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Author Topic: Germinating Butterfly Weed!  (Read 3631 times)
MrILoveTheAnts
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« on: January 15, 2008, 03:29:59 PM »

Packets of seeds are sold in stores all over of Asclepias tuberosa (Milkweed, Butterfly weed, Orange Glory flower) and until a few days ago they were all a waste of money. The packets themselves simply say to plant after frost, but sources on the Internet say otherwise. They need at least 5 weeks of refrigeration in moist conditions! This is achieved by using Sphagnum Moss and a zip lock bag. The moss doesn't want to absorb water so you'll have to hold it underwater and squeeze the air out of it. Form a cup and insert the seeds, they stand out easy enough, then close it up and put them in the fridge for 5 weeks. They can last longer but I was so curious if this method works that I brought them out early. About 10 or 11 days later I have at least 5 of them sprouting up.

This is an amazing plant because Bees love it, it's the host plant to the Monarch Butterfly, it comes in almost every color imaginable. And the only downfall to this plant is sometimes they get horrible beetle infestations. The particular beetle (might be a few of them) are red and black and eat the plant to become toxic, just as the Monarch Butterfly and Caterpillar do. The beetles use this plant as a mating point becuase they don't use pheromones to locate one another, which is really odd. So some plants will get masses of males on them looking for mates while others will only get a few. They do eat some of the surrounding vegetation but I'd say 95% of them are on the milkweed. The Monarchs and Beetles do not kill the plant but they can leave it looking scraggly.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milkweed

It's also an important nectar and pollen source to, not just Honey Bees, but Native Bees, Wasps, Flies, and so on. A number of which are very beneficial to the garden. Particularly wasps that specialize in hunting spiders, grubs, and aphids. However these might not be present if nesting locations aren't available.

First year plants tend to be a simple stalk with flowers at the top, similar to Goldenrod. Older plants take on more of a bush form. Flowers to Asclepias tuberosa in particular are probably the most vivid orange I've ever seen.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v735/mrilovetheants/Justins%20Yard/Weed.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v735/mrilovetheants/Justins%20Yard/Weed2.jpg
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KONASDAD
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2008, 03:37:10 PM »

I tried that w/ asclepias and no luck myself. Maybe I'll try again soon. You mention its a host plant for Monarchs. I planted two Paw-paws this fall. They are the preferred host plant for swallowtail butterflies! How cool is that! I find monarch caterpillars on wild cherry trees all the time too. They love to cocoon on these as well.
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tillie
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2008, 05:30:22 PM »

It's the flower on my icon under my name.  My bees love it.  Asclepias tuberosa has a deep tap root and is hard to transplant.  Mine is the result of seeds I took from another plant gone to seed that I pass on my dog walks.  Every year I take tons of bee pictures on the butterfly weed.

Linda T in Atlanta, longing for bloom from the butterfly weed as we speak
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Cindi
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2008, 11:55:51 PM »

MrILoveTheAnts.  Nice write up on the propagation of the butterfly weed.  I have yet to look for any seed, but it sounds like I had best get my butt in gear.  It is great to know about the cold refrigeration.  Good that taking them out of the fridge caused the germination for you too, yea!!!!

The Liberty Snapdragons are the ones that I love to grow.  They are a semi-dwarf, wind tolerant cultivar and are very beautiful, about 18-24 inches tall, and make for a magnificent cut flower.  Add a drop of bleach to the water when used as cut flower material and they last forever, amazing.  THis year I am making one entire garden alongside my driveway that borders our pool in deep red plants and white plants, they are going to be a show stopper.  That shade of red is really gorgeous, very, very deep, alongside the clear white, something else to behold.

Oh brother, why I started to talk about snapdragons is that the seed must be frozen 48 hours before sowing.  I have always frozen the seed, it breaks the dormancy and it germinates easily.  I have never tried to not freeze it, never wanted to bother to take that chance.  Well, spring must be just around the corner.  Best of a beautiful day.  Cindi
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There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.  The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see, what the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee.  Robert Service
MrILoveTheAnts
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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2008, 09:33:54 PM »

Alright hit a small snag. So I managed to get 4 of them started (apparently some of them will split into two shoots immediately) but they've started to fall over and wither away. Anyone know what might be the reason? Would they do that form over watering?
Also I have a second batch in the refrigerator on the way. Hopefully I can get a few of them to be transplantable.
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Kimbrell
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2008, 10:48:33 PM »

