Butterfly Weed Seed Collecting

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How do I germinate butterfly weed seeds? Harvest the seed pods of butterfly weed when the pods begin to split. Seeds can be sown directly outdoors in late fall or started indoors. When sowing How to Plant Butterfly Weed Seeds. Sometimes called pleurisy root, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a perennial wildflower grown for its showy, reddish-orange flower clusters and textured, lanceolate leaves. It thrives throughout U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 10, where it is … Collect butterfly weed seeds from the garden is fun and easy. Follow these steps to learn how to harvest butterfly weed seeds for planting next year.

How do I germinate butterfly weed seeds?

Harvest the seed pods of butterfly weed when the pods begin to split. Seeds can be sown directly outdoors in late fall or started indoors.

When sowing seeds outdoors, work up the soil in a protected location in early to mid-November. Scatter the seeds over the prepared seed bed and then cover the seeds with approximately 1/4 inch of soil. The cold, moist conditions over winter improve seed germination. Seedlings should emerge in spring. Carefully transplant the seedlings to their permanent locations when the seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall.

To start seeds indoors, fill a flat with a commercial germination medium (such as Jiffy Mix). Moisten the medium. Scatter the seeds over the surface of the germination medium and lightly press the seeds into the material. Cover the seeds with an additional 1/4 inch of the germination mix. Carefully moisten the additional material. Slide the flat in a plastic bag and place the bagged flat in the refrigerator. Leave the flat in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks. After 4 to 6 weeks, remove the flat from the refrigerator and place it in an area with a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeds should begin to germinate in 3 to 4 weeks. (If no seedlings appear after 4 weeks, place the flat back in the refrigerator for another 4 to 6 weeks and repeat the process.) Take the flat out of the plastic bag as soon as seedlings appear and place the flat under fluorescent lights in a 60 to 65 degree Fahrenheit location. Transplant the seedlings into individual pots when the seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall. Continue to grow the seedlings indoors under fluorescent lights for several more weeks. Prior to planting outdoors, place the seedlings outdoors in a shady, protected location and then gradually expose the seedlings to longer periods of direct sun. Plant the seedlings in their permanent locations after they have hardened outdoors for 10 to 14 days.

How to Plant Butterfly Weed Seeds

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.

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.

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Gather the butterfly weed seeds in late summer or autumn, once the pods dry to a light, rosy-beige color, but before they split open. Put on rubber gloves before handling the pods to protect your hands from the mildly toxic sap.

Before you begin to harvest the butterfly weed pods, sterilize your cutting tools. Dip the blades into a full-strength household cleanser, such as Lysol or Pine-Sol. Repeat between cuts to prevent the spread of diseases.

Snip off the pod using pruning shears. Slice lengthwise along the edge using a utility knife. Pry open the seed pods. Scoop out the seeds and fluffy matter inside and place it in a bucket.

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.

Place the butterfly weed seeds in a plastic bag filled with 1 cup of moistened perlite. Store the bag inside the refrigerator for three months. Mist the perlite with water every few days to keep it from drying out completely.

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.

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.

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.

Water the butterfly weed seeds whenever the compost feels barely damp when pressed. Apply the water by the spoonful or use a spray bottle to keep from dislodging the seeds.

Watch for germination in two to three weeks. Turn off the propagation mat one week after the seeds sprout. Move the pots into a cold frame outdoors or against a south-facing wall with noonday shade.

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.

Spread a 1-inch-thick layer of mulch around each plant. Water weekly to a 2-inch depth during their first summer, then cease supplemental irrigation.

How To Harvest Butterfly Weed Seeds

Butterfly weed seeds are one of the easiest types of seeds to collect from the garden. In this post, I will show how to harvest butterfly weed seeds from your garden step-by-step, and also show you how to store them for next year.

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Butterfly weed is one of my favorite plants that I have growing in my garden. Not only does it add amazing color to the garden, the butterflies flock to it. Plus, it’s a host plant for everyone’s favorite monarch butterfly.

Collecting butterfly weed seeds is easy, and doesn’t take much effort – you just need to get the timing right.

