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Growing Milkweed

The seed we send to you can grow almost anywhere in North America. When you are ready to plant, place seeds 1/8 inch below the soil surface using a deep pot, since most milkweeds have a long roots. Don't plant the seeds too deep, because they need plenty of light and warmth to germinate and grow (70 degrees). Keep the seedlings moist for the first three weeks after they sprout, then transplant to larger containers with good soil if necessary. You can lightly fertilize them once a week after the seedling stage, using a regular flower fertilizer. Cutting off the top of the plant creates more stalks and more leaves. It takes about two months before the plant is large enough for caterpillars to eat. After the leaves have been eaten, simply cut the plant off about one inch above the soil or lowest branching of the stalk and the plant will grow back fuller. Warning: one caterpillar will eat 20+ large leaves so make sure you have enough plants to support the number of caterpillars you have, or they will starve. When to plant depends on your location. It takes a minimum of 60 days from seeds to have a plant large enough to support caterpillars' food needs. You can raise tropical Milkweed in pots inside your home or greenhouse, and it should survive the winter. If you live in a northern climate and see snow, then request the Speciosia variety of milkweed seed, as it survives the winters cold. You can save your seeds till next year and start them early inside, then transplant outside when the weather warms up. Your goal should be to create a refuge of lush milkweed for the migrating Monarch. Once you have a good supply of milkweed, you can also purchase eggs, small caterpillars or chrysalis and ensure there are butterflies in your area immediately. Just one mating couple and a good supply of milkweed could produce many healthy fluttering friends for your community. Check with your local plant nurseries if you have questions about when to plant seeds or when to buy plants or transplant. For ground grown plants we usually start a thousand seeds all at once in these great nursery trays which have 288 separate compartments. It takes a while to place seeds in each square but the transplanting is fast and keeps wasted space to a minimum. When the seedlings have at least two sets of leaves we transplant to larger containers. We use 16 ounce Dixie cups with several small holes drilled in the bottom for good drainage. The seedlings have long roots and must be kept moist so transplant and water soon after. We suggest you purchase the best potting soil available as this will greatly accelerate the growth of these seedlings. Growing times will depend on milkweed variety and your location.

This article was published on Friday 02 July, 2010.
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