Tropical Milkweed..overwintering

bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)March 19, 2011

Hey guys, Just thought that I would share this. I am in zone 7a and decided to finally try to overwinter some Tropical Milkweed plants in my garage this past winter. I just took them out of the garage yesterday, and glory be! They are really coming back! I am excited to see how they end up doing. I wintersowed tons of Tropical Milkweed seed, and it is all coming up well in my milk jugs. So, I am set for milkweed even if last year's plants don't end up doing well. Anyone else overwinter Tropical Milkweed?~~Angie

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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Congrats, Angie!
Yes, mine are coming back from the roots in my garden!
In the past, they never came back, but now they are. I don't know what made the difference, but, whatever, I'm glad to not have to replant them.
I also started some from seed a few weeks ago, the seed coming from the tropical MW in my garden that came back last year, figuring that maybe this plant is cold hardier. They're still just little seedlings now. Monarchs prefer the tropical over any other here, so I'm certainly glad they're doing well.
Sherry

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 11:33AM
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coolbutterfly(5A)

Hi Angie, I tried overwintering for the first time in Minnesota with great results. I brought in two big plants and, much to my surprise, they flowered the ENTIRE winter.
One of the pots also has 3 additional seedlings that sprouted over winter.

I didn't winter sow, but started seeds indoors about 3 weeks ago. They are coming up like gangbusters. I am happy but was not expecting so many to be viable!

It will be interesting to learn what the monarchs prefer in a head to head competition between the trop and our common. Both are wildly popular but at different times of the year.

I am curious to see if seedlings sprout outside from last season. There was quite a lot of seeding going on and our warm weather lasted well into October.

Here are some pics and YES that is snow in the background. Thankfully we have melted the majority of it over the past week! Tony

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 12:44PM
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micyrey

Hello
I'm in north east missouri and I have over wintered tropical MW for several years, near the end of winter I root cuttings from them to have more starts for summer. Mine too bloom most of the winter. I did have some bugs on them but had plenty of wintering lady bugs to keep them in check.
Michelle

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 4:15PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Thanks for the comments guys. I would agree that Tropical MW seems to be much preferred here. I have Tropical, Swamp, Common, and also Butterfly Weed in the yard. They will use it all, but the Tropical gets the most hits.~~Angie

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 8:21AM
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caterwallin

Angie, I thought you'd have lots of luck with overwintering the tropical milkweed. I have some in pots in our laundry room (cooler than the rest of the house). I also have cuttings and whole plants just sitting in water and they're doing fine. The plants in the laundry room aren't blooming, but the ones in the living room are and they're just in water. I wanted to make sure I have plenty of milkweed before the Monarchs get here.

The TMW is the most preferred here too (as it seems everyone says that about their place also). Like you said, the will lay on the Swamp, Common, and Butterfly Weed but not as much as they do on the Tropical. I also have Purple Milkweed here, which gets beautiful flowers but still not as many eggs as the TMW. I love the TMW because it blooms all the way up until we get a frost. I want to make sure I bring in some plants every year before that happens because then they're ready to go for spring.
Cathy

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 4:47PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Hey Cathy girl!! Always good to see you! I was just thrilled that it is actually coming back. Now, I can't wait to see how it does. I wintersowed tons of it, and am transplanting the seedlings into bigger pots already. I have 24 pots done so far. A person cannot have too much Tropical Milkweed!! Those Monarch cats have such voracious appetites. :o) ~~Angie

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 8:36AM
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caterwallin

Hi Angie, I don't get on as much as I used to, and as you know, I got on a lot. I still have to winter sow my tropical milkweed along with my other annuals. I at least have enough inside to feed a few cats if the Monarchs would show up early, but I want to have lots more, and that's why I'll still winter sow some. You must really be planning on having a lot of tropical milkweed if you already have 24 pots done "so far". All the Monarchs in the county will be going to your place because they'll know where the milkweed is! ;-)
Cathy

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 5:20PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

I don't remember how many pots I had last year Cathy, but the cats went through the plants like wildfire. I swore I wouldn't be left high and dry with a tent full of Monarch cats and not enough milkweed this year. I have one of those big 4 ft rearing tents, and I can just put the whole potted plants inside for them. Had to resort to going out into the yard for milkweed cuttings last year because they stripped all of the plants. It's so much harder to keep cuttings fresh. I think that I am going to shoot for 50 potted plants and then put some out into the yard too.~Angie

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 7:10AM
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caterwallin

Yeah, aren't they little pigs! :) That's why I built that butterfly cage...they eat so much that it keeps you stepping providing them with fresh cuttings, and so I figured just put them in with potted plants and let them help themselves. I still raise some in containers though too to get that personal effect. lol 50 plants sounds real good! I think between the tropical milkweed in 1-gallon pots and the purple milkweed in 3-gallon pots, I probably have about 60 or 70 milkweed plants once they're all up and going. It keeps me busy watering them, and then I have other plants in containers too.

