Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Propagating with Forsyth Pots for VA Beach Flower Show.......

How are your forsyth pots coming along, ladies?

I have good news to report on two pots  - Elizabeth's and my own....

Seeing signs of happy new growth on the following plant cuttings:

Hydrangea in Elizabeth's pot.....


Deciduous Holly & Red Leaf Sand Cherry in my pot......


Do we think we will have some great looking specimens for the Virginia Beach flower show in late September?  Show us what you have growing in your pots.

I have found this to be an incredibly easy way to propagate new plants.  I think we should perhaps do this every spring, or every other spring, as a great way to share plants among our members!

I'm wondering if we can transplant some of our successful growing starts to the same pot to have a variety.  Let's look at the schedule to find out....

Keep on tending to your many pots!  

Marjorie Cooke
AKA "Symphony Sprout"


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Asclepias incarnata or Swamp Milkweed

And the last of our Asclepias we are trying is Asclepias incarnata.  From Prairie Moon Nursery where we got our seeds:  Rose Milkweed, is also commonly called Red Milkweed, Marsh Milkweed, or Swamp Milkweed.  That lovely vanilla fragrance you detect coming from large rosy pink flowers possibly hosting several Monarch or Swallowtail butterflies is Swamp Milkweed.  This deer-resistant plant grows in moist to average soils, and blooms in July and August.  Later, large pods form which will break open to reveal seeds that will float away in the wind. If growing Rose Milkweed from seed, try fall planting - or if planting in spring be sure to first moist-cold stratify the seeds for a month.  Large numbers of Rose Milkweed can often be seen growing in wetland settings.

These seeds were started the same way as our other milkweeds - 30 days stratification using the coffee filter method.  Our main propagation page is linked here.  At the end of that period we met and potted up our seeds, placing about 3-4 seeds in a pot.  We used deep pots anticipating that they will need to stay in the pots for quite a while to show enough growth to plant.  Since they will have a tap root and dislike disturbance we want to move them only once now.  Some were potted up in early May and the remaining in early June. 

June 10, 2015
Plants are in my holding area awaiting distribution to some of our membership.  Hopefully all will survive over the summer with some TLC. 

Asclepias incarnata.
Two pots showing a little growth.


End of summer 2015
As summer ends our members are putting their milkweeds to bed for the winter.  Those that have our seedlings from June still in pots will mound with a thick pile of mulch to ensure that the roots don't freeze and die over the winter.  Those that are planted in the ground will be cut back to the ground and given an extra layer of mulch for protection.  Hopefully when spring arrives we will see new sprouts, lots of growth, blooms for the first time and monarch caterpillars in the fall.

Below are a few photos sent by various members.

Judy planted hers in her front yard.

Debbie's is next to her water garden and
is very happy!



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Asclepias tuberosa or Butterfly Weed

From the Missouri Botanical Garden site:  Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Drought tolerant. Does well in poor, dry soils. New growth tends to emerge late in the spring. Plants are easily grown from seed, but are somewhat slow to establish and may take 2-3 years to produce flowers. Mature plants may freely self-seed in the landscape if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open. Butterfly weed does not transplant well due to its deep taproot, and is probably best left undisturbed once established.
Noteworthy Characteristics
Butterfly weed is a tuberous rooted, Missouri native perennial which occurs in dry/rocky open woods, glades, prairies, fields and roadsides throughout the State (Steyermark). It typically grows in a clump to 1-3' tall and features clusters (umbels) of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers atop upright to reclining, hairy stems with narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Unlike many of the other milkweeds, this species does not have milky-sapped stems. Flowers give way to prominent, spindle-shaped seed pods (3-6" long) which split open when ripe releasing numerous silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. Seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements. Long bloom period from late spring throughout the summer. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars). Also commonly called pleurisy root in reference to a prior medicinal use of the plant roots to treat lung inflammations.

