coins is the coolest thing!! It worked so well!

    I sowed milkweed seeds in January in milk cartons via the winter sowing method. They all germinated and did awesome. Winter sowing provides the cold stratification and it is so easy to keep track of the seedlings. Good luck with them.

  7. That reminds me that I wanted to get the pods off of my plant. Bet I don't remember to do it in the morning before it rains! Ah. .I have ordered seed in the past, and was given seed. I didn't know the part about the cold stratification. .and just sowed it in flats mid winter. It has sprouted every year without fail that way. .and I have been doing some every winter for the last 3-4 years now. You can do an experiment now to see which method you like best!

  8. What a clever way to separate the seeds using coins. I must remember that!
    Good luck on your seed starting. I let a few go to seed each year in the garden so I always have a bumper crop for the insects. It seems to draw the bad guys away from my veggies--which is a good (and unexpected) benefit! And here I thought I was doing it just for the monarchs.

  9. I remember playing with the milkweed seeds in the fields growing up! So soft and silky, indeed. I let mine do their thing naturally - hoping to spread far and wide because it IS such a good plant, and all the neighbors should have it too, if only by the roadside!

  10. I planted milkweed two seasons ago and have loved it. They are the last things to succumb to the cold in my gardens. I personally don't think they are so attractive but the butterflies and hummingbirds love them.

  11. I am going to steal your idea of using plastic forks as plant labels. Good luck with the seeds, looking forward to seeing the results!

  12. Yeah! Another person growing milkweed for the Monarch butterflies. The seeds I kept in the refrigerator I did not add any moisture to them. I had them in a paper bag (not plastic). Too much moisture will cause them to rot.

  13. I hope they both grow for you and the monarchs.

  14. I thought of this post when I saw this video:

    1. That is faster, cleaner and more exciting!! Thanks for sharing.


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