So below I’ll show you how to tell when butterfly weed seeds are ready to harvest, how to gather them, and what to do with them after you’re done collecting them.

Butterfly weed flower growing in my garden

Table of Contents

Harvesting Butterfly Weed Seeds

Butterfly weed is also one of the easiest seeds to collect from the garden. After the flowers fade on the plant, butterfly weed gets these gorgeous seed pods.

If you want to collect butterfly weed seeds from your garden, allow the seed pods to dry on the plant.

Butterfly weed seed pods

When To Harvest Butterfly Weed Seeds

When the seeds are ready to be harvested, butterfly weed seed pods will turn brown and start to break open on their own.

The seeds have puffs of cotton attached to them, which allows them to fly in the wind and seed themselves all around the neighborhood.

So, make sure you collect the seeds as soon as the pods start to break open, or they may disappear on you.

Butterfly weed seeds ready to harvest

What Do Butterfly Weed Seeds Look Like

Butterfly weed seeds are flat, brown and shaped like a tear drop – and there are a ton of seeds in each seed pod.

Like I mentioned above, they are attached to white cotton, which can make the task of harvesting butterfly weed seeds a bit more tedious.

Butterfly weed seeds and chaff

How To Harvest Butterfly Weed Seeds Step-By-Step

Clip the seed pods off the plant and drop them into a container or bag. Don’t attempt to harvest butterfly weed seeds outside.

Otherwise every time the wind blows you’ll be chasing them down the street. Once you’ve collected the seed pods, bring them inside.

Collecting butterfly weed seed pods in a container

Like I said, it can be a bit tedious to harvest butterfly weed seeds, because of the fine fluffy stuff that’s attached to the seeds. So start by breaking open the seed pod.

Break open the seed pod to collect butterfly weed seeds

Then firmly grab the entire fuzzy clump and pull it out of the seed pod. Wait, don’t let go.

Gently pinch the seeds to tease them away from the fluffy stuff. It can be a messy job, so you might want to keep the vacuum on hand.

Collecting butterfly weed seeds can be messy

What To Do With Butterfly Weed Seeds After Harvesting

You can plant butterfly weeds seeds as soon as you harvest them, or you can store them for planting next year. Allow the seeds to dry out completely before storing them.

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You can store your seeds in a plastic container (film canisters are the perfect size!), paper bag or seed envelope until spring.

I like to use a plastic shoe box to organize my seeds, or you can use a Seed Keeper.

Where To Find Butterfly Weed Seeds For Sale

It can be difficult to find butterfly weed seeds for sale, but many garden centers should carry them starting in mid-winter through early spring.

Otherwise you can always buy butterfly weed seeds online. Here are some great, quality seeds to get you started… Butterfly Weed Seeds.

If you want to learn how to grow your own seeds for your garden indoors, then my Starting Seeds Indoors eBook is perfect for you! It’s a quick-start guide that will have you growing your own seeds indoors in no time. Download your copy now!

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Share your tips for how to harvest butterfly weed seeds in the comments section below.

About Amy Andrychowicz

I live and garden in Minneapolis, MN (zone 4b). My green thumb comes from my parents, and I’ve been gardening most of my life. I’m a passionate gardener who loves growing everything from vegetables, herbs, and flowers to succulents, tropicals, and houseplants – you name, I’ve grown it! Read More.

Comments

A friend gave us butterfly weed pods before they turned brown. What should I do? Thank you!

Amy Andrychowicz says

You can try letting the pods sit out to see if they will turn brown and dry. However, if your butterfly weed seed pods are very green and immature, the seeds likely won’t be viable, and will probably only mold.

Lynda Wright says

We have the milkweed bugs. Will they damage the plant for next spring? There are tons of them. Is there a way to get rid of them?

Amy Andrychowicz says

Milkweed bugs do very little damage to the plant, and are more of a nuisance, so it’s usually best to just leave them along. However, you can spot-treat large infestations with soapy water or a by hand-picking, and use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill and remove the babies and eggs. But be very, very careful to only target the pest insect, because any type of treatment, organic or otherwise, can also kill monarchs and their eggs/larvae.

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