Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum: Starting milkweed--can we do it in winter?

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Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
Oct 28, 2016 12:25 AM CST
Hi everyone,

Has anyone started milkweed in the winter in colder climates? I have some beautiful seeds but I'm wondering if I can plant them now, or if I should wait until spring? I'm in zone 5b.

I've also read that they can be started in pots and the transplanted when the weather warms up--anyone have experience with this?

It's my first baby steps planting milkweed, and I'd like to get it right the first time around, for the sake of the Monarchs!
AKA Joey.
Name: Cheryl
Brownstown, Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
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nativeplantlover
Oct 28, 2016 5:18 AM CST
Hi Joanna
and good for you... I've done winter sow in milk jugs, works great!
"My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness. Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished." — Mary Oliver, from Messenger
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
Oct 28, 2016 7:57 AM CST
nativeplantlover said:Hi Joanna
and good for you... I've done winter sow in milk jugs, works great!


Cheryl, was that indoors or out? Would love some details! Smiling
AKA Joey.
Name: Dee Moore
Arroyo Grande, CA (Zone 9a)
Seller of Garden Stuff Seed Starter Garden Art Butterflies Annuals Cactus and Succulents
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DomehomeDee
Oct 28, 2016 9:20 AM CST
I have started milkweed indoors on a heat mat with a grow light in winter. This works good for most perennial plants. You can then put them in a windowsill, out in the yard covered, or in a greenhouse like I do. I,m not in a cold climate but just like to get an early start on the season!
Name: Cheryl
Brownstown, Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Million Pollinator Garden Challenge The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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nativeplantlover
Oct 28, 2016 3:37 PM CST
Joanna here's a link with photos to help. The seeds need a period of cold to germinate. So they go right outside. I start shortly after the New Year in my zone (6a or 6b) I've always used the water jugs, the extra room feels better to me... Leave the cap off.....they should do fine. I've already had a couple dozen jugs sitting in snow. nodding http://wintersown.org/wseo1/Ho...
"My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness. Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished." — Mary Oliver, from Messenger
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
Oct 28, 2016 6:31 PM CST
So I could actually just plant my seeds outdoors now, yes?
AKA Joey.
Name: Melanie
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
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mellielong
Oct 28, 2016 9:16 PM CST
Even in Florida, this is the time to plant milkweed seeds. Our native species require the small bit of "cold" we receive. I'm no expert on growing anything not in a subtropical zone, but I say go for it!

I just remembered a site I've ordered seeds from before and they have good instructions for planting milkweed. If you know what species you have, that would help. Here's a link to their milkweed species. You can read the instructions for sowing the seeds, but it seems like most of them say to plant in the fall, the plants germinate in the spring, and then you thin them. http://www.everwilde.com/store...
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
Oct 28, 2016 9:33 PM CST
mellielong said:Even in Florida, this is the time to plant milkweed seeds. Our native species require the small bit of "cold" we receive. I'm no expert on growing anything not in a subtropical zone, but I say go for it!

I just remembered a site I've ordered seeds from before and they have good instructions for planting milkweed. If you know what species you have, that would help. Here's a link to their milkweed species. You can read the instructions for sowing the seeds, but it seems like most of them say to plant in the fall, the plants germinate in the spring, and then you thin them. http://www.everwilde.com/store...