Wilting after sprouting can be caused by too much water.  It can also be caused by not enough sun or the wrong type of soil.  Sometimes I have problems like this when I grow tomatoes from seed.  The problem is usually solved by transplanting them into the garden.  I realize you cannot do that yet.  Try watering them a little less.  The soil only has to be slightly damp.  Do you have a spray bottle?  That's what I use to water my new seedlings.  Good luck with your second batch.
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Cindi
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2008, 11:41:31 PM »

MrILoveTheAnts.  That sounds like a typical case of "damp off".  That is a condition where the stem comes out of the ground it basically just falls over and the plant dies. It is caused 100% by the soil being too damp (maybe get some kind of light on it to brighten it up a bit).  When one is growing seedlings, the soil should be moist and then mostly dry out before it is watered again.  If the soil is kept moist all the time, this condition can arise very quickly.  A young plant cannot utilize an over abundance of water.  It dies, no recovery.

When you get the new seeds germinating and growing, keep the soil moist until the seed germinates and then reduce the water, keep it damp, but only slightly damp, water infrequently, but do not let the soil 100% dry out, that will kill the seedling too.

Can you get any kind of articifial light going?  Very often that is a great tool for assisting with the growth of young seedlings.  Too often the amount of light this time of year is too short and the plants get long and spindly, unless the plants are pinched back, there is generally no recovery of overly spindly plants.

When I am propagating seeds, once germination has occurred, I used the fluorescent light thing.  One cool bulb and one warm bulb, 6 inches above the plants, 15 hours a day.  This provides the tender seedlings with some warmth, light and enough of the natural light spectrum to grow properly.  I have grown a fair number of plants through my years under these systems of lights and they are a marvelous happening.

I know that sometimes it is too easy for others to say what people should or should not do, and maybe a fluorescent light fixture would be expensive or just not something you can do. If you cannot do anything like that, set the seedling on the brightest windowsill you have in your home.  That would be the southward facing window, or southwest.  I would not grow a seedling on the southeast, the morning sun is not the strongest for young seedlings.

I wish you well.  I hope that I may have made a little bit of understanding to you and that your next batch of seedlings grow like the wildfire that they should, hee, hee  Wink Smiley Smiley  Have a wonderful and great day, Cindi
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There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.  The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see, what the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee.  Robert Service
MrILoveTheAnts
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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2008, 02:16:56 PM »

Alright I'm going to say Water is the culprit. I have 3 trays (10 each) of various things started in one flat (5 trays). The other two spaces in the flat I'm using for my carnivorous plants which seem to require bucket loads of water. One of the CPs even requires water to feed. I will correct this setup in the future but for now I have the tray with the one remaining Butterfly Weed elevated up with pegs of wood. Hopefully it won't absorb the water to much. If it gets better I might plant the second batch of Butterfly Weed in that one or in my second setup.

Just yesterday I bought a large 5 teared shelf and 3 pre-made florescent lights (the ones that don't assume you know everything about wiring) and set it up for the masses of plants I've started to grow. The idea is to grow more then I need so I can trade and give them to other people in groups of 3 to 5. I feel by setting up more plants that are beneficial to bees it will mean bigger honey yields. I'll take pictures and go over the seeds planting there in another thread. Nothing big just 10 of each plant and maybe everyone can take pics and talk about what they're growing. 
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Cindi
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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2008, 10:11:42 AM »

MrILoveTheAnts.  Good, you have a nice little set up going on there.  When you hook up your fluorescent lights, remember that plants also need a time for darkness for photosynthesis.  I would suggest having the lights on for 15 hours (or so, everything is approximate), and then allow that dark time, this is actually when they do all their growing.

If you need any advice as far as growing on, ask me, I may be able to help you.  Remember, I was in the nursery business, having that small nursery on my property, I do have alot of information that I could help you with, if you only ask.

One key thing too is, if you find your plants are getting too spindly, it is generally a lighting issue.  Good light keeps plants short and bushy, as does pinching them back, that is key to nice bushy plants too.

I remember with my snapdragons I used to grow, I would pinch them right back to the cotyledon after the first true leaves fully opened.  The seedlings looked rather weird for a couple of weeks.  But underground great things were happening.  The roots were growing like wildfire, and within no time above the cotyledon leaves a shoot would come out on each side (instead of one long shoot coming out the middle), the plants would then grow like stink and become bushy lovely plants that made people just say "ah".

Oh great, now all this talk of growing on seedlings has made me want to get out to my greenhouse and set seeds.  BUT.....can't do it yet.  I won't start the greenhouse until the middle of February.  It is too costly otherwise.

