Watch for germination in two to three weeks. Turn off the propagation mat one week after the seeds sprout. Move the pots into a cold frame outdoors or against a south-facing wall with noonday shade.
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.
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.
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.
Place the butterfly weed seeds in a plastic bag filled with 1 cup of moistened perlite. Store the bag inside the refrigerator for three months. Mist the perlite with water every few days to keep it from drying out completely.
Snip off the pod using pruning shears. Slice lengthwise along the edge using a utility knife. Pry open the seed pods. Scoop out the seeds and fluffy matter inside and place it in a bucket.
Preferred growing conditions:
Asclepias tuberosa (Orange Butterfly Weed) – this perennial stays dormant until later in the spring than many other plants, especially when grown in pots. It’s fine to plant dormant plants; don’t up-pot them for planting later in the growing season.
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Milkweed (Asclepias) seeds germinate best under warm soil conditions. The seeds need a cold, dormant period, known as stratification, to germinate.
Dry stratification is done by placing dry seed in the refrigerator for 30 or more days. A more effective strategy is to moist stratify them by mixing seed with moist (not soggy) sand in a zip-lock plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator for 30 days. After 30 days of cold moist storage, the seed’s natural chemical germination inhibitors have dissipated and are ready to sprout.
To determine if a plant is sufficiently cold hardy, the USDA created numbered zones indicating winter low temperatures; the lower the zone number the colder the winter.
How To Grow Milkweed From Seed: Sow Butterfly Weed seeds early in the spring. Transplant seedlings outdoors after danger of frost has passed. Mexican Butterfly Weed plants require a sunny spot in moist, fertile soil. They are not as drought tolerant as other species of milkweeds. Keep the Bloodflower plants uniformly moist, but not saturated.
Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias Curassavica) – Here are more Tropical Milkweed seeds that produce tender evergreen perennials. Butterflies love this plant, and it provides a great food source for them! Commonly called Mexican Butterfly Weed, Blood Flower or Tropical Milkweed, these showy plants have blooms in the colors or red, orange and yellow.
In addition to bees and butterflies being attracted to Bloodflower plants, they are also used medicinally. Milkweed sap can be applied to skin to remove warts. The roots and leaves were used to cure dysentery, suppress coughs, and to treat fever and asthma.
How to grow
Pinch the tops of the plants to induce a bushy habit and provide more flowering branches. Blood Flower herb seeds can be grown as an annual in cooler climates. Sow flowers seeds indoors and transplant outdoors. Mexican Butterfly Weed seed is also considered to be a wildflower seed and once established, it will bloom until fall frosts.
The bloom season is long, lasting from early summer up until the first frost. The Tropical Milkweed herb is a tender perennial that if grown in containers can be wintered indoors for areas were there are freezing temperatures.