Excellent, thank you so much!
AKA Joey.
Name: Melanie
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
Butterflies Enjoys or suffers hot summers Hummingbirder Birds Bee Lover Bookworm
Region: Florida Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Bromeliad Native Plants and Wildflowers Plant Identifier Salvias
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mellielong
Oct 28, 2016 10:07 PM CST
You're welcome! It seems like most of them even say "late fall" which I suppose varies by where you live. I'm not sure we even have late fall here. But it seems like you still have plenty of time in case you need to prepare the area for planting. Thumbs up
Name: Dee Moore
Arroyo Grande, CA (Zone 9a)
Seller of Garden Stuff Seed Starter Garden Art Butterflies Annuals Cactus and Succulents
Greenhouse Container Gardener Region: California Winter Sowing Garden Photography I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DomehomeDee
Oct 29, 2016 12:38 PM CST
I think the biggy here is knowing if you're milkweed is native to your climate or not. If it's native, put it in the ground. I have some native to my area that has actually gone rouge and has become invasive (too many butterflies, a real problem, right?). Other milkweeds you aren't so sure of, I like the water jug idea, keeps them drier and exposes them to the weather too. If you're into seeds though you will eventually want a little seed starting station like the one mention above. You can use cardboard seedling six packs and literally just plant the seedlings out in their pots in spring. Good luck with you milkweed, I love my butterfly garden!
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Oct 29, 2016 1:08 PM CST
DomehomeDee said:I think the biggy here is knowing if you're milkweed is native to your climate or not. If it's native, put it in the ground.


Well, the label says "Northern Milkweed." I got my seeds from www.livemonarch.com, and specified that I wanted only seeds native to Northern MA, so I assume that's what I got. The instructions say to plant after last frost but, from a natural viewpoint, does that make sense? It seems to me that plants ripen their seeds until fall when they scatter them, and they're either in or on the ground throughout the fall and winter.

I just planted several in a small patch and saved some to plant in the spring in case they don't come up. Anyone have any picture of sprouting northern milkweed? I would hate to mistake them for weeds and pull them up, or to mistake weeds for milkweed and nurture them! I'd be out there cursing and wondering where the monarchs are!
AKA Joey.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Oct 29, 2016 6:54 PM CST
Any you save will need 30 + days of cold moist stratification in the refrigerator.

When you plant them in the ground in the Fall, Mother Nature does the stratifying for you. Same for those that you "winter" jug plant. If you do jug plant, you may need to add a bit of water if you lack snow.

When I start them indoors, I usually put in fridge in moist sand in March and then plant in seed starter trays in April. Take outside in early to mid May.

You can spread the seeds any time now til Spring outdoors.
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Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Oct 29, 2016 7:22 PM CST
DavidLMO said:Any you save will need 30 + days of cold moist stratification in the refrigerator.

When you plant them in the ground in the Fall, Mother Nature does the stratifying for you. Same for those that you "winter" jug plant. If you do jug plant, you may need to add a bit of water if you lack snow.

When I start them indoors, I usually put in fridge in moist sand in March and then plant in seed starter trays in April. Take outside in early to mid May.

You can spread the seeds any time now til Spring outdoors.


Interesting....so conceivably, instead of the whole refrigerator thing, I could plant them in those little biodegradable pots (like these: http://www.greenhousemegastore...) outside by submurging the pots in the soil, and then in the spring when they sprout, transplant them to their permanent locations? Does that make gardening sense?
AKA Joey.
Name: Cheryl
Brownstown, Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Million Pollinator Garden Challenge The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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nativeplantlover
Oct 29, 2016 8:00 PM CST
Joanna, I'm further south than you are, but I'm assuming they sent you seeds of the common milkweed(Asclepias syrica)?

Here's a link to photos of the sprouts.
https://duckduckgo.com/?q=comm...

Many plants look alike in the very beginning b/c they have only the first two little leaves called cotyledons. The plastic jugs help retain some moisture while at the same time keeping the little plants a bit warmer than the surrounding air.
"My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness. Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished." — Mary Oliver, from Messenger
[Last edited by nativeplantlover - Oct 29, 2016 8:01 PM (+)]
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Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
Oct 29, 2016 8:07 PM CST
nativeplantlover said:Joanna, I'm further south than you are, but I'm assuming they sent you seeds of the common milkweed(Asclepias syrica)?

Here's a link to photos of the sprouts.
https://duckduckgo.com/?q=comm...

