The Monarch Butterfly! Our garden at YMBB has been attracting these beauties for nearly 30 years during their migration along the lakefront. Sadly though, this elegant creature has been disappearing because of the destruction of habitat along the migration route. Decades ago we enjoyed visits from thousands upon thousands of them, now we are overjoyed when we see but a few. Happily, in more recent years, their numbers are increasing! Why? Because many dedicated people are planting a portion of their property with MILKWEED!
“The King of Butterflies”, read all about Monarchs!
Common Milkweed is the singular food of The Monarch butterfly. It is also a valuable food source for many other insects and bees.
Each autumn I collect the seeds from my own milkweed and mail them out to anyone and everyone who wants to start a milkweed patch. Here is the info sent with the packets:
DIY: A Milkweed Tutorial
If you want seeds I will mail them to you. Simply send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org asking for milkweed seeds, send me your name and full mailing address. Here’s the info:
Enclosed are your milkweed seeds from my garden. Thank you for being a participant in the support of The Monarch Butterfly. Milkweed is the singular food of The Monarch, and also food to many other nectar seeking birds and insects including hummingbirds and bees. The plant is tall and NOT unattractive, with huge snowball shaped balls of extremely fragrant flower clusters in summer. Most happily, you will enjoy ringing the dinner bell for the life cycle of The Monarch butterfly. Read about it here: http://www.mymonarchguide.com/2007/05/raising-caterpillars.html
This is another nice site: http://www.ourhabitatgarden.org/creatures/milkweed-growing.html
To plant your milkweed seeds, prepare a garden bed in good sunlight with light soil and excellent drainage. Seeds like a period of 70 degrees to successfully germinate, with light watering every morning for a week or two. Thin out the bed as needed for growth. Then just let them grow on their own. Learn more here: http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/prop.htm
As for propagating/transplanting existing milkweed, it’s not complicated, just has to be done the right way . Milkweed is tap-rooted. Anything tap-rooted is hard to transplant because you have to get ALL of the taproot. These tap roots can go as deep as 2′ into the ground.
As I read on this forum: “I would wait until you have some seedlings coming up around the mother plants and dig those, get them while they are small and move them. The larger ones just die away, or wait until you have seed pods and scatter the seed where you want them. They’ll come up next year in the location you want them to be in.” And then this cool idea:
“I have cut mine back from the top at a leaf joint and put them in water. Most make roots and you can plant them. It takes a couple of weeks, but it is well worth doubling your planting that way.” !!!! http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/butterfly/msg070606158901.html
If you sow in fall, sow them now. If you plan to sow in the spring, you need to put the seeds in the refrigerator, a process called “cold stratification”. This tricks them into thinking they survived the winter Check out more on this topic at http://www.monarchlab.org/Lab/Rearing/Finding/FindingMilkweed.aspx
Milkweed is not a dangerous plant, per se, to grow and handle. But there are some precautions. Be wary if you have latex sensibilities. Also, the sap can cause itchy irritation to skin and burning to eyes if rubbed into them, so be cautious. See further cautions here:
If you have a huge success your first year of growing, it’s possible the caterpillars will destroy your crop! Hooray, it’s perennial and will come back bigger and better. Keep pruning and it will keep throwing out new shoots. Enjoy the fine dining of the beautiful caterpillars and just wait for the arrival of the butterflies!
Collect seeds of your own to pay it forward; let’s give The Monarchs ever-expanding habitat! We’ve come so close to losing them, but they are returning!!! Read about how and when to collect, dry and save seeds (this is my favorite site because of the photos:
Love to you and good luck with your milkweed! Elaine