Milkweed Seed Instructions

Enjoy your Milkweed seeds! The Monarch butterflies thank you!!

How to cold stratify your milkweed seeds:

Cold stratification will greatly increase your Milkweed's chance of germination and growth. Native Milkweed varieties need cold exposure to break their dormancy cycle.  This happens in nature – it’s called winter! If we need to, we can re-create this process. Place your Milkweed seeds in a damp paper towel inside a ziploc bag. Label the bag with the date and type of seed. Store the mixture in a refrigerator for 60 days. Try not to disturb your seeds at all during this stage. Continue below to decide if you need to do this and when.

Choice 1 - If you want to plant your seeds outdoors in November:

Milkweed seeds can be planted outdoors. November is the best time to do this. Cold stratification is not necessary if you plant them in the fall. Simply cast your seeds in a prepared bed and cover with a light dusting of soil. Plant milkweed seeds from about October 15 through December 15.

Choice 2 - If you want to wait until spring to plant your seeds outdoors:

If you are planning to plant them in prepared beds in the spring, you need to cold stratify them first.  Start this process approximately 60 days prior to planting date. Plant milkweed seeds that have been cold stratified from about April 15 (begin cold stratification by February 15) through June 1 (begin cold stratification by April 1).

Choice 3 - If you want to wait until spring and start the seeds indoors:

If you are planning to start your Milkweed seeds indoors, you need to cold stratify them first.  Start this process approximately 120 days prior to outdoor transplant date. You may have a goal for when you want the plants to be ready to transplant. You will need approximately 60 days for cold stratification and approximately 60 days for seedling growth before transplanting outdoors. Transplant milkweed seedlings from about April 20 (begin cold stratification by December 20) through June 1 (begin cold stratification by February 1).

How to plant your seeds indoors:

After cold stratification, plant seeds in seed trays or any other container that allows for water drainage. Choose a soil mix designed for starting seeds. Once the soil is damp, place 1-2 seeds into each container. Sow seeds lightly on the top of the soil. You may press the seeds in gently or dust with a light covering of soil.

How to water your seeds:

It is recommended to water from the bottom up by adding a half-inch of water to the bottom of a tray and placing the pots inside this tray. You may also use a spray mister to water their seedlings.  

Make sure your milkweed has enough light to grow whether that be under an artificial grow light or near a sunny window. Expose your seedlings to more light if they start to become "leggy."

Transplant outdoors:

After about 60 days, and after any chance for frost has passed, transplant the seedlings to a sunny spot. While the last date for a spring frost varies, for us, it is approximately April 20. Transplanting is more successful after hardening off your seedlings. Starting about a week before you plan to transplant, set the seedlings outdoors every day. Bring them in at night. Start off with a few hours the first day and increase the amount of time you leave them outside each day.

Gather seeds and repeat:

In the fall, when the seed pods are just ready to open (you will either see that the natural split in the pod has opened or upon gently squeezing, see it pop open at the top), gather seed pods. Seeds should be a dark brown color. Separate the seeds from the white fluff. Spread seeds out on a flat surface and allow them to dry for a few days.  Store seeds in a paper envelop in a dry place until you are ready to begin.  Now you can repeat this entire process from the beginning!