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Water Germination of Showy Milkweed Seeds
In this test seeds of Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed) were used. The seeds were collected in the fall of 2017. Under normal conditions the seeds would have fell to the ground in September. Their tough exterior would have been exposed to the weather during the winter. Snow and rain would have stratified the seed and prepared them to grow in the late spring.
The seeds being tested have not lived a normal life. These seeds were collected from ripe opening pods on top of milkweed plants that were beginning to go dormant after a long hot summer. After being collected they were separated from their seed pod and the milkweed silk that could have carried them thru the air. The seeds are dried for a few weeks in the open air and then stored in open bags indoors.
To be fair, nature does a pretty good job. Milkweed has been growing for thousands of years without any human intervention. On the other hand, one milkweed plant can cast out thousands of seeds and only a tiny fraction of those seeds will find the right conditions to grow. Milkweed seeds do benefit from Cold Moist Stratification which can be simulated in the refrigerator. It takes time to cold moist stratify milkweed seeds and may not be necessary. What if there is a faster way that works?
2/12/18 09:00 drained water off plate. Added fresh dechlorinated water. Placed plate on the heating mat. Water temp at 10:00 is 74°
2/13/18 01:00 drained water. Added water. 74°
2/16/18 13:00 drained water. Added water. Placed plate on heat mat. Added dome over everything.
2/17/18 01:30 drained water. Added water. Placed plate on heat mat and covered with dome.
Water Germination of Common Milkweed Seeds
Water change twice per day. Two of the twenty six seeds have root beginning to show from the seed.
The test continued to day seven. The length of the seeds roots increased but the ungerminated seeds did not germinate. The method is effective in germinating common milkweed seeds. Only some of the viable seeds seem ready to grow. I would like to guess then cold moist stratification prior to water germination could increase the germination rates of the common milkweed seed.
Water Germination of Whorled Milkweed Seeds
The whorled milkweed seeds I am working with this week have a verified germination rate of 93%. The goal is to start these seeds growing in less then a week. The test began with thirty whorled milkweed seeds.
Water Germination of Mexican Whorled Milkweed
This test began with thirty mexican whorled milkweed seeds. The seeds were placed in a cup and water is added to one centimeter in depth. Twice each day the water was drained and replenished. At day two there was one seed growing and twenty nine were not. At four days there were seven seeds growing and twenty three were not. The test continued for a total of six days.
At the end of day six there were seven seeds germinated. The test concluded. The germination rate in water of the initial thirty seeds was 23%. Seven seeds grew and twenty three seeds did not germinate. The seeds that did sprout grew very long and healthy looking roots. I decided to plant the roots in a bit of soil. The outdoor temperature is not conducive to growing milkweed seedlings in March. I have placed the plants in soil in a red solo cup with drainage holes. They remain on the seedling warming mat on my kitchen counter. I'll try to provide an update as far as if they survive or die. I'm not very optimistic because I continue to have problems growing mexican whorled milkweed despite how well it seems to grow all around me.
Water Germination of Butterfly Weed Seeds
Thirty butterfly weed seeds placed in a cup of shallow water. Placed cup on seedling warming mat. Water changed with fresh water after twelve hours.
Water changed with fresh water twice on day two.
Water changed with fresh water twice on day three.
Water changed with fresh water twice on day three.
Durring the second water change twenty seven of the thirty seeds were growing.
At the beginning of day five all thirty seeds were growing. 100% germination of thirty seeds in five days.
WOW! Water germination of butterfly weed worked great. I've never seen 100% germination before. Results are not typical. These seeds in the test are no longer available but they were great while they lasted. Plants from these seeds are growing in my garden. When they produce seeds I'll make them available on this site.
Water Germination of Sand MilkWeed Seeds
Day One through Day Five
Thirty Sand milkweed seeds placed in a cup of shallow water. Placed cup on seedling warming mat. Water changed with fresh water after twelve hours. Water changed every twelve hours for five days. At the beginning of the fifth day six seed were growing.
Day Six Through Day Eight
Water changed with fresh water every twelve hours. On the beginning of day eight ten seeds were growing. The ten growing seeds were planted.
Day Nine Through Day Eleven
Water changed with fresh water every twelve hours. The water germination test concluded on day eleven. Eleven seeds grew.
Eleven of thirty sand milkweed seeds grew. The germination rate is 36%. The seeds were from Prairie Moon Nursery and they told me the germination rate of these seeds was 25%. Therefore water germination of sand milkweed appears to work better then whatever method was used in their germination test.
