Adding Milkweed to Your School or Community Garden

Leading up to the Great Pollinator Census we will be looking at the benefits of adding pollinator habitat to your school or community garden.  Today we will look at milkweed.

Common milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, has a beautiful orange blossom.

Attracting Monarch butterflies to your garden involves including their larval host plant, milkweed or Asclepias, in your garden.  Common milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a popular milkweed with orange blossoms that frequently appears along roadsides.  The beautiful plant also provides nectar to bees and other pollinators.  Many gardeners feel that growing milkweed from seed is challenging and it can be.  However, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you find success.

Common milkweed seeds need to be stratified before they will germinate.  This means that they need a period of moist cold.  In nature, it is easy to see how this is accomplished.  Our winters provide the chill and the rain provides the moisture.  You can mimic this process at home with a few easy steps.

  • First, purchase some clean sand from your local hardware or craft store. Craft or playground sand will work.  Moisten the sand with water until you have a paste.  You want damp sand, not wet sand.
  • Add your milkweed seeds and mix them in the moistened sand.
  • Put all of this in a plastic baggie or jar and label it with the date.
  • Place this in your refrigerator for thirty days. Mark on your calendar the date the seeds will be ready so that you don’t forget them.   Once they have stratified they are ready for planting.
  • Lay the seeds across planting soil, not covering them.  They need light to germinate.  Use your greenhouse or home light set-up.
The rewards of growing milkweed are Monarch caterpillars!

For more information on milkweed join us on the Georgia Pollinator Census Facebook group or on @gapollinators Instagram.  This week we will be exploring milkweed types, ways to grow it, and how it benefits our pollinators.  Leading up to the Great Georgia Pollinator Census we will be exploring all types of pollinators and pollinator habitats in our social media groups.  This year’s Great Georgia Pollinator Census will be on August 21st and 22nd.  You can find out more at the project website:  GGaPC.org.

Happy Garden Planning!

Becky Griffin
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