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plant butterfly weed seed in in the fall

Prepare peat or other biodegradable pots before removing the butterfly weed seeds from the refrigerator. Fill 3-inch starter pots with a mixture of half seed-starting compost and half coarse sand. Moisten the mix and press it firm.

Arrange the starter pots on a propagation mat near a source of bright, indirect light such as near a partly shaded south-facing window. Set the temperature on the propagation mat to 86 F during the day. Turn it off at night.

Leave the bucket outdoors for two or three days to let the fluff blow away. Stir the seeds occasionally to loosen more fluff. Do not worry if some of the fluff remains, since it won’t inhibit the germination process.

Sometimes called pleurisy root, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a perennial wildflower grown for its showy, reddish-orange flower clusters and textured, lanceolate leaves. A member of the milkweed family, it thrives throughout U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 9, where it is frequently added to butterfly gardens and native plant landscaping.

Make a 1/4-inch-deep planting hole in the center of compost mixture. Drop one butterfly weed seed in the planting hole. Cover it with a loose layer of compost. Mist the compost to settle it.

Transplant the butterfly weed into a permanent bed in spring just after the last frost. If planting butterfly weed in clay soil, dig in 2 to 4 inches of compost to lighten the soil, or consider building raised beds to increase drainage.

Butterfly weed and milkweed seed pods may be harvested and planted to support Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Butterfly weed grows well from seeds, which must be harvested in late summer and either sown immediately in the garden, or started in spring after a lengthy chilling process. The seeds are viable and will germinate with little care, although they must be planted at the appropriate depth to ensure successful sprouting.

If you see caterpillars crawling on your plants and eating the leaves, do not kill them! These are likely either monarch caterpillars or the larvae of another type of butterfly.

Plants will easily withstand any damage done to them by caterpillars, and you’ll have beautiful butterflies hatching next spring.

A little known fact is that monarch caterpillars feed only on milkweed species. Other plants can provide nectar for the adult butterflies, but without butterfly weed and other varieties of milkweed, the caterpillars can’t survive.

Butterfly Weed Care

Plant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Select a spot that gets full sun and has well-drained soil. Amend soil with compost if needed but little other preparation is required.

Once seeds have germinated, you can thin them out to one per pot. Keep pots watered and under fluorescent lighting or somewhere with a good amount of sunlight. You can run a fan for 15 minutes twice a day to make sure they have good airflow.

Besides enjoying the display butterfly weed puts on, you can also use some stems for cut flower arrangements. The seed pods that develop in late summer and fall are very decorative and make a unique addition to flower arrangements.

You want to leave enough flowers for butterflies and other pollinators to snack on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some for yourself.