What type, and where to find the seeds?

Heartlostangel(5)February 4, 2014

So I was stumbling around the internet and searching out bugs for our scout legacy badge and found the idea of building a monarch waystation as an eco/conservation project. We've gotten permission from our sponsor to build it in the bottom corner of land, about 20 feet from the Tunungant Creek in zone 5 (4b/5a) in north central pennsylvania- winters are cold, and while the creek does flood, it's generally hard to find places where it's more than a foot deep. There are trees that will shadow the area during part of the day but it should get at least 8 hours of full sun. It can grow pretty wild and will have some other stuff(a bench, a sign, nectar feeders). We'd like it to eventually be self seeding, if that's possible.

So what type would function best in this situation?
Is there anything we can add to the soil after it's tilled to specifically encourage the milkweed to thrive?
How fast does it grow and should we wait a year before introducing some caterpillars or can we do it this summer?
What types of routine maintenance does milkweed require?
What is the exact name of the seeds I should order, and can I start them indoors?
Are they frost resistant?
How big do they grow and what type of flowers work best in the same area?
Any special considerations?

I know there's types of milkweed that are native to this area as I used to aggravate my mother's allergies by bringing her handfuls of the pretty white fluffy seed thingies when I was about my daughter's age ;) We were contemplating ordering the basic "east of the rockies" seed packet from monarchwatch.org, but I'd like to start some indoors now so they can be moved and we'll sow extra seeds when we put it together as well.

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You really should consult a naturalist (native plant expert) in your area...it would pay off greatly I think. Perhaps you might also contact (if you haven't) the conservation specialists at Monarch Watch.
However, with that said...and that I don't have any gardening experience near you, swamp milkweed (asclepias incarnata) is the only milkweed that *I* know will do in possibly flooded condtions.
There's other members of the tribe of milkweeds (including some relatively unknowns called climbing milkweeds) that successfully support the caterpillars.
You may find more information in the thread I link below.

Monarchs are VERY specific about what plants they will eat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Climbing Milkweed Post

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 9:14AM
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Common milkweed Asclepias syriaca, is the kind the monarchs need. It is a wild perennial, easy to establish and is drought-resistant and maintenance free. They will spread. no re-seeding is necessary. The monarchs will find the stand and return every year. So will the honeybees and native bees.

The seeds need to be stratified. That is, they need to be cold through a cycle in order to break dormancy. In nature, the seeds are released and lay dormant through the winter. Plant them outside as soon as the ground can be worked. The plants prefer full sun, but I have some growing under a pine tree also.

The first year the plants grow to about 3 feet tall and may or may not flower. The second year they are over 6 feet tall and filled with pink flower cluster that smell wonderful. A bench nearby is a great idea for observing the bees and butterflies and milkweed bugs. Foraging bees are docile so no need to be afraid. These wild native plants create a system teeming with life and buzzing.

I could send you some stratified seed from my Michigan organic garden for a SASE.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 9:11AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

What a lovely bed of Asclepias syriaca Milkweed.

I've been growing mine in huge pots but with my long summers and high heat, they require daily water. I am tempted to put at least some of this variety into the ground this year and see if I can mange to control their spread.

I live in the city and my gardens are small so as a newbie, I was advised to plant in pots. It has worked out well, except for the daily water requirements.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 10:36AM
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This is only my opinion...but...it's not a horrid reseeder. If you pay attention to your beds at least once a month, it should be easily kept under control.
Just bear in mind it's not the plant that stays in one spot. If you kill all the sprouts but where it was last year, you'll likely lose it. It "wanders" rhizomatously you might say. So make sure you leave one or two shoots.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 12:34PM
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