Butterfly weed questions: transplanting, propagating in water

knoxvillegardener(7a)July 4, 2012

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) doesn't transplant because it has a long taproot that it doesn't like having disturbed: is this true?

Some butterfly weed grows in a nearby small field and I'd like to add some to a wildflower area in my backyard.

If it's true that butterfly weed doesn't transplant well, what does this mean? 50% fatality rate? Forget it, don't bother? It can be done if you dig deep down and get a good length of taproot?

I also read that butterfly weed can be propagated in water.

If this is true, what do I need to do? Cut a stem off near the ground, strip the lower third of its leaves and then stick it in some water until I see roots start to grow out the bottom, then plant it?

If this will work, does it matter if the stem is already flowering at the top or is going to flower soon? (My thinking is would that take up too much of the plant's energy and make it hard to grow new roots at the bottom?)

Thanks in advance for any suggestions or insights.

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You'd most likely be wasting them if you move them. If you do try to get some from the field, I would look for the smaller ones and then only get two or three to see how it goes (assuming you have permission) and wait until the weather cools off.
I don't know if they root well in water but with butterfly weed, I think you'd be better off in the long run, have stronger plants, if you just start them from seed. Would you be able to collect seeds from the nearby field or will it be mowed?

Butterfly weed is one that germinates well using the "winter sowing" method, and even though mature plants transplanted from a field tend to die, seedlings transplant pretty good.
To winter sow means to start the seeds outside in containers with clear vented lids. I like to use those big foil lasagna pans that come with clear plastic lids. Some people use milk jugs. If you want to know more about that, there's plenty of info in the FAQ section of the Winter Sowing forum.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 7:46AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I started some with winter sowing just this year. They are growing marvelously. I would strongly suggest trying that.

Any of the milkweeds are very tough to move unless very young - short roots.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 10:26AM
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dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))

And I germinated many plants this Spring without messing with WS. Thirty days in the fridge is all it takes.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 7:48PM
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I have successfully grown A. tuberosa from seed in peat pots which negates the transplant issue since you plant the pot and all, the root is not disturbed. I like to plant a trap crop of dill somewhere nearby to distract butterfly larvae that enjoy feeding on butterfly weed.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 1:22PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

kalia, caterpillars that eat Asclepias (monarch) can't substitute dill.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 4:09PM
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They grow well from seed. That is the cheapest and easiest way to get this plant. You could even harvest the seed from the ones behind your house for free.

The 2nd best method is root cuttings. The taproot is literally as big as a carrot.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:59PM
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Interesting purpleinopp, thanks for your comment. I know these are different plant families and so understand your comment....but each year I plant a trap crop of annual Apiaceae family plants and the same caterpillars that munch my butterfly weed are all over them!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 7:16PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

The larvae of black swallowtails look similar to those of monarchs and prefer to feed on members of the parsley family.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 8:40PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I have seed for A. tuberose if you'd like to try growing it from seed. You could try starting some now using the "summer sowing" method, which is just like wintersowing, only done during the summer months. Once the cooler fall temperatures arrive, you can transplant seedlings of hardy native perennials into the garden and they'll settle in to resprout in the spring. Or, you could save the seed for wintersowing or direct sowing this fall.

Incidentally, I've transplanted A. tuberosa successfully, but I've always done it in early spring, just as it is beginning to poke up from under ground. And I did take a pretty generous root ball, and the plants were usually only one or two years old.

Hope this helps. If you want seed, e-mail me.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 9:45PM
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