Orange butterfly weed is also a native here, seen along the roadside, along golf courses, back roads and in fieldsAlmost anywhere there is hot, dry, clay, crummy soil you can spot a few plants.  From what I have seen, they never appear in a huge abundant plot like the common milkweed, but they are common.  I tried them in my yard many years ago and evidently had too enriched of a spot.  I am trying them again on my lower, south facing bank and not amending the soil at all.  Hopefully this time they will prosper.

My seeds were started last fall using the milk jug method and from a friend.  I noticed sprouts starting in late spring and have just now gotten around to potting them up.  The seedlings are very small and probably only 25-30" germination rate.  But I have some!   It is June 9, 2015 and they are now potted up and placed with the others in a holding area. 
Enough for a couple of pots.
Photo taken June 9, 2015

 All our future posts will be on our Marvelous Milkweeds page as an ongoing journal.

Asclepias verticillata or Whorled Milkweed

From The Prairie Moon Nursery description: Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed) has very skinny, "whorled" leaves. There are clusters of approximately 20 flowers near the top of each plant. Whorled Milkweed can bloom anytime between July and September, which is later in the year than many other Milkweeds.  The white flowers can be a greenish-white on some plants. When the Whorled Milkweed is mature it reaches a height around 2'.  The nectar of the flowers attracts many kinds of insects, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers and beetles.  Whorled Milkweed is deer and rabbit-resistant.

April 12, 2015
WV Sprout.  As with the other milkweed seeds we are starting, I have removed the stratified seeds from their home in the refrigerator.  They have been in the refrigerator since March 2.

Using a soilless mix and placing 5-6 seeds in a large pot, I have planted several pots today and taken outside in the hopes that I will now see some sprouts.  We hope to have pots with green leaves showing by our June membership picnic.  Our weather is already very warm, but the last frost date here is May 10.  A dry week is predicted so I will have to watch and make sure these pots don't dry out.

A large bucket of moistened soilless mix
and a few smaller pots.  5-6 seeds will
to into each of the smaller pots.
 

June 9, 2014  So far, so good!  We have actually had a high germination rate of our seeds.  They were potted up at two different times, one set April 12 (above) and the other just recently.  The earlier pots are doing well and shown below.  These are in the holding area where the Baptisia plants are located; you can see one in the lower right in the white rimmed pots.  Other asclepias are in a sunnier spot and you can see their progress under whirled milkweed and spider milkweed.

Holding area for the Whorled Milkweed.
The pots with seedlings are from the April
workshop.  The empty ones just had seeds put in
them a couple of weeks ago.
A close up of Whorled Milkweed.



August 13, 2015
Symphony Sprout shared a photo of her whorled milkweed! Lots of great growth over the summer. 

All our future posts will be on the Marvelous Milkweeds page as an ongoing journal.


 


Monday, June 8, 2015

Lovely Blue Columbine - The Eagle and the Dove

From Wikipedia - The genus name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word for eagle (aquila), because the shape of the flower petals, which are said to resemble an eagle's claw. The common name "columbine" comes from the Latin for "dove", due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.  Columbine is a hardy perennial, which propagates by seed. It will grow to a height of 15 to 20 inches. It will grow in full sun; however, it prefers growing in partial shade and well drained soil, and is able to tolerate average soils and dry soil conditions. Columbine is rated at hardiness zone 3 in the USA so does not require mulching or protection in the winter.






I love columbines in any color, shape or form and have many, many photographs! I love the irony of the eagle and the dove naming in the description above.  Two of my sons live in the mountains near Vail, CO and I love hiking there in the spring.  The Colorado columbine, Aquilegia caerulea,  is spectacular, especially when blooming in mass across the mountains.  The small Canada or eastern red columbine, Aquilegia Canadensis, is native to West Virginia.  I have many other hybrids of different colors scattered throughout my yard.

 
Colorado columbine captured
on one of my hikes.

 

Small white one blooming in the same
area where the Blue Max are seeded.

