A Little Trick To Salvage Your Milkweed Seeds

susanlynne48(OKC7a)October 21, 2011

It's one of those, "now why didn't I think of that", duh...moments!

Just tie a string, or you could use a twist tye, around the middle of the pod. Voila, the pod won't open so that the seed escapes and is lost to the wind! Isn't that brilliant? I mean, to whomever thought it up? Such a simple thing, I never would have thought of it. I simply must make things as complicated as possible...


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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Great tip, Susan. I need to remember this as all my tuberosa seed went flying.

You made me think of something else. Last year, my Oscar MW was covered with huge seed pods that hadn't matured. The weather turned off cold, so in desperation I cut off all the branches with seed pods and wrapped the ends in paper towels and sealed them in baggies. About a month later, I ended up with lots of viable seeds. This will also work with Tropical MW.

Sadly, this year, the gopher got the Oscar MW last week. I found the plant half way down into the soil. It's time for full-out battle.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 10:19AM
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Great idea...maybe you could use "twisties" or twist ties! I don't think I would have the patience to tie every pod up especially with string! You could also get some of those little fabric gift tie bags & put them around pods that are getting close to being ripe! ;o)

Sandy...I FEEL YOUR PAIN!!! I have moles but am afraid to poison them because they dig into my yard where I have dogs that like to dig to try & find the moles! If a dog got a hold of a poisoned mole...it could kill the dog. I have tried all the "Mole scram" devices but have had very little success! Outside of the dogs' yard...I have deep crevices now because of the rains we have had in the last couple of weeks...I HATE MOLES! I think gophers are more destructive to vegetation than moles but both are a NIGHTMARE for our butterfly gardens!!!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 10:52AM
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Whew - I have yet to have a Mole and/or Gopher problem, altho I know they exist in the city cuz we used to have them in Norman.

Yeah, I suggested twist ties as an alternative especially if you have lots of pods.

I think I finally figured out when to collect the Flame Acanthus - yippee! I adore this shrub! It retains its foliage thru drought (no bare knees, so no need to underplant it); very little, if anything at all, bothers it whether pest or disease - so far (I hope to get Texan Crescents); just needs very little care at all. The hummers go ga-ga over it.

I have a new love, tho - Japanese Morning Glories! I am going to grow some in pots next year. Take a look at these and EmmaGrace's prices are the best around! Some folks ask $10 for 5 seeds, so these really are excellent prices. I've grown a couple in the past like Chocolate and Picotee Blue and loved them.


Here is a link that might be useful: Japanese Morning Glories

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 8:21AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I wonder if a rubber band would work. I know they don't last long in the sun, but if it were just for a week or so while the seeds matured, that might be easier than tying each pod with string. And rubber bands wouldn't slip off as easily.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 12:55PM
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For milkweed and other plants in the wild I have used the wives old pantyhose. The end is easiest to use but most any other part works as well. Just put it around the pod and tie the bottom with twist tie. This allows the seed to dry naturally and keep most insects out. I also mark the plants with surveyors flags.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 7:19AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Good idea, to put a little tie around the middle but not too tightly because the seeds and chaff need air to finish drying. Then you can let the pod dry on the plant without having to worry!

I am currently waiting on some Asclepias tuberosa pods. I test the pods by squeezing them gently along the "seam" and if the pod splits open even a little then it's time to harvest! I let the whole pods dry for a few weeks in a dixie cup. Then, you can kind of run your finger inside the pod to loosen seeds.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 5:22PM
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That's how I test my pods, too! Great minds! I can audibly hear a little pop! when the pod splits open. Yeah, you don't want to tie or twist-tie the pod too tightly, I agree.

After allowing some time for the pods/seeds to completely dry, I put them in a brown paper bag with several pennies, shake it vigorously, cut a corner off the bottom of the bag, shake to free the seeds from the bag, and then put them in seed envelopes or film cannisters or small containers to store until next year, or until I am ready to winter sow.

How to you separate your seeds from your silk? I'm always looking for new ideas.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 7:44AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Well I am always wrestling with the chaff on Asclepias! After drying I try to hold the pod firmly to hold the silk in place and run a finger along the inside of the pod to loosen the seeds, then shake them out. It is not a perfect system! A little fluff ends up flying around regardless. One of the posters on the winter-sowing forum tried sowing the seeds with the chaff, and got better results than without. The chaff may benefit the germinating seed somehow.

The coin method sounds interesting.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 10:32AM
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I thought about gathering all my milkweed seeds and putting them in something to save til next spring but don't they need the cold winter to make them work in Minnesota, at least the ones I have? I don't want them blowing away, could I put them in a freezer or maybe just store them in an unheated garage or something, maybe?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 8:35AM
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minrose, If I want to cold stratify seeds, I put them in something like vermiculite or sand, put it all in a ziploc bag, make it a little damp and put it in the refrigerator for a couple of months. Then you can plant them. Of course, you don't do this for Tropical Milkweed; you can just plant that kind of milkweed like you would most seeds with no stratification required for germination. Another method for sowing milkweed seeds would be to winter sow them in something like a plastic milk jug (cut in half with handle left on for hinge, cap left off for ventilation, and holes in bottom for drainage) and sit it outside over the winter. I've included a link to the website that explains it, but what I've mentioned is basically what it's all about. I do it for all of my seeds every year and it works great.

Here is a link that might be useful: Winter Sowing

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 3:43PM
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Tony G(5a)

Sandy, just came across this old post.

Last fall, I found the easiest way to save more seed pods from cold weather, was to take cuttings and put them in a vase. The cuttings looked good for at least 3 weeks as the seeds matured.

