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Best Steps To Grow Milkweed In Containers
We all like seeing Monarch butterflies darting in our flowerbeds, so we want plants to draw them in and make them want to come again.
We might think about growing milkweed in a pot as it is sometimes viewed as an unwelcome plant in the landscape. In this blog, I’ll share some essential steps to grow milkweed in containers.
History And Origin Of Milkweed
Native to North America, milkweed plants were used for various purposes by Native Americans, including food, medicine, and other items.
Like spinach or kale, milkweed leaves were cooked or stewed as food. Green blooms from it were picked and steamed like broccoli. Milkweed plants must be prepared before consumption because they have a low toxicity level when consumed raw. Native Americans showed European settlers how to appropriately prepare milkweed plants for consumption before they arrived in the New World. It is crucial to remember not to wipe your eyes while handling milkweed since the sap can irritate them.
Beta Carotene and vitamin C levels in milkweed are high. Milkweed sap was applied topically to cure ringworm, warts, wounds, burns, and insect bites. It has also been said that milkweed sap can increase breastfeeding in nursing mothers.
To treat conditions like coughs, bronchitis, colds, typhoid fever, asthma, arthritis, PMS, and worms and to calm the nerves, milkweed roots and leaves were brewed into a potent infusion. 0 of one minute and twenty seconds 0% volume 00:02 01:20. However, the history of milkweed plants suggests other applications. It has been discovered that the white, silky fluff that is linked to milkweed seeds is five times warmer than wool and six times more buoyant than cork.
This fluff was used to line winter garments, footwear, and stuff pillows and mattresses. Additionally, the fluff was spun into a cozy, wool-like yarn.
Life jackets were stuffed with milkweed seed fluff during World War II. Native Americans also used pod fluff as tinder and made thread and rope out of the tough, stringy stems. Milkweed has recently been investigated for usage as a paper, fossil fuel, and rubber alternative. Researchers are also using milkweed seeds to create organic nematode controls.
Types Of Milkweed
Flowers are typically selected for gardens based on colour, maintenance requirements, or other physical characteristics. Asclepias spp. Milkweeds (the only plant that monarch caterpillar, which eventually turns into the imperilled monarch butterfly, can consume) are relatively unique. Monarchs won't exist if there isn't milkweed. Many milkweed plants are currently planted in butterfly and pollinator gardens. To grow milkweed in containers, you should know the best varieties.
1. Butterfly Weed
Butterfly weed is covered in vibrantly coloured blossoms. While some cultivars have brilliant orange or red blooms, many have yellow blossoms. Flat tips can be seen on the flower clusters.
This is a little cultivar that only grows to a height of 2 feet. It tolerates drought and requires full sun and soil with good drainage. The plant can bloom from May through September, so deadhead it frequently to encourage more blooming.
2. Common Milkweed
Butterfly weed is shorter than common milkweed, which has taller stalks that typically reach a height of 5 feet but can occasionally reach as high as 8 feet. Only in the summer can balls of tiny pink to purple flowers appear. Place this type away from regions that receive any shade because it requires a lot of sunlight. Additionally, it requires slightly moister soil.
3. Showy Milkweed
For the Western half of North America, summer brings about the blooming of star-shaped flower clusters that are ball-shaped and typically blush or rosy pink. Another sun-loving plant that requires water is this one. It is pretty brief, with plants only reaching heights of 3 to 4 feet, with a few reaching 6 feet.
4. Swamp Milkweed
This type, which can tolerate greater shade, requires a lot of hydration and typically moist soil. Between early summer and mid-autumn, tight clusters of pink flowers with hues ranging from pale to hot bloom. There are moments when the blooms smell like vanilla. The plant has a 5-foot height limit.
5. Texas Milkweed
Grow at higher altitudes in western and southwestern Texas, particularly in the Trans-Pecos and Edwards Plateau regions.
The state's sole white milkweed species is this one. Although it doesn't require much water, it prefers moister environments like river banks, so if your yard is close to a stream, this can be a fantastic kind for you. It does require full sun and somewhat acidic, well-draining soil.
6. Tropical Milkweed
A. curassavica, sometimes known as tropical milkweed, is a lovely plant with slender leaves and vibrant red and yellow blossoms. It is elementary to grow and maintain, and in some parts of western California and southern Texas, it has established itself as a native species. In truth, butterflies are drawn to it and feed on it.
Ophryocystis elektroscirrha is a parasite that can live on the plant. The parasite, known as OE, can attach to mature monarch butterflies and spread to the plants they visit to eat.