Water Germination of Heartleaf MilkWeed Seeds
Day One Through Day Nine
Water Germination of Desert Milkweed Seeds
Pro tip. Asclepias erosa grows a massive taproot when mature. This allows it to be a great plant thru the dry hot summers in the southwest. Be aware that the small root is very brittle and a great deal of care needs to be taken while handling and planting the seedling. A broken root can kill the fragile plant.
Cold Moist Stratification of Milkweed Seeds
By Brad Grimm at Grow Milkweed Plants
Cold Moist Stratification (CMS) describes the process that seeds naturally progress through. Timing of the process occurs naturally when the seed is dispersed from the milkweed plant in the fall and continues until the seed begins to grow in the spring. The process I am presenting for CMS is designed to simulate winter conditions and can be applied to the milkweed seed at any time of the year in your home.
Planting milkweed seed between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my favorite. It's nice to get the seeds in the dirt before the snow arrives. Casting milkweed seed over the snow leaves them exposed to become the food for small animals.
Repeat success indicates that the process works!
Since February for the showy milkweed and May for the woollypod milkweed was to late in the year to winter sow I used the method described above. All and all it worked out great! By August the woollypod milkweed plants were beginning to look like real milkweed.
As summer became fall the temperatures outside began to cool off. The sun set a bit lower in the sky and the woollypod milkweed went dormant along with all the other plants. It's December 2017 now and the woollypod milkweed is completely dormant. I have been storing them in the garage for the winter. Hopefully in March of 2018 I will be bring them out to enjoy the warmer weather.
Training a monarch butterfly to dance on your finger isn't easy. It may be impossible. For a few hours after a monarch butterfly emerges from its chrysalis it is dependent on having a safe place to dry it's wings before flying. For that short period of time the monarch is a great companion. For the rest of its life it is your best memory.
Here is the data record of monarch butterflies that were reared at The Biggest Little Butterfly Garden In The World. Monarch Waystation #8269 is a 200 square foot monarch waystation located in my backyard in the town of Sparks, Nevada USA.
8/3/16 #31 Female
8/4/16 #32 Male
8/5/16 #33 Female
8/11/16 #34 Female
8/12/16 #35 Male
8/14/16 #36 Male m
8/14/16 #37 Female
8/21/16 #38 Female
8/22/16 #39 Female WSU tag A1656
8/22/16 #40 Female WSU tag A1657
8/23/16 #41 Male A1658
8/23/16 #42 Male A1659
8/23/16 #43 Male A1660
8/23/16 #44 Female A1661
8/23/16 #45 Male A1662
8/23/16 #46 Female A1663
8/23/16 #47 Female A1664
8/23/16 #48 Male A1665
8/23/16 #49 Female A1666
8/23/16 #50 Female A1667
8/23/16 #51 Female A1668
8/23/16 #52 Female A1669
8/23/16 #53 Male A1670
8/23/16 #54 Male A1671
8/23/16 #55 Female A1672
8/23/16 #56 Male A1673
8/24/16 #57 Female
8/24/16 #58 Female
9/11/16 #59 Male A1674
9/11/16 #60 Male A1675
9/11/16 #61 Female
On June 22nd, 2015 I posted a page titled MONARCH BUTTERFLIES ARE EVERYWHERE. At the end of the page I set a goal to raise and release 25 monarch butterflies. "I set a personal goal to raise 2,500% more monarchs in 2015 than I did in 2014." Did I meet my goal?
The 2015 Monarch Butterfly Rearing Roundup lets you know how I did at achieving my goal. I couldn't be more satisfied with the results. Take a look at the following multimedia about the monarchs I raised in the summer of 2015.
Monarch #2 Beckham male WSU tag #3015
Monarch #3 Cali female WSU tag #3013
Monarch #4 Diego male WSU tag #3001
Monarch #5 Eva female WSU tag #3002
Monarch #6 Fernando male WSU tag #3003
Monarch #7 Gail female WSU tag #3004
Monarch #8 Hurley male WSU tag #3008
Monarch #9 Iola female WSU tag #3007
Monarch #10 Jesse male WSU tag #3005
Monarch #11 Katniss female WSU tag #3009
Monarch #12 Leaf female WSU tag #3010
Monarch #13 Macon male WSU tag #3011
Monarch #14 Nancy female WSU tag #3012
Monarch #15 Oakley male WSU tag #3014
Monarch #16 Padraic male WSU tag #3016
Monarch #17 Quest male WSU tag #3017
Monarch #18 Rufus male WSU tag #3018
Monarch #19 Scooby male WSU tag #3019
Monarch #20 Talbot male WSU tag #3020
Monarch #21 Uma female WSU tag #3022
Monarch #22 Viper male WSU tag #3023
Monarch #23 Wadsworth male WSU tag #3024
Monarch #24 Xavier male WSU tag #3025
Monarch #25 Yale male WSU tag #A1651
Monarch #26 Zander male WSU tag #A1652
Monarch #27 Agatha female WSU tag #A1653
Monarch #28 Brad male NO TAG undersized
Monarch #29 Connor male WSU tag #A1654
Monarch #30 Dean male WSU tag #A1655
WSU Tag wild female #3021
WSU Tag wild male #3006
Eva is a special little monarch. She attached to the vertical wall of the enclosure. A slight tilt to the enclosure helped reduce the pressure on the side of her chrysalis. Eva eclosed at 8:00 8/19/15 Meconium ejected at 8:40. Wings look good!
