When should you plant MILKWEED seeds in Iowa? (so they survive)
In my opinion, you can’t have too much Milkweed growing in your yard.
Not only are the blooming flowers beautiful, but this native plant is incredible for wildlife. I’m sure you have heard about how important Milkweed is for Monarch butterflies, as this is the only plant that their caterpillars will eat!
The LEAST expensive way to get lots of Milkweed in your yard is to grow them from seeds. Buying full-grown plants from a garden center can get VERY expensive.
- RELATED: The 12 Types of Milkweed plants that grow in Iowa. (Includes WHERE you can buy seeds)
But now that you have seeds, a very common question tends to arise:
When should you plant Milkweed seeds in Iowa?
Honestly, when I first learned the answer, I was a bit surprised!
The BEST time to plant Milkweed seeds in Iowa is the fall.
This was surprising to me because I’m so used to starting my vegetable seeds, like tomatoes, indoors during spring.
But Milkweed is native to Iowa and has evolved to thrive with cooler temperatures. In fact, the reason you need to plant the seeds in the fall is because of the cold weather!
To germinate in spring, Milkweed seeds need the freezing and thawing temperatures that winter provides, combined with moisture.
As you can see, because of these facts, you must plant Milkweed seeds in the fall. So, find an ideal spot for your Milkweed and get the seeds in the ground BEFORE the ground freezes in Iowa!
Most Milkweed species need to be planted in sunny areas with well-drained soil. Next, the seeds should be inserted slightly into the ground (I put them in about the length of my fingernail). Now you just need to wait until spring to see your plants germinate and start growing.
And remember that this native plant is a perennial and will come back every year. 🙂
But what if you want to start your seeds indoors in the spring?
While the best time to plant Milkweed seeds in Iowa is in the fall, it’s possible to do it in the spring.
But first, you MUST have the seeds go through something called artificial stratification. This process is where you simulate the effects of winter by placing the seeds in a moist paper towel and putting them in the fridge. If you just keep the seeds in a warm, dry place, such as in your house, then they will never grow! Milkweed seeds NEED cold weather to stimulate germination.
Once the Milkweed seeds have been properly prepared, they can be planted indoors approximately 4 to 8 weeks BEFORE the anticipated last frost. If your young plants are exposed to frost, then they might die. So it’s crucial not to transplant them outside until the weather has turned warm for good.
Have you had luck planting Milkweed seeds in Iowa?
If so, please share your best tips below!