My good friend, MAM Sprout, shared seeds last year. Some went to the Shirley Meniece Conference Seed Share and some stayed home for our group.  In the late winter, I sowed directly outside in a small shaded, semi moist area lining my front walk.  Her variety is one called 'Blue Max'.  She bought a plant many years ago from Andre Viette; it is no longer listed by them and I cannot find any information on Blue Max so I feel both of us are going a good job in saving this lovely plant. 


Here is Blue Max in MAM Sprouts yard.
 Smaller, deep blue late blooming variety








Small columbine seedlings in center
of photo under a Sargent crabapple.
Astilbe in foreground and bletilla
blooming between the astilbe and
the new columbine.
April - June 2015
The plants started appearing in April.  It is now June 8 and I have a large area under a small crabapple tree with lots and lots of growing plants.  I should probably thin but am just going to let them grow for a while longer before deciding what to do.  I am just so pleased to have them in my garden!

A few tiny sprouts appearing in April.

May 25 and look how
they have grown.

September 30, 2015
The plans have done well this summer.  They survived the August & September dry spells.  I watered only 2-3 times.  Late September rains have helped.  They are strong and healthy.  I look forward to bloom the second year - next spring!  If any of you received seeds at the 2015 Shirley Meniece Conference in Seattle please do post your comments on our blog!

Sept. 30, 2015.  Lots of healthy plants hopefully will bloom next spring.
 
April 28, 2017
I really haven't updated this post since fall of 2015.  One is blooming in my back yard from seeds I just threw into the yard two years ago.  It is pretty and very happy in a semi-shaded location on my back hillside.  Success and I know there will be more plants next year!

Blue Max blooming Spring 2016.




Monday, June 1, 2015

Asclepias purpurascens or Purple Milkweed

If you remember from our page Marvelous Milkweeds to Help Save our Monarchs posted in March, one of the milkweeds I was really excited about was Asclepias Purpurascens.  Repeated below is the description so that you won't have to flip back and forth between pages in the blog.  This was one seed that I was especially delighted to find a source for ordering as it receives glowing reports, yet is hard to find.

And, from Everwilde we found the Asclepias Purpurascens.  This excerpt from Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens: An Unsung Asclepias  (guest post by Barbara Pintozzi) says it beautifully:
Asclepias purpurascens makes an excellent garden plant, as it is not aggressive like swamp milkweed. It prefers partial sun, but it will grow in full sun or light shade. It will grow in average garden soil and actually does best in clayish soil. It is distributed from Ontario south to Texas and Georgia, but is endangered in Wisconsin and Massachusetts (USDA). It blooms in mid-to-late June in my Zone 5, Chicago-area garden. It reaches 2 to 3 feet in height. Why purple milkweed is so hard to find and isn’t better known is beyond me. This plant should be made more wildly available to gardeners east of the Rockies as a tough, beautiful, reliable workhorse.

Again following the coffee filter method of stratification, the seeds were cold stratified starting in March.  Fast forward to today - June 1.  Life has been a little hectic lately as a new 10 week old golden retriever puppy has entered our household and there is not much time for seed planting.  Plus Ziggy seems to love gardening and wants to help with everything, including replanting what I have just planted.  These seeds will really have to want to succeed!

A note from the back of the Everwilde packets - these seeds can be fall planted - or stratify at 40 degrees F for 2-3 months.  (So, they require a minimum of at least 30 days longer stratification than our other asclepias seeds). They should then be moved to temperatures of at least 70.  And note:  "Some seeds may take 2 seasons to sprout!"

March 14, 2015  Asclepias purpurascens seeds arrived and cold stratified using the coffee filter method described in the propagation workshop linked above.

June 1, 2015  Baggies with seeds are removed from the refrigerator and potted up.  Remember that milkweeds have long taproots and don't transplant easily, so I am using a larger pot (6") and putting about 5-6 seeds per pot.  Again I am using soilless Pro-Mix.  After placing the seeds in the pot, I gave each seed a gentle poke into the soil with my finger and then covered lightly with more mix.   After sprouting, these plants may remain in these pots for the remainder of this growing season.  Today is a cool day with a gentle rain, a great start and a break from a few of last week's hot, humid days that are giving a glimpse of what our summer may be like.

