It’s Spring!! Although there is usually still snow at this time of year in Edmonton, I am buzzing with excitement at how beautiful it is (even though it is a nasty sign of climate change). I started some seeds a few weeks ago and am super excited to see them starting to pop and I can’t wait to start putting them into the ground!
The past 2 years I also got milkweed plants to add to the garden. Why? Milkweed is vital for the monarch butterfly population, and helps support other pollinators as well. Monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive – their caterpillars only eat milkweed, and they need it to lay their eggs. Monarch butterflies have been losing numbers drastically, so the David Suzuki foundation launched a campaign to help bring them back.
Here are 5 tips for planting milkweed for today’s Five on Friday post!
1 – Know the genus: Asclepias.
There are different types of milkweed native to different regions, but they all have the same genus Asclepias. So when you’re at your local garden centre, ask for it, or look for it on the plant tags and you’ll know when you’ve hit the milkweed jackpot!
2 – Find out what’s right for your zone.
Different plants will do better in different zones, so you want to ensure you’re getting something that’s right for your area. Monarch Butterfly Garden has a great resource with different types of milkweed, where they can grow, and where they are native. In Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation is selling seeds that are appropriate for different provinces (so definitely look at what’s right for your province). In the USA, the Pollinator Partnership has a search engine to find your ecoregion – just enter your zipcode! Monarch Joint Venture also has some great tips for locating seeds.
3 – Plant several!
One milkweed plant isn’t going to do a ton – imagine you’re a monarch butterfly looking for milkweed. It would be tough to zero in on one plant! If you can, plant a few plants. Or – plant one, and then collect the seeds to plant more. The best time to plant seeds outdoors is in the fall. Or you could start the seeds indoors and get them ready to plant next spring. This brings us to #4.
4 – Know how to get the seeds.
Stewardship Garden has a really awesome step-by-step guide for when to collect seeds from your existing milkweed plant and how to plant them! David Suzuki Foundation also has some good information on harvesting and storing your milkweed seeds – a good way to get seeds without buying more! I was able to harvest seeds from my plants – and it’s so easy to do.
5 – Enjoy!
The best part about growing things is that you never know what’s going to happen – it’s a new adventure every time! I haven’t gotten any monarchs in our backyard yet, but I only have a few plants, so I’m definitely going to be harvesting seeds this season. I’m excited to see how more milkweed brightens up our yard and when the monarchs will start to come!
David Suzuki Foundation has a fabulous Monarch and Milkweed FAQ to answer all your questions!