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Item # Packet size Nett Weight Number Seeds(approx) Price Qty
Small 0.30 g 50 Seeds $3.30
Medium 0.60 g 100 Seeds $5.80

Please note: all seeds are sold by weight and seed count is approximate.

To keep seed prices low much of our seed is semi cleaned. More Info

 

Although its called Common milkweed it is now far less common than it used to be. Where once anyone who travelled country roads from Texas all the way to Canada would see these plants along the way today its almost impossible to find. Continual use of herbicides and removal of hedgerows and open spaces have reduced the population to tiny populations in few places. This has put one of our most beloved butterflies - the Monarch - at risk as it lays its eggs and its caterpillar feed on no other plant.
The good news is its pretty easy to grow once you get the seeds started. They are a little fiddly since they need a period of cold to germinate but your refrigerator can do that job for you and once you have these magnificent plants its all worth it. Devote a patch of your garden to these lovely plants, under plant them with showy flowers that also attract butterflies and hummingbirds and you will be delighted with the show nature can provide.
Common milkweed is a tall native American perennial that grows from a fleshy tap root that does not like to be moved. So plant it and forget it. Once established it will produce large pink ball flowers every year for many years to come. Due to the nasty taste of the mature leaves deer and rabbits don't eat it. so all you need to do is enjoy the show and cut the dead stems down in the fall or early spring. Simple, easy and less work for you.

We also offer Swamp Milkweed a more clump forming perennial that likes wetter areas but will grow almost anywhere.

Description of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).
Common milkweed is a perennial that produces a fleshy taproot. Each spring it puts up one or more thick unbranched stalks the number will depend on the size of the taproot and age of the plant. Stems are hairy and support fairly large thick pairs of leaves from 4-8 inches (10-20.3 cm) long and 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) wide. Leaves can vary in shape from spear shaped to oval, lanceolate or elliptic and are rich dark green on top and lighter beneath due to a coating of fine hairs. Leaves are arranged in opposite pairs progressing alternately up the stem.
Flowers are best described as large golf balls on stalks. Technically they are called spherical umbels and are about 2 inches ( 5cm) in diameter and composed of about 30 flowers although as many as 100 individual flowers have been recorded. Each flowers is about 0.5 inches (1.2 cm) long and consist of five pink petals in an wide pentagon shape with noticeable stigma and stamens in the center. Flowers are followed by large seed pots up to 5 inches (12.7 cm) long. These are pale green and covered in bumps. The pods eventually turn brown, spilt open and release dozens sometimes hundreds of flat brown seeds on silky white 'parachutes' that ensure good wind dispersal.
Stems are normally about 3 feet (1 m) in height but in good conditions can grow as tall as 5 feet ( 1.5m). If any part of the plant is damaged it exudes a sticky white sap which is what gives these plants their name.

Growing Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) from Seed.
Like all milkweeds the common variety needs to be stratified before it will germinate part of that process must be moist stratification which you will need to do when you receive your seeds. All our seeds are kept cold to the first portion of stratification is completed however without some moist stratification seeds do not germinate. There are several ways to go about this.

Direct seeding.
The simplest method is to plant the seeds outside in autumn and let nature do the work for you. If choosing this method well prepare the ground, remove weeds and ensure there is a good amount of organic material then place seeds on the surface and lightly cover with about 0.25 inches (0.6 cm) of soil. Seeds do best when only lightly covered, if buried to deep they will not germinate.
Mark where you planted them! Its easy to forget by time spring comes, familiarize yourself with what small seedlings look like so you don't accidently remove them while weeding the bed.

However most people don't starting thinking about purchasing seeds until late winter or early spring so artificial means will be necessary. then there are several different methods you can choose between depending on your space, location and time. See our Stratification Instructions for full details.

Once stratification is completed bring your plants into the light and grow as normal seeds but still keeping them slightly cooler to begin with, increase temperatures over time but do not go above 73 F (22.7 C) until after the seeds have germinated and begun to grow well.