Caterpillars consume many parasites since tropical milkweed doesn't die in winter in these warmer regions. Therefore the parasite doesn't perish with the plant.
7. Antelopehorn Milkweed
In addition to “antelopehorn milkweed,” “spider antelopehorns,” “green-flowered milkweed,” and “spider milkweed,” A. asperula also goes by these names.
This species is indigenous to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, California, and Nevada in the southwestern and south-central United States.
In Zones 7 to 9, antelope horns are resilient.
This plant's stems can grow upright or sprawlingly and can be one to two feet long. The long, narrow leaves are frequently folded in half. If you like green flowers, you should look closely at this collection. This species' greenish-yellow and maroon-tinged, ball-shaped inflorescences bloom from April to June.
Once established, A. asperula requires very little water, and in the wild, it is frequently found flourishing in arid regions.
Sand, clay, caliche, and loam are among the well-drained soil types that it prefers and needs full sun to grow.
Grow Milkweed In Containers
Some people find that growing milkweed in pots is the best growth technique. Container-grown milkweed can be brought back outside in the spring after spending the winter inside a structure or garage. The information recommends placing potted milkweeds and nectar-rich flowers in the same container to provide nutrition for the Monarch and other butterflies. Locate them next to a seated area so you can enjoy them to the most. This encourages them to return to the area where the containers are.
Choose The Right Container
Select a pot at least 18′′ deep because perennial species, such as milkweed and nectar plants, have more extended root systems and require space to flourish. Perennial plants can overwinter more successfully in larger pots because they offer excellent protection from the cold. Pick containers with good drainage.
Best Time To Grow
Want to know when milkweed seeds should be planted or when to sow milkweed in pots? Seeds and plants can be planted in the spring or fall. Give milkweed enough time to develop before winter if you plant it in the fall.
The plants are adapted to fall seeding because they will naturally self-seed. In actuality, the cold and moisture of winter aid in loosening the seed coverings, allowing for spring germination. If you would rather plant seeds in the spring, you must use cold stratification to induce dormancy by simulating these winter conditions.
Soil To Grow Milkweed In Containers
While container-grown plants require rich, healthy soil, milkweed plants can tolerate poor soil. The organic solid content in the soil encourages long-term growth. Potted plants require frequent watering, which causes the soil's nutrients to wash away. Rich soil will promote more significant growth. Top-dress the soil with organic mulch, compost, or repot with rich potting soil every year.
Most milkweeds need direct sunlight (at least 6 to 8 hours a day). Because they often self-seed, place your plants in an area of the garden where you can better manage their unchecked growth, like a corner or the back of a border.
Milkweed plants should have a light daily watering, ideally in the morning, until their roots are well-established.
Once planted, milkweed doesn't require irrigation unless there is a drought or the area is arid. When watering is necessary, water slowly and deeply to a depth of 1 to 2 inches; before watering again, wait until the top inch of soil is dry because over-watering can result in a fatal fungus.
Some milkweed cultivars, like butterfly weed, favour drier environments and hardly ever need any watering. Some varieties, like the swamp milkweed, need damp soil. You can accommodate this species if your land is dry by giving it regular irrigation.
Milkweed can be grown from either seeds or sprouts. It's recommended to spread seeds directly in the garden for some types, like butterfly weeds, as they don't transplant well.
Plant Milkweed Seeds Is As Follows
- Choose a bed that has been tilled or raked to a fine consistency with clump-free soil.
- Don't cover the seeds; just compact them into the soil.
- Till the seedlings are established, keep the soil moist.
- If they are planted too closely together, thin them out as they grow.
And here’s how to plant milkweed seedlings:
- Make a hole twice as deep and wide as the plant's root ball. Adjust the dirt as needed.
- To promote growth, gently separate the roots.
- The top of the root ball should be planted to level with the soil line.
- To get rid of air pockets, backfill the soil surrounding the plant and press the earth down.
- Water wisely.
Fertilizing is not necessary for milkweed. Being a native plant, it may survive on poor soil. Cultivating tropical milkweed (particularly with nitrogen) raises the levels of toxic cardenolides, which can slow or kill monarch caterpillars, according to University of Michigan researchers. However, the effects of fertilizer don't seem to be the same for perennial milkweed cultivars.
Milkweed doesn't require pruning. To ensure spring growth, you may wish to trim it back to the ground where it grows as an annual in the fallen perennial plants can be pruned in the late winter to early spring. Cut the old stems back to 6 inches from the ground whenever you notice new basal growth.
