It is easy to grow milkweed plants to attract the Monarch butterfly to your garden. You can start by planting seeds of the milkweed plant indoors and then move them outside after danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed.
Milkweed often does not begin growing in northern gardens in time to be fully beneficial to butterflies. If you collected milkweed seeds, they benefit from vernalization, which is a process of cold treatment before sprouting.
If you sign up for our e-newsletters, the seed packs given to you by Heidelberg Farms have been vernalized. Plant into seed trays or a container, and place under a grow light inside about six weeks before soil temperatures outside have warmed. Keep the soil moist by misting, but seeds can rot if allowed to sit in soggy soil.
When plants have two sets of leaves, transplant the seedlings to their permanent, sunny location outside. Space plants about 2 feet apart if planting in a row. The milkweed plant grows from a long taproot and does not like to be moved after planting outdoors. Mulch can help conserve water. Grow milkweed plants in mixed borders, meadows and natural areas. Grow them with tubular-shaped, shorter flowers in front of them to offer more pollen to our flying friends!
Benefits of Milkweed
Growing milkweed supplies larvae of the Monarch with food and shelter. It provides caterpillars food and a resting place before they leave the caterpillar stage and become butterflies. As the plants can be toxic, consumption of the plant protects caterpillars from predators.
Seeds are contained in an attractive pod that bursts and sends seeds drifting through the air, borne by wind. This is a reason to remove seed pods and save seeds to grow next season.
About the Milkweed Plant
The milkweed plant is an upright specimen that may reach 2 to 4 feet. Leaves grow from a thick stalk and are large and green, taking on a reddish color as the plant matures. In youth, leaves are waxy, pointed and dark green, later dropping from the stem and allowing the milky substance to exude from the growing milkweed. Stems become hollow and hairy as the plant matures. The milkweed flower is pink to purple to orange and blooms from June to August.