En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
3 ratings

Monday - November 02, 2009

From: Burnet, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Propagating milkweeds for a monarch butterfly habitat
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Sean Watson


I am planting a monarch habitat in Burnet, Tx with Antelope horns, Green milkweed, and butterfly weed. Should I plant in fall or spring??? Should I use cold moist stratification for 3 months at 40 degrees in sand on all three types of milkweed or just antelope horns. Is is better to plant in peat pots or clay pots over the winter and then transplant in spring around March???


Mr. Smarty Plants assumes that the following are the milkweeds you want to grow in your monarch habitat:

Asclepias asperula (antelope horns), Asclepias viridis (green antelopehorn), Asclepias viridiflora (green comet milkweed) and Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

To learn the best method for propagting these, Mr. Smarty Plants consulted Sean Watson, the Wildflower Center nursery manager who offered this advice for you:

I have never had trouble with milkweeds germinating (no stratification needed). If you use the freshest seed possible, sow them in a tall pot or seed flat with deep cells to start them (room for taproots), and keep them moist until you see the first pair of true leaves, you should have great success. You could then transplant them into a larger clay pot to overwinter (clay pots would be best since they breathe) and then transplant them into the ground in the Spring. It would be best to cover the flat/pot with a clear plastic container to act as a greenhouse if you want to start them now. After transplanting them into the clay pot and/or ground, water in thoroughly and then allow to dry out slightly between watering from that point until established (they like to rot once the taproot begins to get larger/fleshy since at this point the roots hold more water so the plant needs less). Just make sure the final site is well drained.

You would have much better success, however, if you wait until February to start them so you can transplant them out in early spring (that way the root system is able to develop more before the next winter). In either case, making a mini greenhouse will allow for greater germination percentage because of increased humidity (I use an aquarium at home). The most important thing seems to be giving the taproots room to grow. ALL milkweeds I have ever grown have always grown much better in the taller gallon pots/or tall tree pots than the shorter, square 4-inch pots. They seem to grow much better when started in early to mid spring (i.e. they love heat).

Asclepias asperula

Asclepias viridis

Asclepias viridiflora

Asclepias tuberosa




More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Native nightshade that is a host to hornworm-hawk's eye moth
October 03, 2013 - Is there a native nightshade that serves as a host to tomato hornworm/hawks eye moth? I like the moth and as a gardener do not like the hornworm. I would like to have a patch of not terribly toxic nig...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly plants for Washington DC area
June 28, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am a teacher working with very young students to establish a wildlife garden. We received a donated butterfly bush of a smallish cultivar, but wondering if there is a native...
view the full question and answer

Questions about milkweed seeds
March 28, 2013 - Dear folks, I am trying to locate Nan Hampton from Los Fresnos, Texas who asked about Asclepias texana seeds and other Asclepias seeds on Dec. 10, 2008. I would like to know if she found any and has...
view the full question and answer

Hummingbird and butterfly plants for Idaho
May 04, 2010 - I'm interested in planting a hummingbird and butterfly friendly garden. What do you suggest? I would like something that will rebloom every year and that has long lasting blooms or some different one...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly gardening in Quitman, TX
February 11, 2009 - We want to establish a butterfly garden in our back yard. What plants should we establish to attract the butterfly for food and host planting?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center