The Q&A Archives: Starting Asclepias from seed

Question: We have tried to start asclepias from seed in our greenhouse the last two years. The seeds germinate with no problem and the small seedlings look fine. After the seedlings are transplanted into small pots, they do fine for a week or so, then gradually one by one, they die. When it finally comes time to plant them outside, we are lucky to have even one plant alive. Do you have any idea what we are doing wrong? We seem to be able to grow most everything else in this manner.

Answer: Asclepias seeds need to be given a cold treatment before germination, so put them in moistened compost and seal in a plastic baggie, then keep them in your refrigerator for 3-5 weeks. After this treatment, they'll take 30-90 days at temperatures of 50F - 75F degrees to germinate. Sow the seed on moist compost and barely cover them with seed-starting mix. After they've germinated and produced their second set of leaves, you can transplant them to individual pots. Asclepias require full sun and regular watering. After your transplants have been repotted, treat them to a few hours of direct sunshine each day to help them grow into robust, healthy specimens. Feed them every two weeks with a diluted liquid fertilizer, and harden them off before planting outdoors. Following the above guidelines should help you grow sturdy, healthy plants.

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