I just did my annual winter sowing last night and that includes 4 milk jugs of tropical milkweed for the milkweed patch. I'll plant them out the first week in May; hopefully our days of frost will be over by then.

Ha, I almost need 2 or 3 butterfly cages to house all of my potted milkweeds now. I don't like to have the plants out where the Monarchs can lay eggs on them because that's what the milkweeds in the milkweed patch are for. I like to keep my potted ones to feed them in the cage. Even if my back could handle moving the ones that don't fit in the cage onto our back porch, we wouldn't have much room to walk. Ha. I've tried draping tulle over the top, but then some manage to get trapped underneath it (various kinds) and then I have to fiddle around with that. I just don't what the solution to that is. We got some cinder blocks at the block plant just up the road last week and I laid plywood on top of them, so now the milkweeds (the 3-gallon ones anyway) are at least raised up so I can reach them a little better.
Cathy

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 2:44PM
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mickapoo(z9 FL)

Cathy- would you tell me more about the butterfly cage you built? I am looking to do the same so the cats can free feed off of some potted milkweed. It just seems so much easier than taking cuttings every day. I'd love to see a photo if you have one, thanks!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 5:12AM
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caterwallin

Mick, I wish I had written up instructions as I went but didn't, so I'll tell you in pretty much detail how I did it and hope that you can figure it out from there. I went to Lowe's and bought a bunch of 2 x 2's and a roll (I forget the length) of fiberglass screen (I didn't want wire because I was afraid that parts of it might puncture a caterpillar as it crawled over the screen). I also bought a box of galvanized screws, hinges, and a lot of hooks and eyes. The cage is made up of 6 panels/doors that are each about 3 feet wide and 5 feet high. There are also 2 panels on top to cover the cage. I used the 2 x 2's to make the 6 rectangular doors/panels and then stapled screen onto each one, both inside and outside. You might want to do what I did (only do it right away instead of finding out later on that you should have done it in the first place) and put doors on the doors. I found out after using it the first year that it's a little tricky opening the big doors when you're trying to gain access to the cage, so it's best to have a door on at least 2 of the doors/panels. So build a door that will fit inside the frame of the big door and hinge it onto it. After you're done with the big panels/doors, then figure out how big the top two panels need to be and use the 2 x 2's to make them too and also screen them on both the inside and the outside (so wasps, etc. can't get to the caterpillars). The cage will be rectangular, measuring about 3 feet wide and about 7 feet long when it's put together. I'd put at least 4 sets of hooks and eyes on both sides of every panel (you'll almost have to stand each up or really think it through to determine how each side should be done...they're not all the same). It's a rectangular cage with two panels on each side and one on each end; of course, there are also the top panels that fasten onto the big doors/panels with hooks and eyes.

Backtracking a little bit...I painted my butterfly cage before I put the screen on it. After the cage was totally assembled, I set it on 3/4" sheets of plywood (also painted) and have them up on concrete blocks (rather than just laying in the yard to discourage rotting). Also to discourage rotting, I take my butterfly cage down after it's done being used for the summer and store it in an outside building. Because I wanted something that could be assembled and disassembled every year, that's why I chose to make panels that have hooks and eyes on to attach them together.

It was hard to find straight 2 x 2's at the store, but after spending much time there digging through them, I found enough to build the cage. Perhaps someone who has better equipment and has better woodworking skills than I do would be able to make it out of something else other than 2 x 2's.

Tools and supplies needed are:
screwdriver & galvanized screws (I used 2" or 2-1/2")
staple gun and 1/2" staples
drill and also a drill bit slightly smaller than the screws and hooks and eyes
jig saw or circular saw
roll of fiberglass screen
scissors to cut screen down to size
40+ sets of hooks and eyes
4 hinges for 2 small doors

I'm including three pictures of the butterfly cage that I made. The first one was taken when I was in the process of making it. The second one was taken before I decided to put small doors on two of the big doors/panels. The last one was taken after they were attached.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 2:07PM
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caterwallin

Mick, I forgot to mention....you're right, it IS sooooo much easier than taking cuttings! It's something that takes some time to do, but you'll be so happy in the end that you decided to make a cage. It saves me so much time that I'd have spent taking cuttings to feed the cats! That being said, you'll probably go through more potted milkweed than what fits in the cage because I had about 100 cats in the cage and it only took them a week to totally strip 2 dozen plants. I replaced plants as they were stripped then. Those Monarchs are such hogs! ;-)

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 2:13PM
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tracydr(9b)

I'm looking for some tropical milkweed seed or cuttings. I'd be happy to send somebody an SASE or whatever is needed. Last spring I had some monarch flybys but I don't have any milkweed in my yard. I know there aren't a lot of Monarchs that fly through the Phoenix area so I'd like to offer them a spot.
Thanks!
You should be able to email me through my Garden Web address.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 7:25PM
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