Milkweed


I’m going to attempt to grow some Milkweed for the Butterflies this year.

The seed packet says to start indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost. That is right about now… I mean, our last frost date is very dependant on the year. And there are things that I can do to help protect the little plants if we have a cold spring.

The seed packet description reads: “Asclepias curassavica. Attractive to butterflies! This easy to grow cheerful flower provides large clusters of orange to reddish colored blooms along landscapes. Tolerates dry conditions. Annual”

Days to sprout: 14-21

Bloom Period: June-Frost

Since the seed packet doesn’t usually give a lot of helpful “how to grow” info if you have no idea what you are doing, I did a little googling.

This website suggests that Milkweed needs to go through a period of cold stratification. It is actually the most helpful site that I found in my quick googling so I’m going to follow their suggestions. A few things I learned:

  • Many varieties of Milkweed have a long tap root that should not be disturbed. They suggest using peat pots for this reason.
  • transplant out when plants are still small, less than 3 inches tall (because of that tap root).
  • apparently it is normal for the plant to lose all of its leaves after transplanting. The plant is building roots and will regrow its foliage after a bit. {This is a little concerning, so I’m going to have to keep this in mind, and cross my fingers that it doesn’t happen}
  • You should only have to water these just after transplanting to let them get established, and then after than only in periods of drought.

Okay, so Why grow Milkweed in the first place? For the Monarch Butterflies. According to the website saveourmonarchs.org the Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Because of habitat destruction through development and spraying weeds in fields, Milkweed is fast disappearing. Thus Monarchs are fast disappearing.

Adult Monarchs do have a varied diet using other flowers as sources of nectar… It is the caterpillars that are facing the habitat loss.

From a more Canadian Perspective, Here is a link to Animal Facts on Monarchs from Canadian Geographic.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’ve put some seeds into a wet paper towel and I’m putting them in the fridge for a week or so. Then I will put them into seed starting mix in a large peat pot. I’ll start some not ‘cold-stratified’ seeds in the same sized peat pot at that time too. (I sowed/put seeds on paper towel into the fridge, on March 8th)

AND I will also be planting a few other wildflower mixes as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

I have done a little more googling since I first wrote the first part of this post. In some areas Milkweed is considered a noxious weed. So if you live in areas where this could easily self seed itself in areas outside of your growing area, maybe reconsider growing it. Check out information on your area and make your decision based on that. Please don’t blindly follow just one source on the internet. Find more, with different viewpoints and make your own decisions. I am going to still plant this. I don’t for see it escaping my yard. I might reconsider if I lived in a rural area with less containment. It is a choice, and it should be an informed one.

Front: Cold Stratified Seeds;    Back: Straight from the seed packet.


So, since I forgot to hit publish on this post when I first wrote it… As of March 29th, I have not noticed any difference between the cold stratified and the seeds straight out of the seed packet. The cold stratified ones are slightly behind, but there was about 10 days between when each was sowed into dirt. They are a little bit leggy, but I cannot adjust the height of my little grow light, so they are just doing their best.

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Flowers for 2016 (so far)

I have decided to put some honest effort into growing more flowers this year. Bees and Butterflies and other friendly bugs should be happy!

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Lupin & Bumble Bee (2015)

Apart from the bedding plants that I usually buy every year, I already have a few trusty perennials in the yard: 2 colours of Delphinium, a deep pink/red Lupin, a purple Lupin that I grew from seed (pretty proud of myself on that one); and a few bulbs I planted that I am waiting to see if they come back this year. There is also some Foxgloves that I bought AND sowed last year, that should come back, and a few lillies that will also hopefully come back….

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Chives (2015)

Also, chives. To me, they live in that grey area between flowers and herbs. Last year I expanded them around the yard to enjoy more of their beautiful flowers and their resilience to our winter. Because, it is always uplifting to see some green poking out from beneath the snow after a long winter. Out front, I have a few Iris rhizomes that I’ve carried around with me most places I have lived long enough to garden. I think I will move some of the smaller ones to the back yard later this Spring.