The physocarpa cuttings make interesting centerpieces. Ambience + functionality = :) Tony

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 12:04PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Glad that worked for you, Tony. The stems do make attractive centerpieces. However, if the pods aren't almost mature, they won't make it. I learned this the hard way this past fall as my physocarpa didn't put on pods until late in the season. The cuttings rotted before the seeds matured. So, I puchased seeds. I've got lots of little plants going, hopefully to produce seed earlier than last year. And, it looks like my physocarpa plant is still alive--it's green at the bottom of the stalk.

I found variegata seed on the internet and am stratifying the seed. I have two plants that the gopher didn't get. They are in big pots planted in the garden. Lost a whole bag of purpurascens seeds--rotted after stratifying. Don't know if seeds weren't viable or just too damp. My other seeds did well. I have a new batch stratifying now that should be ready in May. I'll be building baskets of hardware cloth for all the milkweeds this year. And planting castor bean plants. Hope to outwit the critters.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:06PM
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Tony G(5a)

hmmmmm......my cutting never rotted. I actually didn't put them in water intending to harvest seeds. I was pleasantly surprised when the seed pod started to open 3 weeks later.

you might want to try a cutting or two to see if you have better results next season. If I've learned one thing gardening, it's to never give up after only one try.

Sorry to hear about your purpurascens seeds, but be comforted that they've got friends in 'butterfly garden heaven' with my giant milkweed seeds. :)

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:54PM
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Thanks for sharing this post...I've mostly been successful collecting tropical MW seeds...I just watch them & when I notice they are starting to split...I harvest them & put them in brown paper bags to dry!
butterflymomok...I have a nasty mole problem but the challenge is it is in my shady area of my yard & castor bean plants didn't make it...they like sun!!!
I just got some trades of gopher spurge & am going to try that as a deterent!!!
I had ordered A.purpurascens seeds from a "reliable" seed source & didn't have a single one germinate!!! Year before last I had a friend purchase 2 A.variagata plants from an Arkansas nursery when she was there & planted them where I thought they would like it...neither plant returned this past year!!! SOOOO frustrated! I really wanted to grow them!
I just got some seeds of Texas milkweed but we may be selling our home so I don't want to plant anything that is rare! I am going to dig up some of my BF plants & see if they will make it in pots so I can take them with me...like A.fimbriata, a prickly ash I just planted last Oct., & a few other plants that took me a long time to get find or get established! ;o)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 4:01PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Tony, sorry to hear about your calotropis seeds. There are lots of calotropis plants where my daughter lives, I've thought about having her send me some seed. If I can give her directions to the really nice purple shrub growing in the neighborhood across the street from their area, maybe she'd find a seedpod that I could share. I grew a lot one year, and the caterpillars loved the leaves. I 'll put in a request for a seedpod. . . or two.

Lila, will you stay in Texas? Hope your gopher spurge works, I may try to find some of that. Will you get more land? Do you already have a place picked out to move? Yes, lots of questions! If you get to your new place in time, I'll send some more Aristolochia clematitis roots to see if you can get it started. It has taken over the garden.

I ordered 3 Asclepias lanceolata plants from a NC nursery, so will be trying these. The flowers are a beautiful deep orangey red color. They arrived dormant, but the crowns look healthy. This is the way Seneca Hills used to send her plants. Sure do miss her!

I'll try the physocarpus again. Hopefully, I'll have a greenhouse by next winter. It's on my want list, now that I have a place for one. We got lots of good moisture this past week, so should see some sprouting taking place in a couple of weeks.

I do not have any luck with milkweed seeds ordered from Georgiavines. Anyone else have this problem? I much prefer Prairie Moon or Butterfly Encounters. So, I just need to quit ordering seed for GV, as it's not going to get any better. I also ordered Purple MW seeds from Everwilde, and only got 7 seeds in one packet. It seems they used to give you more. I did, however, get a bunch of A syriaca seeds from them. Purpurascens seeds seem scarce this year. Hope I get some seed pods this summer. Even though the gophers love this plant, they don't seem to get all the roots, and new plants pop up in different places.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 5:47PM
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Sandy, we have lived in our home that we built almost 11 years. I'm an Interior Designer & my husband is a builder & we want to build & sell properties until our home is totally paid for. We probably won't settle until we are on a lake or on more property eventually...so I will be mobile BF gardening until then! Not sure how long that will be but it's what we do! We moved to this area because of the schools & we are on about 1 1/4 acres of property. It is hard to think about leaving now that I've gotten such a wonderful butterfly haven made as well as a thriving purple martin colony! The butterflies will be fine but I only have one neighbor that has martin housing so I will have to recruit my next door neighbor to either put up housing or maybe move my housing to his property if the new owners don't want to continue the colony! We are planning to get it on the market by April so we have a lot of work to do between now & then!!!
I will go ahead & scatter tropical milkweed seeds for the monarchs & queens & I have a lot of perennial milkweeds planted for when I've moved!
I will pot up some of my pipevines as well as a prickly ash I just planted in October as well as some plants I had moved from my father's home! He always had something blooming in his garden & I'm carrying on his tradition!
I'm looking forward to the change but not the move!
Take care,

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 10:20AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

:Lila, understand the moving part. We've done the same. The hardest part for me is leaving behind the gardens. So much work and time invested. I always mourn the loss of my gardens, especially when the new owners turn them back into lawn, and that has happened three times. Butterflies are then left to find new sources of nectar and pollen. Can't understand why anyone would want to get rid of a butterfly garden.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:53AM
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Neither do I.There is nothing quite as enjoyable and peaceful as watching butterflies fly from flower to flower.
Lawns are so much upkeep anyhow, and they are breeding grounds for Japanese Beetles. Useless...

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 10:25AM
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