Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), 2014-2015

Milkweed is a perennial plant; it lives for more than one year, growing each spring from rootstock and seeds. In the Midwest, milkweeds were historically common and widespread on prairies, but habitat destruction has reduced their range and numbers. Monarchs pollinate milkweed and also feed exclusively on it, making its restoration of critical importance to the survival of the Monarchs.

Saving Milkweed: The timing of the collection of milkweed pods or seeds is critical. If you squeeze the pods and they don’t open easily, they usually do not contain mature seeds. Seeds well into the process of browning and hardening will germinate when planted the next season. Pale or white seeds should be not collected. Freshly collected pods should be dried in an open area with good air circulation. Once the pods are thoroughly dry, the seeds can be separated from the coma, or silk-like ballooning material, and stored in a cool, dark and dry place in a plastic bag or another container.

Planting Milkweed: Milkweed seeds can be planted in prepared beds outdoors after the danger of frost has passed or started indoors in flats. The latter approach is recommended since germination rates are generally higher indoors and it is easier to establish your milkweeds with transplanted seedlings that are well-rooted and therefore more resistant to weather extremes and pests.