Milkweeds produce taproots that don't like to be disturbed so once the roots have started to grow on your little plants you don't want to disturb them or it could stunt their growth. For this reason planting seeds in compostable pots is the best option. Choose ones that don't contain any artificial material or mesh as these do not decompose. If plants begin to grow larger and its still not time to plant them out put pot into a larger compostable pot or make some out of newspaper using a pot maker. If choosing this method use only black and white paper not colored as inks are not considered organic (black ink is). Grow plants on until at least 2 inches (5 cm) tall before planting out. Ensure plants are well hardened off before transplanting to their final location

Location and Care of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).
Chose your location carefully as plants do not like to be moved once established. An area with full sun is essential in colder zones (7a and colder) but partial to half shade is acceptable in warmer zones. Space plants at about 12-18 inches (30.4-45.7 cm). If growing in a border remember it can grow to 5 feet (1.5m) so plant towards the back. If growing for pollinators plant in groups. Often a plant will not have sufficient leaves for one caterpillar and it needs a second plant. If that pant is far away (by caterpillar standards) it may not be able to reach it before it dies.

If you did not use compostable pots and disturbed the roots when you transplanted the plant may drop all its leaves as it goes into shock. They hate having their roots disturbed. However in most cases once it has reestablished its roots it will begin to grow again but it will be far behind those that had healthy roots and plants may be stunted for years.

Milkweeds are not fussy about soil type but it must be well drained, does not survive in wet soils. Once established this plant takes very little care. cut down dead stalks in winter or early spring is all that really needed.
Water sparingly. Just keep the soil moist when plant are new but once its established and begins to take off maybe once a week if there is no rain and some watering in prolonged drought is all that will be needed.

POLLINATOR SAVE THE INSECTS
While Common milkweed is a lovely plant with showy flowers it has not been grown in gardens much until the plight of the Monarch butterfly was known. Sadly so many milkweed plants have been destroyed by the wide use of herbicides and hedgerows removed that the plant has fewer places to grow and thus no food for Monarchs.
If growing for Monarchs remember the caterpillars EAT the plant. So you need a lot of plants. One here and there will not to the job, you need a fairly large block of plants together so the butterflies can find them and the caterpillars don't starve if they eat out one plant. If they have to travel a long distance (by caterpillar standards) to find another plant they may die before they reach it. Keep other plants close at hand. It is also important to realize that your plants may be decimated by caterpillars and almost eaten to the ground. Offering far more material than they can eat ensures they have enough food and the plants have enough to recover and produce leaves for next year. One or two plants are not going to help and you many loose your plants if they get eaten out entirely.
Since Common Milkweeds are tall plants they can be grown in conjunction with other smaller plants beneath them to make an attractive pollinator garden. Things like alyssum, thyme or even larger plants like catnip, anise hyssop and other good pollinator plants can be mixed with them.

While Monarchs are one of the few butterflies that lay their eggs on the plant multitudes of others visit the flowers to feed on the nectar and pollen. Many other butterflies, native bees, moths and even hummingbirds visit the flowers. However the strong compounds in the leaves make it unpalatable to most wildlife so its deer and rabbit proof.

Culinary Uses of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).
Quite surprisingly these plants are edible - if harvested at the right time and cooked to remove any bitter compounds. The young flower buds are reported to taste like peas but also stated they are slightly mucilaginous and can be used to thicken soups and stews. young seed pods apparently taste like okra and the young shoots and shoot tips are like asparagus. Older leaves contain cardiac glycosides that are considered toxic in large amounts so its is essential that only young plant material is used. The seeds can be sprouted and eaten also.
The flowers having a very high nectar content can be boiled down in a syrup or reduced further into something like brown sugar.

Medical uses of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).
Long used by Native Americans as a herbal medicine. the leaves and latex are used to treat cancer and tumor and topically to treat warts although long term daily treatments are required for good results. The stems are also used as a poultice on rheumatic joints. The roots are used in low dosages for treatment of asthma, kidney stones and venereal disease, while pounded and carefully prepared it was used as a temporary contraceptive in women.

Other uses of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).
The tough stems can be used to make fiber for twine or cloth. The seed floss once had a far more important role as a insulator and was used to stuff pillows, mattresses and other items need stuffing. Because of its high water repellent nature it was also used in life jackets. the downside is that it is flammable and was used in the making of candlewicks. While highly water repellent it will soak up oil very quickly and is being considered to help removal of ocean oil spills. Latex can also be used to create a low grade rubber. Due to the diverse uses of one plant studies are being conducted to determine if this could be profitably raised as a crop.