Our other milkweeds from the March workshop that we potted up in April are showing great growth and a really high percentage rate of germination.  Photos, descriptions and updates on the other milkweeds will be posted soon.  Only so much a puppy mom can do in a day.....

Materials together and
all set to pot up.
Small seeds inside the coffee filters
just before planting.



5-6 seeds per pot.  If you
look very closely you may see the
small seeds on the top of the soil.
I made a small circle close to the outside of
the pot with 4-5 seeds and then one in the middle.


Pots are placed in a flat and located
in a sheltered place in my yard.  They will be
moved into one of the other "nursery" areas
when this rain lets up so that they can receive some
natural moisture.  This location is too much under
the eaves and you can see from the wet/dry line in the
 photo that it is going to be dry here.
 
All future posts will be on our Marvelous Milkweeds page as an ongoing journal.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Miracle of the Hyacinth Bean

March 12, 2015
If you remember, last year I had very little success with "stubby" my hyacinth bean. He didn't make it to the transplant stage before his early demise. So, I was thrilled to have both of my milk jugs sprout - or so I thought. Jug A which I thought was an emerging sprout, either died quickly, or really was a piece of vermiculite.

March 25, 2015
My bean sprout is growing, it's a good six inches if stretched vertical. The weird thing is the first set of leaves - which have the hard black part of the seed on them - look fused together. I am not going to attempt to separate the leaves and hope this is natural, and will solve itself.



April 27, 2015
I have moved my Hyacinth Bean to the bay window where it gets morning sun. I am very pleased with its dark green color and it looks so healthy! The leaf issue resolved itself and the leaves are now separate. I also have another sprout that has appeared in my milk jug. Guess I wasn't overly optimistic about my propagation  abilities. Took the hyacinth bean to our Hort meeting for show and tell.




Next day - the second sprout grew THREE inches! I did notice the soil was pretty dry when I had it at the meeting so had given it a good drink.

Today - second sprout grew another two inches. Five inches in two days.


A successful Forgetful Sprout!


 

In May our pots had grown so much we knew we needed to take them to the membership now in order to get outside in their yards by our May 10 last frost date.  The original plan was to take them to the June picnic to share with the membership.  So, we packed the plants carefully into cars - the teepees were almost as tall as the ceilings in the cars.  Off to new homes.  Reports are trickling in and photos of some below.



This one at Kitty Sprouts is beautiful


WV Sprout again grew hers up the no-longer-used bball pole
And this one is amazing at Buffy's from just 2 seeds!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Baptisia australis Success Story!

After attending the Shirley Meniece workshop in the fall of 2013, I came home with Baptisia australis seeds.  I was really excited to try this plant as I have always loved it.  Probably 10-15 years ago I had a couple on my hillside, but I think they fell prey to both too much shade and an overanxious weed eater.  The plant had moved to the back of my mind.    I have a friend who lives nearby and the last several summers I have admired her very large (almost shrub size) plants and so wanted to try again.  The seed heads are lovely in the fall; pea shaped and they turn almost black when mature.  The seeds are a nice size and easy to collect as there are several in each pod.

 
This is a borrowed photo - but I hope to
have my own by the end of the summer!

Baptisia australis is a native plant.  Also called wild blue indigo or false indigo it was used as a dye in colonial days by the settlers and before that by native American Indians who taught the settlers how to make the dye.  Baptisia has a deep taproot and it is risky to divide.  It is a long lived, slow to mature herbaceous perennial and is also deer resistant (another plus!). 

Just a little bit more description - the plant will grow about 2-4 ft. high from a woody base.  It is a bushy, robust perennial. Flowers are blue-purple and pea-like.  They grow in dense, upright, terminal spikes, 4-16 in. long. Leaves are divided into three leaflets. One of the great advantages is that it tolerates lots of sun in poor to average well drained soil.