Many plants look alike in the very beginning b/c they have only the first two little leaves called cotyledons. The plastic jugs help retain some moisture while at the same time keeping the little plants a bit warmer than the surrounding air.


OMG, they do look like every other little sprout, don't they? The seeds do look like common milkweed but I guess I'll have to wait to find out! The reason I might appear to be reluctant to use a plastic milk container is that I don't use or buy milk or anything that comes in plastic containers! I do think I'll try the little peat pots though, and see how that goes.

I'm also kinda assuming that, since the package says sow in the spring after the last frost, they've already been treated???? ARGH! What nature makes simple, we complicate (or at least I seem to!) Sad
AKA Joey.
North Central TX (Zone 8a)
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tx_flower_child
Nov 4, 2016 1:58 AM CST
I have extra seeds if anyone is interested. Be a shame for them to go to waste.
Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Nov 6, 2016 12:11 PM CST
@joannakat
The Monarch Butterfly Garden site has instructions for Fall planting and Winter sowing. Also site is quite comprehensive on all aspects of raising Monarchs with an emphasis on raising the migrating generation.

http://monarchbutterflygarden....

Fall planting:
http://monarchbutterflygarden....

Winter sowing:
http://monarchbutterflygarden....

Spring planting:http://monarchbutterflygarden.net/7-spring-planting-secrets-growing-milkweed/


If you are planning to help raise Monarchs next year you will need to plan now to have enough Milkweed!!!! The seeds you have are most likely Common Milkweed so you will want to plant some Swamp Milkweed, too. Swamp and Common bloom at different times and the plants of each mature and decline at different times for leaves available for feeding cats. I try to have some Swamp seedlings up potted that I can put inside a mesh container when I start finding eggs/cats. I grow about 100 Tropical Milkweed plants each year for the same reason.

At some point Common Milkweed which has a long tap root, will resent being transplanted. Swamp with no tap root can be grown in containers. Monarch Watch a source of flats of milkweed seedlings puts 2 -4 seeds per large cell, not just a single seed.

Milkweed is late to emerge once the weather warms up so be sure to well mark any seeds/plants you plant directly in the ground. If the Monarchs have not arrived when your Common blooms, you can cut back some of the stalks and they will send out new leaves good for baby cats to munch. It might take a couple years to get to see what works for your endeavors timing wise. MW plants in more shade will mature more slowly than those in full sun....My goal is to have plenty of tender leaves for first couple of teeny tiney instars to eat, by the time they are 4 and 5 instars they can eat the tough stuff! I even freeze 30or so leaves as an emergency back up supply!

Good luck. Plant It and They Will Come!

2013: 18 raised, 2014: over 400 raised, 2015: 250 plus, 2016: 400 plus, last three released 2 days ago.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
Seed Starter Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Level 1
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DavidLMO
Nov 6, 2016 10:50 PM CST
joannakat said:

Interesting....so conceivably, instead of the whole refrigerator thing, I could plant them in those little biodegradable pots (like these: http://www.greenhousemegastore...) outside by submurging the pots in the soil, and then in the spring when they sprout, transplant them to their permanent locations? Does that make gardening sense?


Yes - that will work. I tend though to not use those jiffy pots as sometimes they fail to breakdown and other times roots cannot make it thru the container.
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
Seed Starter Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Level 1
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DavidLMO
Nov 6, 2016 10:51 PM CST
tx_flower_child said:I have extra seeds if anyone is interested. Be a shame for them to go to waste.


What type/species? @tx_flower_child
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
[Last edited by DavidLMO - Nov 11, 2016 8:26 PM (+)]
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Name: Ginger
Fountain, Florida (Zone 8b)
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gingin
Nov 11, 2016 1:47 PM CST
tx_flower_child.....if you have enough extra seeds I would love to give some a try. I have a spot at the top of my driveway that I'm wanting to fill with wildflowers. I'm in the Florida panhandle about 30 miles north of Panama City.
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