While not necessary for survival, deadheading can promote additional blooms. If you don't want your milkweed patch to grow too large, it can also stop it from self-seeding. When pruning or deadheading milkweed, use gloves and eye protection because the sap can irritate people.
Milkweed can be cultivated from seed or the stem, rhizome, or root cuttings. The best time to propagate milkweed is when the plant is dormant, in the late fall or early spring.
- Digging up rhizomes from milkweed can be challenging due to the plant's thick taproots. It is frequently simpler to take cuttings off the stem. Take these actions:
- Cut 4-inch-long stems with at least three to five leaf nodes with a clean, sharp knife or gardening tool.
- Remove the lower leaves, then apply rooting hormone to the stems' undersides.
- Put stems in an 80/20 potting mixture of peat moss and perlite.
- For six to ten weeks, moisten the soil and set the pots in an excellent location away from the sun.
The growth of native milkweed, a herbaceous perennial, can be pruned back in the fall. To shield the roots from the bitter winter temperature, the container should be moved to a safe location, such as a shed, garage, or basement. In warm climates, tropical milkweed will continue to grow, but controlling the growth is good for monarch butterfly populations.
The common milkweed seeds are readily available plants that produce large pods with hundreds of seeds. However, you should only harvest from ripe pods.
Applying light pressure will suffice to determine their ripeness rather than pulling them off the plant. They are ripe if they split along the seam.
If the pod breaks easily, use your fingers to peel it open so you can scoop out the seeds and silk. If the seeds are ripe, they will be brown. Milkweed bug-infested pods should not be harvested, and some pods should be left on the plants to promote spontaneous regrowth.
Pests And Diseases Of Milkweed
Milkweed is primarily unaffected by any harmful pests or illnesses. The leaves and seed pods are occasionally consumed by insects immune to the plant's toxins, including aphids, whiteflies, scales, spider mites, thrips, and milkweed bugs. Thankfully, they generally only inflict minor harm. But you can typically rinse them off with water. Just be cautious to avoid knocking over colonies of monarch eggs that are affixed to leaf undersides. Although young milkweed plants may be preyed upon by snails and slugs, monarch butterflies won't be harmed by whatever snail bait you employ.
The fungus may become a problem if milkweed plants are kept excessively damp. Avoid overwatering milkweed in the meanwhile because root rot, verticillium wilt, and leaf spot can all kill a plant and are frequently challenging to get rid of.
How To Store Milkweed Seeds
You won't have healthy seeds for planting if you pluck pods and open them to find light brown (or white!) The fluffy mass makes it unpleasant to separate the seeds after the pods have broken open, though! So what should a milkweed grower do?
1. Don’t Pick Pods Before Their Time
To prevent milkweed pods from breaking open, lightly attach these everyday objects around the plant. When the pods begin to split open, keep an eye on them to know when to cut them off and bring them inside. Each pod's seam can also be pressed to check if it begins to pop.
2. Use Rubber Bands Or Twist Ties
The seeds were simple to remove because all of the fluff (coma) was matted down. The seeds should remain in the basin until completely dry. When plucking a few pods at once, this method works nicely Let the pods and seeds dry entirely before separating them if you have a large quantity of them.
3. Wash Or Spray Pods With Water
Sometimes, the fluff from a pod you want to collect may have already begun to emerge. Put some coins, seeds, ds and fluff in a paper bag. Then shake. The coins facilitate seed separation. The seeds should then be shaken out by making a tiny hole in one of the bag's bottom corners.
4. Harvest Milkweed Seeds Without The Fluff – Part 1
The seeds were simple to remove because all of the fluff (coma) was matted down. The seeds should remain in the basin until completely dry. When plucking a few pods at once, this method works nicely. Let the pods and seeds dry completely before separating them if you have a large quantity of them.
5. Harvest Milkweed Seeds Without The Fluff – Part 2
Did you overlook sorting the seeds after harvesting? The fluff may still be separated within without creating a mess. Place a few pennies and the seed pods' contents inside of a paper bag.
Shake after sealing the bag. The pennies will aid in the seed separation. After giving the bag a good shake, poke a small hole in the corner, and the seeds should begin to spill out. Add more shaking if required.
In addition to its many other uses, common milkweed has a long history as a natural remedy. Additionally, milkweed is a food source for our stunning monarch butterflies.
Discover this surprisingly practical native plant. Don’t miss adding the helpful plant to your small garden; feel free to message us if you need any help growing milkweed in containers.
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