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How to Take Care of Milkweed Plants

Milkweed Buds image by Jim Mills from

Some gardeners grow milkweed for its medicinal benefits and others enjoy the winged visitors it attracts. The life cycle of monarch butterflies unfolds amidst milkweed plants as female monarch butterflies lay eggs on milkweed leaves. When the eggs hatch, monarch caterpillars grow large eating milkweed foliage. Eventually the caterpillars will spin their cocoons, attaching them to the leaves and stems of the milkweed plants. Take care of milkweed plants to ensure a thriving milkweed patch in your landscape.

Provide regular water for the milkweed plants to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. When the soil dries, water the planting area again to moisten it without over-saturating it.

Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the planting area to keep the soil moist and control weed growth around the milkweeds.

Prune back the milkweed plants by half when they are approximately 6 inches tall to encourage full and bushy growth. Make sure there are no monarch eggs on the foliage before you prune.

Mix the fertilizer with water according to package recommendations for the size of your planting area. Apply the fertilizer around the base of the milkweed plants, taking care not to splash fertilizer onto the plant foliage to prevent burning. Fertilize the milkweed plants approximately three weeks after planting, and then one to two more times (spacing the fertilization approximately one month apart).

Check the milkweed pods to see if they are ready to harvest. Squeeze them carefully to see whether they open. If they will not open when you squeeze them, the seeds are not ready for harvest. Wait until the seeds open easily when you squeeze them gently. Harvest pods with brown seeds by clipping the pods from the plants.

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