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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.

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Thursday - August 31, 2006

From: Rye, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Transplants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Problems in germination of Asclepias tuberosa in New York
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I am a member of the Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College and I need information on Acleptis tuberosa. I am in USDA zone 6. Last year I planted fresh seeds purchased from Johnny's Seeds. The plants grew well, and went in my garden when about 2 1/2 " high. This spring not one plant came back. I have just germinated new seeds and request suggestions on caring for the seedlings which have germinated. I was planning on potting up soon, and planting in a sunny spot in mid september. Can you please guide me? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa is native to the eastern 2/3 of North America and its range extends well north of you into eastern Canada. While cold-hardiness is not normally an issue with this plant, the winter could have played a part in your plants' demise. If they were not well enough established when winter arrived, they could have been killed outright from that. Likewise, if they were in a spot where they were particularly well-protected through the fall and continued to make tender vegetative growth until the first freeze, they could also have died in that way.

Slugs can be an issue for young plants. If you otherwise have problems with slugs in your garden, that might be the cause.

The most likely cause is a fungal root or stem rot which attacked all of your plants. Newly transplanted plants are particularly susceptible to rot disease as there is often a lot of injury to the roots which are places for the disease pathogen to get into the plants. Also, new transplants are just weaker and more susceptible to fungal attack.

It is best to start Butterfly Weed early in the growing season and pinch any flower buds during the first year to encourage as much vegetative growth as possible. Since you have seedlings coming along now, if you have a way to hold them until spring in a protected area, do so. Otherwise, try to get as much growth as you can in the garden now, harden them as much as possible during late fall and mulch them before the first hard freeze. Watch for slugs or other causes of problems the following spring.

 

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