In addition, Baptisia is a host plant for numerous butterflies and moths including skippers, the Eastern tailed blue butterfly, Northern Sulphurs, Wild Indigo Duskwings, Clouded Sulphurs, Eastern, Hoary Edg and the Gray Hairstreak.  It is a nectar source for long and short tongued bees and other butterflies.  And a great fall benefit is that the chickadees love them.

Back to the fall of 2013.  We divied up our seeds and jumped into planting.  This was one plant we really need to read about.  DIFFICULT! So, no results. There were lots of email conversations over the summer with Barbara in California and she said she would send more seeds at the right time.  Great encouragement and a new batch of seeds arrived in the fall from her garden.

Our group decided this fall to try them in our "Winter Sowing Workshop" posted in December, 2014  We would use the milk/water jug method.  In early December my water jugs were seeded liberally and set in the yard.

Fast forward to April.  I moved my water jugs a month ago from their very shaded, cold site adjacent to the house over a little bit to a warmer wall.  Still north facing as I didn't want them to get a lot of heat too quickly, but next to the stone foundation of my house where they would get some warm morning sun.  A couple of weeks ago I checked them and lots of tiny green first sets of leaves showing.  Success!

April 17, 2015   My little seedlings are a couple of inches tall and a second set of leaves starting to show.  Time to open the jug, plant and hope for the best.  So encouraged as at least there is successful germination and a lot of it.  Hoping some of the rest of our group are having success also!  Please journal here if you are having success with your photos and comments.

 

Opened the milk jug by cutting
along the tape line that I sealed
it up with last fall.  Look at all
the seedlings.

Because of the long taproot
I put 3-4 plants in a large container
with plenty of room to grow.  Look
closely and you can see that 3 of the
seedlings have their first real set of
leaves starting.

June 9, 2015  All of my seedlings are now potted and growing.  They are still in their sheltered place, away from hard storms like we had yesterday.  They get bright light and some morning sun, but are shaded a good portion of the day.  Not yet ready to move out into any different setting.  More sets of leaves, but still very tender! Getting ready to share with others next week.

Baptisia plants on June 9 in
holding area.  Baptisia pots
are circled in pink.  Very spindly
but growing well. 



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Asclepias sullivanti or Prairie Milkweed

Prairie Milkweed is also called Sullivant's Milkweed, named for William Starling Sullivant, an American Botanist of the mid-1800's.  It is the winner of the 2015 Green Thumb Award for Best New Product.  This Milkweed appears generally similar to Common Milkweed but is less aggressive, has slightly smaller flowers and an overall smooth appearance on the stem, leaves and seed pods.  Visited by hummingbirds and a wide variety of bees and butterflies (including, of course, Monarchs), Prairie Milkweed is one of the plants favored by the larvae of the Milkweed Leaf-Miner fly, which bore holes in the leaves.
Easily grown from seed and bearing a very fragrant flower, Prairie Milkweed makes a nice addition to any sunny medium to medium-moist garden.  After just a few years the taproot will extend very deep, protecting the plant in times of drought, but also making it difficult to move so choose your spot wisely (from
www.prairiemoon.com)

 
As with the other milkweeds, our propagation technique is detailed in our first post about Marvelous Milkweeds to Save our Monarchs.

Following is our journal starting after stratification.

April 12, 2015
WV Sprout.  As with the other milkweed seeds we are starting, I have removed the stratified seeds from their home in the refrigerator.  They have been in the refrigerator since March 2.

Using a soilless mix and placing 5-6 seeds in a large pot, I have planted several pots today and taken outside in the hopes that I will now see some sprouts.  We hope to have pots with green leaves showing by our June membership picnic.  Our weather is already very warm, but the last frost date here is May 10.  A dry week is predicted so I will have to watch and make sure these pots don't dry out.

