How do you grow milkweed in a container? In fact, it’s easier to grow these stunning wildflowers in containers than it is to plant them directly into the ground.
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Butterfly and other pollinator-attracting blooms can be found in these clusters of flowers in your yard. You’ll learn about numerous kinds of milkweeds and how to grow them in pots in this post.
Most Common Types of Milkweed Grown in Pots
You may not have known that milkweeds come in over 100 varieties. Milkweeds that grow well in containers include the following:
The Monarch butterfly is drawn to milkweeds like this one. To attract butterflies, you should add this type of flower in your list. What is the secret of its success in pots? Swamp milkweed’s lack of taproots makes it an excellent choice for container gardening.
The Monarch butterfly is drawn to this variety of milkweed, which grows naturally in the warmer parts of the United States. These butterflies and other pollinators feed on nectar from tropical milkweeds. You may consider tropical milkweed an annual plant if you reside in a cooler climate. There are more branches in the second year and a longer blooming time in the following summer for container milkweeds.
The beauty and fragrance of these blooms go hand in hand. Because this particular variety of milkweed is highly invasive, it is best kept in a container. Because of this, these plants necessitate a container that is at least six gallons in size.
Dry or sandy soils are ideal for this milkweed, which serves as a larval host plant. It is possible to grow whorled milkweed in USDA zones 4a through 10b. For Monarch butterflies and other pollinators, it’s easier to grow these milkweed plants in pots.
Growing Milkweed Plants in a Container
Planting milkweed in a container may be the best solution for some folks. Because it’s lightweight and portable, you can store it indoors, in your garage, or in a mini-greenhouse for the winter and then move it outside in the spring.
Milkweeds and nectar-rich flowers can be grown together in the same container. Monarch butterflies will return to your garden in this manner. Place your pots in an area that is close to your home. Beautifully colorful butterflies are usually a welcome sight in your yard. To make it easier for you to transport and store your plants in the winter, consider using a large plastic pot.
Make sure the container is large enough to accommodate the roots of some milkweeds. Plant your milkweeds in rich, well-draining soil, whether they are seeds or seedlings.
Reasons to Grow Milkweed in Mini Greenhouses
Keeping milkweed in a tiny greenhouse is an excellent way to ensure its long-term survival. For the following explanations:
Reason #1: Protect them from pests
Milkweed bugs, including orange aphids, milkweed beetles, milkweed miners, and other milkweed pests, can destroy your blooms. Keeping pollinators away can impede the growth of your milkweed. However, if you keep them in a greenhouse, pests are less likely to locate them.
Reason #2: Keep your plants safe from bad weather
In the event of severe weather, your milkweed plants could be harmed overnight by hail, snow, or strong winds. You can more easily cultivate milkweed and other plants in uncertain conditions if you have a greenhouse.
Reason #3: Available in various sizes
Think greenhouse and you’ll likely conjure up images of large, glass-walled structures. This is not the case, however, as greenhouses come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. Many homeowners don’t require a large greenhouse and can get by with a medium-sized or even mini-greenhouse.
Reason #4: Great for gardeners with limited space
For those who enjoy cultivating flowers and other plants but lack the room, a compact greenhouse is an excellent option. If a 6-foot greenhouse is still too large for your needs, there are smaller greenhouses on the market. Small greenhouse kits can be placed on balconies, decks and even on a tabletop if you choose. The benefits of mini-greenhouses are the same as those of larger greenhouses, even though they are much smaller.
Reason #5: Ideal for beginners in greenhouse gardening
To learn more about growing plants in greenhouses, please contact us. When first learning about greenhouse technology, a small greenhouse is an excellent starting point. It’s especially important if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a more permanent, larger greenhouse. You can decide if you want to grow your greenhouse garden or not once you understand how it works.
Reason #6: Start plant growth early
Early flower planting can be accomplished with the help of a tiny greenhouse. You can plant them in your garden when the weather is more appropriate.
Reason #7: Great for more tender plants
It is possible to protect your sensitive perennials from frost, ice, and snow by placing them in a little greenhouse. Until April, they’ll be fine in your greenhouse. You’ll be able to replant them in your garden as the weather clears.
Getting Started: Understanding Milkweed Seed & Germination
Cold stratification is necessary for milkweed seeds.
To clarify, what does that imply exactly? Late in the season, milkweed plants release their seeds in order to ensure that any seedlings that developed before the coming cold would be wiped out. When exposed to winter cold, followed by rising temperatures in spring, milkweeds’ seeds (and those of other late-season flowering plants) will not germinate. Stratification is the term used to describe this adaptability. The seeds’ natural dormancy cycle is broken by cold stratification. The seeds’ hard outer casings are softened or cracked by exposure to cold temperatures.
