I am frequently asked for advise about how to start a butterfly garden. I explain that I am a native plant nerd and that I generally only recommend native plants. The native plant that I ALWAYS recommend first and foremost is milkweed.
Ohio has roughly 12 different species of milkweed and at Butterfly Ridge we have six of the twelve in propagation, with seed for #'s 7 and 8 in the freezer. There are a couple challenges with growing milkweed however.
One of the biggest challenges is simply the collection of seed. Milkweed pods have a tendency to burst open and release their seed at inopportune times. At Butterfly Ridge we have a way of dealing with this. We make bags out of knee-high panty hose and place those bags over the developing seed pods. That way the pod can split open when it is ready but the seed will not be lost. Although I must admit sometimes I get odd looks, walking into Walmart in my biker gear to the lady's section to study the different kinds of panty hose! I suggest you go pick-up your panty hose today as the pods will be splitting open before too long.
This year has been a bit of a rough year for milkweed seed production. Sadly, at the peak bloom time for many milkweeds in the southeast portion of Ohio we were receiving our forty days and nights of rain. Last year on Butterfly Ridge we gathered around 20 pods, leaving several on the plants to distribute seed throughout the property. This year we will be lucky to gather 8 pods, taking most of them that we find.
How has your milkweed done this year? Feel free to share your struggles and victories with this year's milkweed growing season. My next blog entry will focus on another struggle with growing milkweed; the treatment of the seed so that it will germinate.