A large bucket of moistened soilless mix
and a few smaller pots.  5-6 seeds will
to into each of the smaller pots.
 
 

Pots will be kept in a small enclosed area
and watched carefully.
June 9, 2015  So far, so good!  We have actually had a high germination rate of our seeds.  They were potted up at two different times, one set April 12 (above) and the other just recently.  The earlier pots are doing well and shown below.  These are in the holding area where the Baptisia plants are located; you can see one in the lower right in the white rimmed pots.  Other asclepias are in a sunnier spot and you can see their progress under whirled milkweed and spider milkweed.
Photo taken June 1, 2015.
Nice growth occurring here.





End of summer, 2015
As with all of our other milkweed varieties, members are putting their gardens to bed.  Plants that were put directly in the ground are being cut back to the ground and a layer of mulch added for extra protection as they are still tender plants.  Plants that were left in the original pots as in the photo above are being put in a sheltered spot and mulch mounded heavily around the outside of the pots to prevent the roots from dying.  We look forward to spring of 2016 to see new growth, blooms and monarchs!

This is from a plant that Kitty
Sprout purchased.  Beautiful bloom
and I am sure hosted a caterpillar or two!

Another of Kitty Sprouts with an
Eastern Swallowtail.
All of our future updates will be on our Marvelous Milkweeds page as an ongoing journal.


Asclepias viridis or Spider Milkweed Journal


Asclepias Viridis or Spider Milkweed shares with other Asclepias species its milky, irritating sap and strong attractiveness to Monarch butterflies and a host of other insects. Very tolerant of dry conditions, it is also called Green Antelopehorn. Spider Milkweed features rose-white flowers surrounded by green that form in showy umbellated clusters, often one per plant.  Its beauty and tendency to spread slightly make it a good garden choice.  (*From www.prairiemoon.com)
 
The first part of our journal was detailed in our Marvelous Milkweeds to Help Save our Monarchs post from March 4, 2015.  Several different types of milkweeds specific to our zone were started.
 
This post will now chronicle just the Spider Milkweed.
 
April 12, 2015
By WV Sprout.  In advance of our April 27 Hort Committee workshop I am going ahead and potting up several of our seeds.  A soilless mix will be used.  The plants will be put in larger containers as milkweeds have long taproots and do not like transplanting.  This process will allos us put about 5-6 seeds in each pot and not have to transplant until ready to go in the ground. 
Asclepias viridis seeds are removed from
the coffee filters and baggies,  They have been
in the refrigerator for over 30 days for the
necessary stratification period.
 
Supplies - a large pail of moistened soiless
mix and smaller pots that will each hold 5-6
asclepias seeds.
 
In their new home in my yard.  More will come soon.

June 9, 2015 
Also updating the spider milkweed here on the same date as the others.  Many more pots were added to their holding area.  This location is in a much sunner location.  Again slightly protected as behind the split rail fence are the neighbor's hemlocks and an oak - but the sun hits them in the afternoon face on from the west.  They are surviving well and I am only watering occassionally; getting them used to our climate.  They will stay in these pots probably for the rest of the summer, but we will update the photographs again in late July.
 
Smaller plants but still from the April 12 potting. 
The bare pots are ones that were just potted up within
the last two weeks.

 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Marvelous Milkweeds to Help Save our Monarchs

With a focus on Pollinators and especially monarch butterflies our group is trying several different varieties of milkweed plants that should grow in our area. 

One of the best sources for information is The Xerces Society. There is a wealth of information listed as well as how to find seeds for your zone.  Take some time and investigate the entire site!

