En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - April 15, 2010

From: Maine, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Propagation, Transplants
Title: Moving milkweed to another location in Maine, NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in up-state New York. I have a 'patch' of milkweed growing where I don't really want it to grow - but have left it because the butterflies and bees love it. I would like it to grow in my back field - how can I get it started there before I start getting rid of it in my door yard?


There are 41 members of the Asclepias (milkweed) native to North America, 13 to New York State. In the area of Maine, New York, south-central New York State, USDA Hardiness Zone 5a to 5b, there are 5 shown in the USDA Plant Profiles as being native. We feel that the instructions for one milkweed would be pretty similar to the others, but we are going to list that 5 native to your area, and look at propagation instructions for them to see what would be appropriate. Follow each plant link to the webpage on that particular plant in our Native Plant Database to find out more about that species.

Members of Asclepias Genus Native to Broome Co., New York Area:

Asclepias exaltata (poke milkweed)

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Asclepias quadrifolia (fourleaf milkweed)

Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

From information in our Native Plant Database:

"The name milkweed refers to the milky white sap, which contains bitter chemicals to protect the plants from predators. A few insects are immune to these poisons and accumulate them in their bodies, protecting themselves from their own predators. Monarch butterflies cannot complete their life cycles without milkweed."

"Propagation Material: Seeds , Root Cuttings
Description: The easiest method of propagation is root cuttings. In the fall, cut the taproot into 2-inch sections and plant each section vertically, keeping the area moist.
Seed Collection: Watch plants closely for seedpods in late summer/early fall. Allow seeds to completely mature before collecting seed to establish new plants in another location. A long pod is produced containing hundreds of seeds with tufts of long, silky hairs (an adaptation for wind dispersal).
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Needs to be transplanted carefully and requires good drainage. It takes 2 – 3 years before Asclepias  produces its flowers which appear in 2 – 3 inch clusters. Once established, it lasts for years, becoming thicker each year."

It would appear that under any circumstances, you are going to have to wait until Fall to transfer your milkweed to another part of your garden, whether by seed or by division. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Asclepias exaltata

Asclepias incarnata

Asclepias quadrifolia

Asclepias syriaca

Asclepias tuberosa

Asclepias quadrifolia

Asclepias syriaca

Asclepias tuberosa



More Propagation Questions

Invasive native blackeyed susans from Warren OH
August 07, 2013 - In our demo garden we master gardeners in NE Ohio have been unable to get rid of black-eyed susans which have, like the other person, prevented or "killed" the other perennial plants. They are spre...
view the full question and answer

Collecting seeds for Texas Bluebell from Clifton TX
June 13, 2011 - How and when should I try and collect seeds from the Texas Bluebell?
view the full question and answer

Why is my Horstail falling over in Austin?
October 14, 2010 - I have a Horsetail plant. It was doing great but now, for the last few months, its not growing straight! Its falling over. Why?
view the full question and answer

Starting wild plant seeds indoors from Dallas TX
February 23, 2014 - Is it possible to start some Phlox drummondii or other native wild flower from seed indoors, and then transplant to my garden? If so, can you suggest some?
view the full question and answer

Can Gaura coccinea be transplanted
June 14, 2008 - Hello, I had Gaura coccinea growing on my property when I lived in Albuquerque. I have been looking for it for years to plant in my xeric aroma garden. Taking a walk yesterday I found some in a ditch ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center