This variety is the most common member of the milkweed family, named after the milk-like substance found when you break the leaves or stems. This North American wildflower is beloved for its beautiful blooms that attracts flocks of butterflies hungry for its nectar. Common milkweed also acts as a convenient waystation for monarch butterflies and caterpillars. In fact, the cultivation of this plant is closely related to the monarch butterfly’s survival. The monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweed plants and the caterpillars feed on the ‘’poisonous’’ leaves and actually become poisonous themselves, thus ensuring their survival against birds and predators during their long journey south.
Common milkweed is a cold-hardy plant that spreads naturally in the garden, and most gardeners don’t mind it, as they are sure to attract many butterflies and beneficial pollinators. The plants grow to 3-4 feet tall with large leaves and clusters of lavender buds that turn into sweetly fragrant pink blooms. A must-have for butterfly-friendly gardens, this plant is spectacular at all stages of growth. Help save the monarchs by giving them the home they need.
- Latin Name: Asclepias syriaca
- Life Cycle: Perrenial
- Canada Hardiness Zone: 3-9
- Days to Maturity: Second-year maturity
- Planting Depth: 3-4 mm
- Plant Spacing: 50-90 cm
- Growth Habit: 1-1.5 m tall
Native to North America, the many varieties of milkweed are abundant in the wild and extremely popular in pollinator gardens. Milkweed is well known for attracting monarch butterflies, as it is the only plant that its larvae will feed on. It is crucial to grow and support milkweed to keep the monarch population stable, as they are a very important pollinator.
Milkweed grows quickly and vertically, up to 120 cm, on narrow stalks with broad green leaves. Bunches of aromatic pink, purple and white flowers begin to appear in midsummer.
Seeds can be sown directly outdoors in the fall or started indoors early in the spring. Because indoor starts don’t go through a natural stratification process through the winter, this period will have to be simulated. It takes about 30 days, so plan accordingly. Wrap seeds in damp paper towels and put them into sealable plastic bags and place into the refrigerator undisturbed for 30 days.
Using small peat or coco pots, place one or two seeds in each and cover lightly with 5 mm of soil. Seeds can be bottom watered. Place pots in a tray and add about 1 cm of water. The pots will absorb the water, keeping the soil and seeds moist. Move the pots under grow lights or to a sunny window and expect sprouts in about two weeks.
Harden seedlings off after the danger of frost has passed. The pots can be transplanted directly into the garden and will decompose without disturbing the roots. Give milkweed full sun and plenty of space to grow tall and produce large bunches of flowers. It is tolerant of poor, dry soils as long as it is well-drained. Watering is only needed during times of extreme drought. Milkweed will thrive in dry conditions and overwatering can lead to fungal diseases. It will do well in a variety of climates and temperatures and does not require any fertilizing.
If you’re concerned about your local ecology and have access to open fields or plenty of space, try planting milkweed from seed. It’s native, low maintenance and will attract and help repopulate the beautiful monarch butterfly.
- For a long time, Native Americans used the young leaves, stems and buds as food.
- The silk from the seed pods was once used for stuffing pillows.
- Attempts at commercializing milkweed were numerous and included use in the manufacturing of paper, fabric, fuel, rubber and some medicinal uses.
- Milkweed seeds will remain viable for 2 years if stored in a cool, dark place, ideally between 4 and 10⁰C. After that, the germination rate may start to go down.
OUR SEED GUARANTEE
You know that a lush, fruitful garden needs good soil, frequent watering, and sunlight to grow, but it’s the seeds that really make the harvest.
Picked and bagged for 2023 the vast majority of our seeds have germination rates of over 85%. The seeds are all-natural, non-GMO, non-hybrid, untreated, and open-pollinated for seed saving.
We have put a lot of thoughts into the design and packaging of our seed packets. Our seeds are all carefully packed in food grade kraft paper/aluminium zipper lock bags, and then are shipped in eco-friendly padded mailers.
We heat-seal each of our seed packet for even more protection from moisture, odour and light, allowing you to store your seeds for up to 3x longer than paper or plastic. Plant them all, germinate some indoors, save some for next season - it’s up to you!