WSU Tag wild female #3021
I successfully raised and released twenty-nine monarchs in 2015. I had two fatalities in my care. One first instar caterpillar may have been eaten by a larger caterpillar. Another caterpillar fell ill, leaked green liquid and quickly dissolved into a black liquid. Presumably it was a bacterial infection. That was a tough loss.
The difficulities were few and the successes far outweighed them. Increasing the amount of milkweed available for monarchs in my yard has created a safe place for them to reproduce. Having a monarch waystation brought the monarchs to the yard throughout the summer months.
Last year I was living in a rental home and the yard was not my own. At the end of the season I relocated my potted milkweed to others in the community. The yard is likely to be overhauled with new plants. New for 2016 is my new house, Milkweed Manor. The landscaping in the backyard was a blank slate. A 180 square foot pollinator garden was incorporated into the landscaping.
The goal in 2016 is to foster an awareness of milkweed as a favored plant in residential landscaping. By growing native milkweed plants in my own yard I can share the value that the garden has to butterflies, birds and bees. If you are interested in locating native milkweed then please use the Milkweed Locator tool.
Post by: Jonathan Léger
Prepare Your Milkweed for the Monarchs Arrival
The word is out that the population of Monarch butterflies is decreasing. These insects have delighted legions of children on the North American continent for generations and the thought of their demise is distressing to many. Since the caterpillars require milkweed to thrive, residents of cities, suburbs, and rural areas are concentrating their efforts on propagating the species to ensure the survival of this wondrous species. If you have never grown milkweed before, here are some tips that will help your plants grow to be strong and healthy to nurture the Monarch caterpillars long enough for them to reach their butterfly adulthood.
Prepare a garden space that will accommodate at least six plants. When Monarch caterpillars start eating, they are very, very hungry. By giving them access to multiple plants, you create a better opportunity for more of them to survive to adulthood and, after all, isn't that the whole point of growing milkweed in the first place?
Diversify Your Milkweed Garden
To really increase your odds of successfully creating a habitat for these lovely butterflies, begin preparing more than one garden plot for them in the spring. Keep in mind that not every plant thrives, so if you grow your milkweed in multiple locations around your yard, you will increase your odds of success. Even if a storm blows through your area, it might destroy one of your milkweed patches, but it won't destroy your chances.
If you do choose to grow your milkweed in a container garden, you can overwinter them and place them back outside in the springtime for bigger plants that season. Overwintering works for most milkweed varieties, but not all. Move them indoors once they have stopped producing flowers or fruits. Once indoors, remember that they will still need to be watered all winter long. Perennial milkweed will go dormant in the winter and can remain potted outdoors throughout the winter.
Plan Ahead for Next Seasons Monarchs
After you have placed your plants into the soil, remember to put mulch around them. The protective layer of mulch will help to keep moisture in and help your plants to thrive. Leave some open space around the seedlings and check on them after a rain storm to make sure they don't get covered. You can buy a commercial mulch specially made for this purpose or you can use grass clippings. Both work very well.
Once you begin growing your milkweed plants, you can either wait for wild milkweed butterflies to show up to lay their eggs or collect caterpillars from nearby milkweed and place them on your plants. Watching these caterpillars grow to adulthood makes it worth all the work in the spring.
Jonathan Leger is a member of the Garden Writer's Association and a gardening enthusiast.
He runs a site dedicated to the history, education and care of knockout roses at
Make milkweed your friend. Your friends will love your milkweed. My name is Brad. Learn more about me now.
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December 2017 Holiday
June 2015 Monarchs Everywhere
February 2015 Podcast launch
January 2015 Monarch Count
January 2015 Winter 2014
November 2014 - Welcome
October 2014 - Migration