Milkweed - Ready, Set, Sow!

November 15, 2017

By: Barb Holtz

While many of us have stored away garden tools for the season, I say, "You're not done yet." Late fall/early winter is the best time to sow many native seeds, particularly milkweed. Milkweed seeds require just what winter has to offer. So, prep that bed and ready, set, sow!

Think for a minute about nature's cycles. Autumn boasts of bounty. Seeds mature and fall throughout September, October and November. As fall fades into winter, wet and chilly days hunker down into the Earth like children nestled in for a long nap. It is precisely this play on temperature and moisture that readies germ for spring growth. But it's not a game, it is necessity.

The three milkweed species most commonly sown (Common, Swamp and Butterfly) all require months of stratification for successful sprouting. Stratification is the mimicking of the natural overwintering process often used in greenhouses and by some gardeners to ready seed for spring disperal.  By planting now or into early winter, you can forgo acting like Mother Nature by simply allowing Mother Nature to prep the seed in situ. For further reading, check out our page on stratification.

Always start with bare soil, free of weedy interlopers. Don't till the soil thereby stirring up plant competition. Pull unwanted plants or cover the area with a thick newspaper layer topped with clean (weed free) hardwood mulch. Sprinkle seed evenly over the plot like cheese on top of a pizza. No digging in, just tickle the seed with an upside-down leaf rake to ensure soil contact.

While humans bah humbug winter, milkweed and a multitude of other seeds relish it. Winter rest ensures life to follow. Without it, milkweed seed sits patiently through spring and summer until it gets the cold it commands.