My method for keeping cut milkweed hydrated

mostoneAugust 7, 2012

After lots of trial and error, I have devised the following procedure for cutting milkweed to place in small vases or water tubes to feed to my cats: The night before I want to cut it I really soak the ground to allow the plant to hydrate fully. In the early morning I cut the milkweed almost at the base - I find that works better than cutting off the tops. I bring a container of water out to the garden and immediately place the cut stems in water after cutting. When I bring it in I rinse everything with water. Sometimes I get a little wilting, but generally this method has been working for me. Once it is in the house for a few hours I cut sections of stems and leaves with no problem.

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Good FAQ topic, thanks.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 1:23AM
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wifey2mikey(7a Tulsa, OK)

Thanks. I will try that later this summer/early fall when the Monarchs are migrating through!


    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 8:07AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Mostone, there is a thread or 2 from previous years whre Ladobe discusses the subject of keeping cut larval food fresh long-term. Ladobe claimed he could keep it fresh for MONTHS by using the refrigerator, and rinsing and repackaging, but you'd have to search for his threads for the exact details.

I have more Monarchs to feed than I have milkweed in the yard. So I'm collecting wild Asclepias syriaca from a wet meadow about a mile away. I hike down with a backpack, large ziploc bags, and some florist water tubes. I cut whole stalks also, and immediately insert into florist tubes. Then place into the large ziplocs. When I get home, I rinse the milkweed well, shake it off, then rinse the zipper bags well, shake out, and place it back into bags, still damp. Then into the fridge. It works extremely well!

Also did this with Sassafras collected in the wild for the Spicebush swallowtails last year. I was able to feed those buggers for days without them staging a mutiny! They were very fussy about having fresh food and if they don't have it they go AWOL.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 10:03AM
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That's great, terrene. I should have specified that I have tropical milkweed in my yard. Thankfully, I think it will be enough to get us through this butterfly season.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 9:08AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi mostone, that's great you have a lot of tropical. My plants are small only 6-8 inches, so I can't feed the large cats with it. But I start the hatchlings on tropical, and feed it to them up until about 2nd-3rd instar. Then they go into the "big cat cage" which is a pop up enclosure where they are fed stalks of common milkweed.

Here's another trick I read about on the Cutting Garden forum that someone talked about for keeping cut flowers fresh. Not sure I'm conveying their exact method, but this worked really well on both tropical and common cuttings. Make a fresh cut on the stem, and then immediately immerse the whole cutting/stalk into a bowl/pan of fresh water. Let soak for a half hour or hour.

I thought the idea of immersing a whole cut flower in water was weird, but the tropical cuttings that underwent this treatment are holding up exceptionally well in the floral foam for the baby cats. And tropical seems to be the one that wilts the fastest.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 10:04AM
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Hhhmmm... I'll have to try that. Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 11:03PM
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