Here in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, fall is the best time to plant milkweed seeds. It’s too warm for the ground to be frozen but too cold for seeds to sprout before winter sets in.
Exposing seeds to cool temperatures before the warmer temps of spring will cause them to break their dormancy and sprout in the spring. Fall planting is a great way to get your perennial milkweed varieties started, since the seeds will need cold stratification…and our winter weather will do this naturally.
Here’s how to go about it:
- Choose a spot (hopefully, quite sunny) and clear the ground. If it’s dry, water it thoroughly.
- Simply sprinkle seeds over the soil and cover lightly. Continue with step 6.
- Or planting them a bit deeper make save more from predators like birds, squirrels and chipmunks.
- Use a stick, a tool, or even you finger to make holes about an inch deep.
- Make the letter L with your thumb and forefinger. Use the distance between the tips of each digit for approximate spacing. Seeds can move over winter and some won’t germinate so exact spacing now is a waste of time.
- Place a seed in each hole and cover it with the moist soil. You can mark them if you like so you recognize them next spring.
- Cover the area with leaf mulch (the leaves you chopped up with your mower) to keep the soil moist.
- 1-2 months after your seedlings have sprouted next spring, pinch off extra plants (or consider transplanting) to achieve ideal spacing milkweed. Most milkweed plants should be spaced 1.5 to 2 feet apart although in nature they grow (or not) where ever they land.
- Enjoy watching them grow, and hopefully host some monarchs for you to watch.