Milkweed needs cold stratification to germinate and flourish.
The cold stratification process occurs naturally in most locations when seeds are planted outside in the fall. Milkweed seeds should be sown in late fall to ensure that they have a chance to germinate during the winter. Milkweed seed will have a long winter of dormancy as a result of this method. The seeds will germinate on their own in the spring when the sun is out and the ground is warm.
You can cold stratify seeds in your refrigerator if you live in a warm area without winter frost or if you are starting your seeds in the spring.
Our step-by-step instructions are here: Planting Seeds in the Spring Using Cold-Stratification
Cold Straining at Home A damp paper towel or a bag of damp sand should be placed inside a zippered bag in your refrigerator for 3 to 6 weeks (30 days). It’s imperative that you clearly identify your seeds and store them in an area of your refrigerator with little foot traffic so that they don’t become soiled.
How To Germinate Seeds And Start Milkweed Seedlings Indoors
Supplies to Have on Hand:
- 2-4′′ Peat Pots, Egg Cartons, or other biodegradable planting pots of a similar size are appropriate. The peat pots should be able to allow water to drain out of them. Seedlings of milkweed are best transplanted in peat pots, according to our research. See the following section on Transplating for further information.
- To get the greatest results, use Seed-Starting Potting Soil instead of regular potting soil.
- See above for further information.
- You can now sow the cold-stratified Milkweed seeds in peat pots. Potting soil should fill the peat pots three-quarters of the way up. Add a small amount of water at a time until the soil feels moist to the touch. Each pot should have at least one cold stratified seed in it. On top of the seed, add a quarter-inch of dirt.
- Gently water the seed you just placed to ensure it gets enough water. In order to water from the bottom up, place a flat pan under the peat pots and add about a half-worth inch’s of water. The soil should feel like a wrung-out sponge – wet, but not soggy. Overwatering can lead to fungus. Drink as much as you need. As a rule of thumb, if the soil feels dry, add water; if it feels moist, wait for the soil to dry out before adding any more water to the soil;
- A sunny window, a greenhouse, or a grow light will have to do. Cold-stratified After planting, milkweed seeds should germinate and sprout in 10 to 15 days.
Tips For Milkweed Seedlings
- If you want milkweed to grow, you’ll need plenty of sunlight and warmth.
- To avoid leggy seedlings if you’re using a grow light, drop the bulb as near as possible to the pots.
- A more durable stem would be preferable. In an attempt to strengthen young plants, some people have had success with a softly circulating fan pointed at their seedlings.
- Remember that it might take up to 40 days from the time of stratification in the refrigerator until the first sprouts, so be patient!
- There will be a low rate of success and difficulty if you put seeds in peat pots under a grow light or in a greenhouse with dry/non-stratified seed starting soil. Germination of seeds might take months if they are not exposed to cold stratification.
Transplanting Milkweed Seedlings Outdoors
Milkweed roots are quite vulnerable to transplant shock, which is why we recommend planting seeds in peat pots.
They will decompose over time if planted directly in the ground. It is possible for the milkweed roots to grow through the soil without being harmed. To avoid wasting vital soil moisture in dry conditions, make certain that the transplanted plant has no exposed top edge.
When a Milkweed plant is transplanted, it is likely to experience some form of shock and lose all of its leaves. Don’t be alarmed; it occurs. As it works to reestablish its roots, the plant will soon sprout new leaves.
Milkweed thrives best in locations that receive full sunlight. It is important to remember that Milkweeds can be found everywhere from the fields to the cultivated gardens to the roadside.
When to Plant Milkweed
In order to avoid disturbing the plant’s lengthy taproot, we recommend transplanting Milkweed when it is only 3 inches tall.
When cultivating Milkweed, soil moisture and temperature are critical. Early spring after the risk of frost has passed is the greatest time to plant milkweed plants, while the optimum time to sow milkweed from seed is late fall — this allows nature to take care of the cold stratification for you.
Caring for Milkweed Plants
Get it established by watering it for a few days after planting. After then, the plant doesn’t require a lot of additional water. Only use water if you’re experiencing an unusually dry period.
For additional information, see our Milkweed Growing Guide.
Native Asclepias are notoriously difficult to grow. The ideal strategy is to minimize the time they spend in a pot and transplant them as young plants.
Yes, I’m looking forward to it. Monarch butterflies need milkweed and other nectar plants for their young and elderly, and you can assist by creating your own Monarch Waystation.
Which Milkweed Species Grow Well in Containers?