One very important fact located on the link part way down their home page titled Finding Milkweed Seed for you State is about using milkweeds that are native to your area.  They state: We encourage you to only plant milkweed species that are native to your area. The Biota of North America Program’s (BONAP) web-based North American Plant Atlas provides county-level distribution information for all Asclepias species in the lower 48 states (milkweeds are not native to Alaska and Hawaii). Please refer to BONAP’s map color key for detailed information, and note that dark green indicates that the species is present within the state, while bright green shows that the species is documented to occur in that specific county. However, these maps do not convey the abundance of the species within each county.  Three Asclepias species have been introduced to the United States: tropical milkweed (A. curassavica), African milkweed (A. fruticosa), and swan or balloon plant (A. physocarpa). Of these, tropical milkweed (also called blood flower or scarlet milkweed) is the most widely available from commercial sources. However, there is preliminary evidence that where tropical milkweed has been introduced, its presence may cause monarchs to reproduce outside of their regular breeding season, disrupt monarchs’ migratory cycle, and increase transmission and virulence of the protozoan parasite (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha). Thus, some monarch scientists are concerned that the planting of tropical milkweed may lead to negative impacts on monarch health. For more information on this topic, please download this fact sheet by the Monarch Joint Venture or read this Q&A, also from the Monarch Joint Venture, about research related to tropical milkweed and monarch parasites

Native milkweed grows very large and can tend to be invasive.  This is a problem for some of us with smaller, urban yards.  We investigated the descriptions and came up with several seed choices that we wanted to try.  One of these, Prairie Milkweed, is not listed in WV, but it is present in OH and KY.  We are only 60 miles from those borders and felt safe trying this one.  Our best source for seeds from the links listed was Prairie Moon Nursery.  There is one additional plant we wanted to try  - Asclepias purpurascens, but seeds are scarce.  Purple milkweed is a shorter, less invasive variety of Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed).  We signed up for a waitlist on two suppliers and finally found some this week on Everwilde Farms.

Below are the varieties that we are trying and the descriptions are from Prairie Moon Nursery.

Asclepias incarnata  Rose Milkweed, is also commonly called Red Milkweed, Marsh Milkweed, or Swamp Milkweed.  That lovely vanilla fragrance you detect coming from large rosy pink flowers possibly hosting several Monarch or Swallowtail butterflies is Swamp Milkweed.  This deer-resistant plant grows in moist to average soils, and blooms in July and August.  Later, large pods form which will break open to reveal seeds that will float away in the wind. If growing Rose Milkweed from seed, try fall planting - or if planting in spring be sure to first moist-cold stratify the seeds for a month.  Large numbers of Rose Milkweed can often be seen growing in wetland settings.

Asclepias verticillata  Whorled Milkweed has very skinny, "whorled" leaves. There are clusters of approximately 20 flowers near the top of each plant. Whorled Milkweed can bloom anytime between July and September, which is later in the year than many other Milkweeds.  The white flowers can be a greenish-white on some plants. When the Whorled Milkweed is mature it reaches a height around 2'.  The nectar of the flowers attracts many kinds of insects, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers and beetles.  Whorled Milkweed is deer and rabbit-resistant.

Asclepias viridis  Spider Milkweed  shares with other Asclepias species its milky, irritating sap and strong attractiveness to Monarch butterflies and a host of other insects. Very tolerant of dry conditions, it is also called Green Antelopehorn. Spider Milkweed features rose-white flowers surrounded by green that form in showy umbellated clusters, often one per plant.  Its beauty and tendency to spread slightly make it a good garden choice.

Asclepias sullivanti   Prairie Milkweed is the winner of the 2015 Green Thumb Award for best New Product.  Also called Sullivant's Milkweed, named for William Starling Sullivant, an American Botanist of the mid-1800's.  This Milkweed appears generally similar to Common Milkweed but is less aggressive, has slightly smaller flowers, and an overall smooth appearance on the stem, leaves and seed pods.  Visited by hummingbirds and a wide variety of bees and butterflies (including, of course, Monarchs), Prairie Milkweed is one of the plants favored by the larvae of the Milkweed Leaf-Miner fly, which bore holes in the leaves.  Easily grown from seed and bearing a very fragrant flower, Prairie Milkweed makes a nice addition to any sunny medium to medium-moist garden.  After just a few years the taproot will extend very deep, protecting the plant in times of drought, but also making it difficult to move so choose your spot wisely.

