Planting milkweed for monarchs | Living the Country Life

Planting milkweed for monarchs

Milkweed providse both the nursery and the food supply for the butterflies

Monarch butterflies are always hanging around our place.  We have plenty of milkweed for them to lay their eggs on and for the caterpillars to dine on. Every year the plant sends up new shoots so I don’t have to worry about planting it every year.

If you don’t have any milkweed and want to get some started, now is the time.

Chip Taylor is the director of an organization called “Monarch Watch” at the University of Kansas. He says they work with several nurseries around the country to start milkweed plugs.

"They grow out the plugs that get to be 3-4 months old. They’re really well-rooted, they come in 3” deep pots or 5” deep pots depending upon how they’re being grown. Those are being used extensively for gardens and for restoration, and so on," says Taylor. "So, for a lot of restoration projects, we’re using plugs because you get kind of, instant satisfaction."

If you don’t want to buy plugs and mess with direct planting, find some milkweed pods and strip the seeds out. Scratch up some ground, get rid of any vegetation, and lightly cover the seeds with about a-quarter-inch of soil.
"They will stratify themselves, that is they have to have some sort of cold treatment, and that cold treatment will allow many of those things to germinate in the spring," says Taylor. "You will lose a lot of them if you do it that way, it’s not as easy to get seedlings established from seeds as it is from milkweed plugs, but it does work, and that’s the way to do it."

Many native species, such as common milkweed are perennials, and will send out shoots for new plants each year.  Warm weather milkweeds, which are annuals for most of us, do not require the cold treatment. These varieties include tropical milkweed, swan milkweed, goose plant, and giant milkweed.

Find more tips for planting milkweed

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