Nectar flowers and milkweed plants can be used in a container garden to attract monarch butterflies. Butterfly plants are the best since they accomplish two goals at once.
When it comes to growing milkweed in a container, why would you do it?
Bring containers to a patio or raised garden beds to make it easier to see butterflies and caterpillars.
Bringing up Monarchs.
The milkweed supply doesn’t have to be regularly changed if you raise monarchs on a potted plant. Check thoroughly for hungry predators, though, if the pot has been outside for some time.
You should disinfect your container plants (and carefully rinse them) if you wish to grow or raise them over the course of the season, according to the California Butterfly Lady. Disinfecting Wipes can be used to help prevent the spread of OE Disease on the stems that have no leaves.
Grow Outside Your Zone of Responsibilities
Overwintering non-native milkweed types in pots is an option if you don’t want to buy new seeds or plants every year. As a bonus, larger plants are ready to go for the season sooner, which saves you both time and money.
Cuttings from your container plants can be used to start new plants.
Tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, and the calotropis milkweed variants have all been reported to root successfully by milkweed gardeners.
Here are SEVEN different ways to grow milkweed in containers to attract butterflies to your garden:
Asclepias Incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
If you prefer to stick with native kinds, this is definitely your best bet. In the fall, place a few first-year swamp plants in your garden and mark them so that you can find them in the spring.
Digging up Incarnata is simple because there are no tap roots. One of the most popular plants for monarchs to host and eat nectar from is the milkweed.
Second-year plants have what advantages? Several stems will appear, allowing your container to bloom for an extended period of time over the summer.
Seeds, Plants and More Information on the Swamp Milkweed
Asclepias Curassavica (Tropical Milkweed)
Asclepias curassavica is a fantastic container plant because it blooms all year round. If you decide to raise monarchs, a potted plant of swamp milkweed will fit better in a large caterpillar cage because it is shorter than swamp milkweed.
When it comes to raising monarchs in our northern garden, we normally utilize potted tropical milkweed only once. If you plan on reusing potted plants from the same season, be sure to follow the disinfection procedures outlined above. For any milkweed variety that you are reusing, this is the case.
Information on tropical milkweed, including plants and seeds.
Asclepias Perennis (Aquatic Milkweed)
Swamp milkweed has gorgeous white flowers, and this fascinating native choice for containers has them as well. All season long, Perennis leaves continue to be a food source for monarch caterpillars. Suitable for USDA zones 6 through 9. In colder climates, they can either be annual or overwinter.
Asclepias Tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)
I would recommend a 10′′ pot or larger for this common native milkweed, as it grows more compactly, but it does have underground rhizomes.
Oxypetalum Caeruleum (Tweedia Milkweed)
This is the only milkweed that has real blue flowers and a lovely container. As a climbing vine, I’ll keep you updated on our progress in year two. Although it’s a good milkweed for monarch caterpillars, this type isn’t a good host plant.
Cynanchum Laeve (Honeyvine Milkweed)
If you don’t want to deal with the difficulty of spreading rhizomes, try growing this native climbing butterfly plant in a container.
Gomphocarpus Physocarpus (Balloon Plant)
From what I’ve seen growing up in the north, it doesn’t spread very quickly. A similar relative, Gomphocarpus fruticosus (swan milkweed), is now being grown in our garden and appears to have more aggressive tap roots… What gives?
Best Soil for Milkweed Containers?
You may want to do some study to determine whether a particular milkweed variety has specific soil requirements before planting it.
All-purpose soil works well for most milkweed species. A slow-release fertilizer provides the plants with more nutrients. No harm will be done to the monarch caterpillars as a result.
Best Containers for Milkweed?
As long as the container is large enough to handle the rhizomes/tap roots, you can try growing any milkweed variety in a pot. Consider the length of time you plan to cultivate milkweed in a particular container. Is it only for one season, or will you be cultivating it for the foreseeable future?
We use either 10 or 12 inch pots for our annual milkweed containers. Perennial containers should be placed in a 14′′ container… When the time comes, replant in a larger pot.
Make sure the milkweed you choose is hardy to a USDA hardiness zone lower than yours. Make sure the roots of your plants are protected by fencing and mulch, or relocate them to a more sheltered location, such as a garage.
Final Thoughts on How to Grow Milkweed in Pots
Once you’ve learned how to grow milkweed in pots, it’s time to plant them. Monarch butterflies, bees, and other beneficial pollinators will flock to your yard if you plant milkweed.
What are some creative ideas for growing food in a container? Build a Milkweed Garden for the Monarch Butterfly
Milkweed seeds can be germinated and grown in a variety of ways, but the most common method is to start the seeds in a pot and then spread them out in a random fashion.