What Is Milkweed?
Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a flowering plant native to North America. It grows up to 3 feet tall and produces white flowers with purple centers. Its leaves are greenish yellow or orange and its stems are usually pink, but they may be any color. Milkweed belongs to the mint family.
The flower buds are used in making cheese, butter, yogurt and other dairy products. They have been used medicinally for centuries and are still grown today for their medicinal properties. Some believe that eating the flowers could cure stomach ailments such as indigestion, flatulence and diarrhea. Other uses include treating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, relieving menstrual cramps, treating colds and flu symptoms, easing arthritis pain and many others.
How Can I Grow Milkweed?
You can grow milkweed in containers because it does not require much space. You will need at least 2 inches of soil to support the plant’s weight when planted into the ground.
Plant Asclepias tuberosa in full sunlight as soon as the danger of frost has passed. A well-draining soil is required, so prepare the soil before planting. Set 4 to 6 inches deep in groups or rows spaced 2 feet apart. Water thoroughly and continue to water during dry spells.
Harvest flowers in the morning when they are fresh and close the buds. Dry in a dark place for two to three days. If you want to save seeds, pick the pods when they are brown but before they open and let them dry for a few days. To use the flowers, strip off the petals and steep for 10 minutes in hot water. Drink 2 to 3 cups a day to treat colds and flu.
How To Eat Milkweed?
You can eat milkweed flower buds right from the plant. They have a slightly sweet taste. If you need to remove the bitterness, soak them in salt water for a few hours before eating. Do not eat the greens or any other part of the plant because it can be poisonous.
How To Care For Potted Asclepias Tuberosa?
Asclepias tuberosa likes full sun and grows up to 3 feet tall. It is a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 to 10 and an annual elsewhere.
How To Grow Asclepias Tuberosa From Seed?
Asclepias tuberosa is commonly sold as a potted plant at nurseries and garden centers. It can also be purchased online. Before purchasing, make sure that you have the right plant because it looks similar to other plants such as Asclepias curasses, which is toxic if eaten. The Monarch butterfly caterpillar only eats Asclepias species and it only eats Asclepias tuberosa.
Asclepias tuberosa grows from a seed pod that is dark brown or black with a thick, spongy texture. If the seeds are not ripe enough, they will not come out of the pod. Ripe pods can simply be squeezed slightly to release the seeds.
Fill a container that has several drainage holes with potting soil and place the seed pod on top. Cover with 1 to 2 inches of soil and water until the soil is moist. Place in a sunny location. Seeds usually germinate within one to two weeks.
Transplant after all danger of frost has passed. Transferring seedlings is extremely delicate so it is best to leave them alone until they are ready to be planted outside.
How To Care For Asclepias Tuberosa?
Asclepias tuberosa grows best in full sun and requires well-draining soil. It can become invasive if not grown in a container. Water regularly and fertilize monthly. Pinch the tips to encourage side shoots and prune after the danger of frost has past to control its size.
How To Propagate Asclepias Tuberosa?
If you are growing Asclepias tuberosa in a container, it can be divided by separating the root ball into sections with each section containing a few roots and at least two shoots. Transplant after the soil has warmed. Space 2 feet apart.
You can also start new plants from stem or leaf cuttings. Strip a few inches of the leaves from a stem and stick the stalk into a potting mixture. Water well and place in a shady spot. Cover with a plastic bag to retain moisture and prevent unwanted rooting from occurring. Once roots form, transplant to individual pots and transplant outside after all danger of frost has passed.
How To Harvest The Seeds Of Asclepias Tuberosa?
After the flower begins to turn brown and dry, cut it from the stem. Place in a paper bag to dry for a few more weeks. Thresh by rubbing the flowers against each other in a bowl. Save the seeds and add to soups, stews, or just eat as is. They have a mealy taste.
Asclepias tuberosa is a great garden plant to attract beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies, but it also contains poisonous properties so keep it away from small children and pets.
Watch this video on how to grow Asclepias tuberosa from seed:
Here is another video showing how to grow from seedlings:
2. Karan Singh Azima.
3. Mason County Conservation District.
4. Chuck Bargeron.
5. Steve Lagrange.
Sources & references used in this article:
Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and milkweeds (Asclepias species) the current situation and methods for propagating milkweeds by T Luna, RK Dumroese – Native Plants Journal, 2013 – npj.uwpress.org
Resistance and susceptibility of milkweed: competition, root herbivory, and plant genetic variation by AA Agrawal – Ecology, 2004 – Wiley Online Library
Growth and Survival of Two Western Milkweed Species: Effects of Container Volume and Fertilizer Rate by N Hanson, AL Ross-Davis, AS Davis – HortTechnology, 2017 – journals.ashs.org
Monarch waystations: propagating native plants to create travel corridors for migrating monarch butterflies by TD Landis – Native Plants Journal, 2014 – npj.uwpress.org
Effects of photoperiod, temperature, and host plant age on induction of reproductive diapause and development by L Goehring, KS Oberhauser – Ecological Entomology, 2002 – academia.edu
Propagating Native Milkweeds for Restoring Monarch Butterfly Habitat© by TD Landis, RK Dumroese – … Annual Meeting of the International Plant …, 2014 – actahort.org
Distribution and interference of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in Nebraska by GL Cramer, OC Burnside – Weed Science, 1982 – JSTOR