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planting butterfly weed seeds

In the wild, you find it on the prairie, growing in depleted pasture soil, along roadsides and on the verge of very dry forests. When you come across butterfly weed in the wild, you should leave it alone.

In fact, it spreads best by reseeding… replanting is not a very effective method of propagation for these plants.

Growing Butterfly Weed From Seed Outdoors

Once well-established, butterfly weed becomes heat and drought tolerant.

The most popular form of butterfly weed plant is the orange milkweed variety, but it actually comes in several pretty shades including:

The Dispatch shares that the Perennial Plant Association named the butterfly weed its 2017 perennial plant of the year. They shared…

Plant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Select a spot that gets full sun and has well-drained soil. Amend soil with compost if needed but little other preparation is required.

It also fills your garden with warm color and once established will return to bloom year after year. Butterfly weed is a very easy plant to care for and a perfect choice for a pollinator garden.

Closely related to common milkweed (A. syriaca) but more ornamental, butterfly weed is not a weed at all. It’s a native wildflower that looks beautiful and is a vital plant for our native pollinators.

Starting by Seed Indoors

Once seeds have germinated, you can thin them out to one per pot. Keep pots watered and under fluorescent lighting or somewhere with a good amount of sunlight. You can run a fan for 15 minutes twice a day to make sure they have good airflow.

You want to leave enough flowers for butterflies and other pollinators to snack on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some for yourself.

You can grow it as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.

First, prepare the garden bed or area you will be seeding by weeding and smoothing out the soil. Make sure the area you’ve chosen drains well, and mix in some homemade compost for extra fertility and drainage.

Prepare peat or other biodegradable pots before removing the butterfly weed seeds from the refrigerator. Fill 3-inch starter pots with a mixture of half seed-starting compost and half coarse sand. Moisten the mix and press it firm.

Sometimes called pleurisy root, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a perennial wildflower grown for its showy, reddish-orange flower clusters and textured, lanceolate leaves. A member of the milkweed family, it thrives throughout U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 9, where it is frequently added to butterfly gardens and native plant landscaping.

Butterfly weed and milkweed seed pods may be harvested and planted to support Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Butterfly weed grows well from seeds, which must be harvested in late summer and either sown immediately in the garden, or started in spring after a lengthy chilling process. The seeds are viable and will germinate with little care, although they must be planted at the appropriate depth to ensure successful sprouting.

Make a 1/4-inch-deep planting hole in the center of compost mixture. Drop one butterfly weed seed in the planting hole. Cover it with a loose layer of compost. Mist the compost to settle it.

Transplant the butterfly weed into a permanent bed in spring just after the last frost. If planting butterfly weed in clay soil, dig in 2 to 4 inches of compost to lighten the soil, or consider building raised beds to increase drainage.

Gather the butterfly weed seeds in late summer or autumn, once the pods dry to a light, rosy-beige color, but before they split open. Put on rubber gloves before handling the pods to protect your hands from the mildly toxic sap.

Leave the bucket outdoors for two or three days to let the fluff blow away. Stir the seeds occasionally to loosen more fluff. Do not worry if some of the fluff remains, since it won’t inhibit the germination process.