Question about Milkweed, please help!

catobsessedMay 9, 2010

I have milkweed vines (common, wild) coming up in my butterfly garden, but not nearly as thick an healthy as I would like.

My question is, when I grow seedlings they are thin and spindly, and I replant them into larger pots, but what does it take to make them nice and solid stems?

The only ones coming up in the garden, are from last year, and they are much thicker stems than the seedlings.

Anyway, is there any way to beef them up? Is pot space the big issue, because the roots need to get established in the dirt? Or is it just that it takes time for them to switch gears and get bigger? I'm so impatient. Thanks for any responses.

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roper2008 (7b)

I'm familiar with common milkweed, but not milkweed vine. Most plants,
if they are perennials do better second year. My orange milkweed was
a spindly little plant the first year I started it. I believe the plants
concentrate more on root growth the first year. Second year it grows
much stronger and third year even better. It just takes time.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 1:48PM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

Not sure about vines, but with regular seedlings, you can help them strengthen their stems by rubbing your hand over the plants, simulating the wind, before you start placing them out for hardening off outside.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 12:35PM
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cecropia(z5 Oh)

Common milkweed has a deep taproot and probably takes a year to get established when grown from seed.

Bernegrrl,that's a very interesting fact and sounds like a good idea.I wonder if it would help seedlings that are spindly due to lack of light?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 1:02AM
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I'm not sure that you will be successful with growing milkweed in pots, unless the pot is maybe 12 inch diameter and maybe 14 inches deep. Milkweed has an extensive root system, and it does best out in the yard. It is normal and expected for these plants to look spindly the first year. They spend the first season growing roots, and then they take off and zoom in year 2.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 10:57PM
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Milkweed vine? Are you talking about honeyvine, Cynanchum laeve? It grows invasively in my yard, so I never grow it in a pot. According to the literature, it can have a tap root up to 2 meters. So it may not be happy in a pot. It is an agricultural pest and can be a pain in the yard.

From an abstract; Laboratory and field experiments were conducted to describe the root system of honeyvine milkweed [Cynanchum laeve (Michx.) Pers.], and to study factors affecting the growth of plants from root fragments of shallow, ascending roots. The root system of a typical plant was composed of lateral roots radiating from a sparsely-branched, vertical taproot. Laterals tended to concentrate in a boundary area between a loamy surface soil and a zone of clay accumulation, this boundary area being below the zone of cultivation. Vertical taproots were found to a depth of 2 m, with sections collected at this and shallower depths demonstrating the ability to produce aerial shoots. In laboratory studies, root sections were killed either by freezing for 2 h or by drying at either 20 or 30 C for 24 h. The optimum temperature for shoot development from root sections was between 20 and 30 C. Shoot emergence and growth from buried root sections were generally unaffected by either depth of planting or root length. As many as 45 daughter shoots were produced from a single plant originating from seed, and 27 daughter shoots were developed from a root section 131 days after planting. The maximum distance daughter shoots were observed from original plants 131 days after planting was 111 cm.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 8:08AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

catobsessed, I have Cynanchum laeve growing in a large pot this season, thanks to a garden web gardener who kindly shared seeds with me; will know more about how well it does later this summer. I have a small garden and had read that it could be difficult to keep in bounds so thought I'd try it in a pot. So far, it seems to be doing fine but it's a new plant to me so don't really know what to expect. The oldest seedling has reached the top of the wire obelisk I'm using and I was wondering if I should pinch out the growing tip. It is already putting out lateral growth at the leaf nodes. The diameter of the vines is thin and frail looking but they are from recently planted seed. I've never seen this plant before so don't know how they 'should' look at this stage of growth.

Surprisingly, A mama Monarch actually laid eggs on a couple of leaves on this little vine earlier this year. She also laid eggs on most of the other varieties of Milkweed, too, but I would have thought she'd favor the more common types of milkweed. I'm growing this vine as a backup for food and it was reasruring to see her take to it as she did.

bananasinohio, thank you for this very interesting report regarding the rooting system of this vine. Undoubtedly, this is why the farmers have tried to eradicate it from their fields! :-)


    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 1:00PM
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I have at least 20 large milkweed plants in my back yard which are loaded with sweet ants. I am not finding any eggs on these plants and have given up because the ants come on me. Are they eating the eggs. I have some in the front of my house with no ants and have found some eggs there. PLEASE PLEASE HELP ME. They are the commom milk weed already with the small purple bunches of flowers at the top.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 8:34PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Mona, to get the best responses you should start a new thread with your question, which isn't really related to this thread.

One reason ants are attracted to the Milkweed is because of Oleander aphids, which secrete a sweet honeydew that the ants like. You can spray the plants with water to remove the aphids, but this could possibly wash off Monarch larvae as well.

I'm not sure, but the ants may eat Monarch eggs?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 10:53AM
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How about some organic fertilizer?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 4:25PM
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My experience has been that ants will eat monarch eggs, and possibly first instar cats, as well. So when I am attempting to find some eggs for hand-rearing, I feel like I am competing with the ants, to get there first. When I see an adult female monarch laying eggs, I will go out ASAP and look for eggs. Usually I can find some, the ants are thorough, but they aren't that quick.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 6:18PM
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