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I forgot the name of this lily, but I think it is something like ‘Commander in Chief’. Its planted with the Purple Lupin that I sowed my self (2015)

As for the new additions this year, so far, I have sown:

  • Hollyhocks: I’ve grown these the last few years, but they have yet to flower. So I’m adding a few more in this year. I sowed 9 cells of these originally, with 2 seeds per cell on February 21. Only 2 germinated. I waited and waited and waited. So I resowed 4 cells on March 11, and only 1 more germinated. (the other 3 cells were for Sweet William, but we’ll get to them). So after a month of waiting around for Hollyhocks to wake up and germinate, I have 3 little seedlings.
    • Variety: ‘Country Romance Mix’ (Perennial)
    • Their description says: “Large 8-13cm rose, white, maroon, yellow and pink single flowers are produced on tall stalks from July to September”
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  • Sweet William: As I mentioned above, after some hollyhocks didn’t germinate, I sowed 3 of the 9 cells with Sweet William. Which germinated within a few days!  I sowed these on March 11
    • Variety: ‘Mixed Colors’ (Biennial)
    • Their description says: “Vivid colors and spicy scent make this a garden standout. The blooms are eye-catching bicolors in combinations of red, pink and white. Flower clusters as large as 6” accross. Very pretty and easy to grow. Self-seeds. Brilliant for bedding or borders. Blooms in its second year. Zone 3.”
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  • Malva: After waiting and waiting for the damn Hollyhocks, I plunked some ‘Zebrina’ Malva seeds in. They were up within a handful of days too. Really making me wish I had just sowed these from the beginning. They are a perennial to Zone 5. They may end up being an annual for me in this case, depending on the winter we have. I sowed them on March 11. They are heirloom seeds, so I can save my own seed from them if possible.
    • Variety: ‘Zebrina’ (Perennial)
    • Their description says: “A magnificent perennial bearing gorgeous 30″ flower spikes filled with 2″ lavender striped blooms. Malva blooms all summer long and combines very well in the perennial border with phlox or bright yellow Yarrow. Zone 5”
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  • Columbine: I was pretty excited when these came up. I’ve grown them before, but I’ve never kept them alive to be able to flower. I always get distracted by vegetables. So this year, hopefully I’ll be able to keep my attention span for these little seedlings. I sowed them on February 21
    • Variety: ‘Long Spurred Mix’ (Perennial)
    • Their description says: “Strong, sturdy stems are covered with attractive, spurred, nodding two-toned 4” flowers. Intense colors add charm and beauty to your landscape. Easy to care for, free-blooming and heat tolerant. Rich, sandy and well drained soil. Perennial. Zone 3.”
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  • Carnations: I had doubts that these were going to germinate because the seed is a little older, but they popped right up! I sowed them on February 21.
    • Variety: ‘Chabaud Giant Mix’ (Annual)
    • Their description says: “Beautifully scented 2 1/2″ blossoms, produce a waterfall of brilliant mixed shades of pink, red, white and yellow. Perfect for borders, rock gardens, containers and for cutting.”
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  • Impatiens: Looking for something to put in the front garden bed that is pretty shaded, I found these. Hopefully I can keep them alive to get them out there.  I sowed them March 24
    • Variety: ‘Tropical Fizz Hybrid’ (Annual)
    • Their description says “Brighten up the shady areas of your flower beds with this delightful and vibrant mix of pink, lavender, salmon, red, orange an white. Grows 8-10″ tall”
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  • Lavatera: My grandma always grew these and saved her seed every year. She gave me some, but I’ve misplaced the pack she gave me. So I found an heirloom pack to sow and save my own every year just like she did… as long as I can keep them alive. I sowed them March 24.
    • Variety: ‘Silvercup’ (Annual)
    • Their description says: “Dense, bushy, mound-shaped plants are clad in attractive, dark green foliage and covered with 4” flowers. The brightest of all mallow blooms! Ideal as a mixed border or a quick growing, compact summer hedge. Easily grown.
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  • Cobaea: I saw these and couldn’t resist. Ideally, they will grow up the south facing wall on the garage with the clematis and maybe Grapes that I want to grow. But, I still need to get the bed created. I sowed them March 24.
    • Variety: ‘Cathedral Bells’ (Annual)
    • Their description says: “Exotic climber for a sunny wall or terrace. Large bell-shaped flowers turn from bright green to a deep purple. Use against walls, fences and pergolas.”
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Well, that is all I have sown thus far… I still want to sow some Cosmos, Marigolds and Calendula, and a few other annual flowers… possibly some Nasturtiums. But I may just pick some bedding plants up and save my space for the veggies I want to grow.

Also, I mentioned about the clematis I want to grow. I picked up a bag of them (and a bag of strawberries) at Home Depot a few weeks ago, and plunked the 2 plants of ‘Jackamanni’ into some Red Solo Cups. Hopefully this will keep them going until their home is created and it is safe to put them outside.

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Foxgloves (2015)