About milkweed in container and monarch butterflies

Photo credit: Monarch Watch

Milkweed (Asclepias)


Live Monarch

Please read this entire page to get all the important information you need about 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 you can use 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 ( at 70 degrees within 14 days). Keep the seedlings moist for the first three weeks after they sprout, then transplant to larger containers with quality soil if necessary. You can lightly fertilize them lightly after the seedling stage, using a regular flower fertilizer. Cutting off the top of the plant after they reach 8-12″ creates more stalks and more leaves. It takes about two months before the plant is large enough for caterpillars to eat. When the leaves have been eaten, simply cut the plant off about three inches above the soil or just above the lowest branching of the stalk and the plant will grow back fuller and create even more fod for Monarchs. 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.

A monarch butterfly - http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/884/cache/monarch-butterflies-usa_88438_990x742.jpg
A monarch butterfly – http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/884/cache/monarch-butterflies-usa_88438_990x742.jpg

When to plant depends on your location. It takes a minimum of 60 days from seeds to have a plant large enough to support a caterpillars’ food needs. You can raise our 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 and have extra plants in case of any shortages. Once you have a good supply of milkweed, you can also purchase eggs, small caterpillars or chrysalis to ensure there are butterflies in your area immediately or assist with the genetic diversity in remote areas. 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 them safely outdoors.

Read the full article: Live Monarch

See also: Monarch Watch

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.