And, from Everwilde we found the Asclepias Purpurascens.  This excerpt from Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens: An Unsung Asclepias  (guest post by Barbara Pintozzi) says it beautifully:
Asclepias purpurascens makes an excellent garden plant, as it is not aggressive like swamp milkweed. It prefers partial sun, but it will grow in full sun or light shade. It will grow in average garden soil and actually does best in clayish soil. It is distributed from Ontario south to Texas and Georgia, but is endangered in Wisconsin and Massachusetts (USDA). It blooms in mid-to-late June in my Zone 5, Chicago-area garden. It reaches 2 to 3 feet in height.Why purple milkweed is so hard to find and isn’t better known is beyond me. This plant should be made more wildly available to gardeners east of the Rockies as a tough, beautiful, reliable workhorse.

Some propagation notes:
The GCA Seed Share Vice-Chairman, noted that this can be another difficult plant to propagate.  Other sites, too, suggest that some asclepias need to be babied and may not bloom until the second year.  Asclepias have tap roots and transplanting can be difficult.  A call made to Prairie Moon helped and they were extremely helpful in germination suggestions.  All of our seeds need to go through 30 days of cold stratification.  Although the literature from Prairie Moon suggests stratification and germination in sand, they also told me that their propagation staff uses a coffee filter method.  A little research turned up 'The Baggie Method.'  Always up for a challenge this is the direction we took.  Read the link above carefully.  This is what we did:

  • Used cone shaped coffee filters, moistened in a pan of water.  (If too moist, set briefly on a clean dish towel to absorb some of the water).
  • Opened the coffee filters.
  • Put 4-6 seeds inside the coffee filter.
  • Folded the sides and top of the coffee filter over to insure that the seeds don't slip out (which happened on my first effort).
  • Stapled the top of the filter closed,
  • Inserted the coffee filter in a sandwich size zip topped baggie.
  • Close the baggie almost all the way.
  • Inserted a straw into the small opening and blew air into the opening and quickly finished zipping up.
  • Marked each baggie with the variety and date.
  • Put on the refrigerator shelf for 30 days.
  • Do not use tweezers to handle seeds or when transplanting.  Use toothpicks to aid in transplanting.  Tweezers are too sharp for delicate roots and will cut the root in half.  Gently pick up with two toothpicks.

"The Baggie Method"
Notice putting air into the baggie!

As she suggests, we will check our baggies regularly to insure they stay moist.  If germination starts then we will pull the baggies out and pot up.

Instead of going into 4-6" pots, we will follow the suggestion from another source that says plant several seedlings in 1 gallon plastic containers.  Place in a protected place and grow as you would other seedlings - keeping adequate moisture, diluted fertilizer.  You will need to judge when your plants are ready to go into the ground.  The advantage of the larger pots is that you can cut the bottom out and place in the garden where you want them placed - you could even sink the pots into the ground with the bottom removed and the tap root will go straight down into the soil and no moving necessary.  The sides of the plastic pot can then be lifted when the plants are mature enough to leave on their own.  We will again use our water jugs for this as the plants can be planted pretty deep in those and the jugs will serve the same purpose as the plastic garden pots.


Supplies laid out on the counter.  Coffee filters,
pan of water, seeds, baggies.


Seeds placed inside the filter.



Baggies are ready to go in the fridge.


Each type of Asclepias has a separate page with details on germination through potting up.  Our ongoing journal will continue here starting with 2-3 year plants.

May 2017  Our plants are now entering their third year.  Several members have had great success and plants are still coming up.  The aging of the plants as well as climate change is definitely affecting the time that they break dormancy.  Last year my plants were slow to break, waiting until May.  This year with a very mild winter they showing their tips in late April.  Kathy has hers located in a planter on her driveway as it is the one area in her yard that gets enough full sun to support milkweeds. 

     

May 14 and blooms appearing already on her Asclepias incarnata