Yes, posting pictures of what we are up to is wonderful.  The fact that you are working so hard to get little seedlings off to a new life is a wonderful thing too.  When I get things really going in March and things are growing on well, I will show pictures.  It is fun, it is time consuming, but I have my Sister that helps.

When we sit and transplant lobelia, that makes my head swim, (never mind sowing the seed that you can't even see, you only know it is there because you can feel it between your fingers, it is like dust).  I grow the Crystal Palace lobelia and it is the most beautiful electric blue you could ever imagine.  In full sun it stays short and makes incredible blue borders, I like to mass plant it.  The bees totally enjoy this cultivar of lobelia.

Another thing, if you could get the seed (I have seed I could send you if you wanted, just say the word), is to plant some Heliotrope.  The bees love this too.  The scent of this flower is reminscent of vanilla, it is easy to grow, revels in full sunshine, but at the same time does not like to dry out completely, likes to be a little on the moist side.  The plant grows to about 3 feet tall and is a beautiful cut flower (it must be held in the fridge in cold water  for a couple of hours after cutting or the blooms only last a short time).  Anyways, didn't mean to take over your thread, but you know me and my ramblin' on.  Have a wonderful and beautiful day, Cindi

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There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.  The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see, what the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee.  Robert Service
Cindi
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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2008, 10:20:02 AM »

Ha, this is funny.  I looked at one of my seed catalogues to see if they offer Butterfly Weed seed.  The first page was the perennial section and what did I see:

Butterfly Yellow
"Hero Yellow", no 1 size roots

$4.95 each
3 for $13.95
6 for 26.95

Pretty expensive for roots I would say.

Didn't realize that butterfly weeds were perennials.  I thought they were annuals, for some reason.

Now, MrILoveTheAnts.  I am not sure if the seedlings that you are growing will bloom this year or not.  Not trying to burst your bubble, but many perennials will not bloom the first year, some may, just depends on the species.  But I  hope that they do bloom this year for you, you are working so hard to get them going.  Have the best day, Cindi
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There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.  The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see, what the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee.  Robert Service
tillie
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2008, 03:57:54 PM »

The ones I grew from seed bloomed the first year - and have every since as perennials.

Good luck with yours.

Linda T in Atlanta
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Cindi
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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2008, 08:03:15 AM »

Linda, oh that is wonderful to hear.  Yea!!!  So all the work that MrILoveTheAnts is going through will be worth it, yea!!!  Have a wonderful and greatest of days, Cindi
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There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.  The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see, what the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee.  Robert Service
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« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2008, 10:10:41 PM »

I have always used a layer of finely milled sphagnum moss on top of my seed flats to prevent damping off, it works every time.  If you try to grow them again consider trying this method, I think you'll be pleased.
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Cindi
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« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2008, 10:28:19 AM »

Oh Ann, what an excellent idea.  That would keep the stems of the tender little seedlings dry, never thought of that, the things we learn......have a wonderful and beautiful day on our great planet, Earth.  Cindi
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There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.  The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see, what the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee.  Robert Service
MrILoveTheAnts
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« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2008, 06:07:25 PM »

Been doing some reading in a wonderful book I'll mention later. In reference to Butterfly Weed those red and black beetles apparently migrated too. They're in a group of seed beetles, meaning they eat seeds. Specifically they inject digestive enzymes in the seeds while their still developing on the plant, and basically hollow them out. This might explain why some people have trouble germinating seeds too. Of the seed pack before I only managed to get 4 of them to develop.
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Cindi
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« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2008, 10:03:15 AM »

Been doing some reading in a wonderful book I'll mention later. In reference to Butterfly Weed those red and black beetles apparently migrated too.

What are the beetles?  I would be curious, tell the name of them.  I surely hope it is not the Lady Beetle, hee, hee.  But I don't think they would do that, or would they?  Curiosity never got this cat.  Beautiful day, beautiful life.  Cindi
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There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.  The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see, what the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee.  Robert Service
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« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2008, 10:46:26 AM »

They are Beetles in the family Lygaeidae and the book reads there are about 250 species north of Mexico.
http://images.google.com/images?q=Lygaeidae+&ndsp=20&um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&start=0&sa=N
A quick search on google mostly shows the ones found on Milkweed. They closely resemble Assassin bugs which to my knowledge only eat small insects like ants.
I imagen they're only a problem for Native plants and closely related imported relatives. They can only eat seeds from host plants and if they aren't dormant for a certain time of the year then they likely migrate or are otherwise rare. It's hard to imagen imported plant species having trouble with these bugs in our part of the world, even if their seed beetles are also imported. They'd need a good verity of host plants that seed for most of the year. 
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