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.


  1. Hello ... Wondering how your Purple Milkweed turned out. I am an avid Monarch & Milkweed fan. Would love to grow this, but seeds are nearly impossible to find at a reasonable price.

  2. Hi David, my sincere apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I got busy with the holidays and just overlooked this. I did have success with the seeds I got from Everwilde. They did grow in the pots, but I was pretty neglectful of them last summer. I should have put them in the ground where I could watch them closely. Instead I left them in the pots and they were very spindly and weak. I did finally get them in the ground in the fall but they are now covered with leaves. They were very small plants but I can recognize them because the leaf shape is different than my other milkweeds. I am hoping that they will survive this winter and come up in the spring. It will be late May or even June before I am able to tell as they seem to be so late breaking dormancy here. I have checked a couple of sites and there are not many available. I know the year I got them I did put my name on a wait list at a couple of places. I wish there were more seeds for this plant as it seems like a wonderful milkweed! Good luck, please let us know if you have success and again, my apologies for the delay in responding.