Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden
Starting perennials from seeds usually takes time, but butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) was an exception for me. I sowed about twenty seeds in late May and soon had a dozen seedlings. The weather went dry, the tiny seedlings lagged. Three survived until the rains returned. Then came almost three months of heavy rains. To my surprise, by early summer one of the seedlings reached a foot tall, branched three times and bloomed with three full clusters of flowers. Whoa!
I transplanted all three seedlings in mid-summer. They were crowding each other and located too near larger perennials. They’re fine now (mid-autumn). The books say that older plants suffer in transplanting because they have a deep, thick taproot. On the other hand, you can slice the taproot into pieces and each will make a new plant.
My near-instant results I credit to the bountiful rains and the quality of the seeds, which came from a prairie nursery in Iowa (butterfly weed is a North American native). Next year the plants may grow two feet tall and have twice the flower clusters. The flowers, which are orange, attract hummingbirds, and Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves.
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