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The Common Milkweed is a perennial wildflower with large, globose clusters of fragrant, dusky-pink to pinkish-purple flowers and large seed pods. It has tall, straight stems with pairs of large light green leaves and it can form large colonies in the wild. It is the most common species of milkweed in North America and it is a host plant for the monarch butterfly. The flowers are a source of nectar for many species of butterflies. It occurs in fields, open woods, roadsides and along railroad tracks. It typically grows 3-4' (less frequently to 6') tall on stout, upright stems with thick, broad-oblong, reddish-veined, light green leaves (to 8" long). Domed, slightly drooping clusters (umbels) of flowers appear mostly in the upper leaf axils over a long bloom period from late spring well into summer. Stems and leaves exude a milky sap when cut or bruised. Flowers give way to prominent seed pods (2-4" long) which split open when ripe releasing their numerous silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. Seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements. Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Drought tolerant. Does well in poor, dryish soils. Easily grown from seed. It is used in butterfly gardens, meadows, prairies and naturalized/native plant areas.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year.
- Place the seeds in a damp paper towel or in damp sand inside a ziplock bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for 30 days.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Fill a pot with a mixture of half potting soil and half sand or vermiculite. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the container and leave it to drain.
- Put the pot in a warm, sunny area.
- Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet. The seeds should sprout in 10-15 days.
- The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.