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Mr. Smarty Plants - Growing butterfly weed as a girl scout project

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Monday - July 30, 2012

From: bee caves, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Planting, Propagation, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Growing butterfly weed as a girl scout project
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We have a group of girl scouts who want to sell 'crafts' at a farmers market. I am wanting to steer the moms and girls in a different direction. I was wondering if you think that butterfly weed would be a good plant for them to start from seed? is it easy to grow and start in small containers? i know that it takes several years to flower, but how long before we have a small plant to sell? I do have a small greenhouse to use for this. I was wanting to go beyond crafts and to help the girls learn and teach others about the environment and the future wildlife these flowers will attract. if not this flower do you have a sugestion? i know that this is one of the flowers that bee caves/lakeway housing expansion will effect.

ANSWER:

I think Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) is a good choice for your project.  The main drawback is the relatively slow rate of growth, but you should have a saleable seedling if you grow from seeds or cuttings over the winter in a warm greenhouse.

To propagate from seed, collect the seeds just as the ripe pods are opening.  Before planting, give the seeds a cold treatment in the fridge as described in this web site.  This involves cold treatment for 3-6 weeks.  In the meantime, as your girl scouts begin to get impatient, try buying a mature Butterfly weed from the nursery and practice making stem cuttings (see the same web site) or try taking cuttings from the long tap root.  Root cuttings are fairly widely used in butterfly weed propagation.  These should be taken from mature or dormant plants in the fall to give the cuttings time to grow in the greenhouse during the winter.

If your timing is right there should be something for the girls to see pretty soon after you get started.  Be very careful if you transplant the seedlings; the butterfly weed root system does not like to be disturbed.

 

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Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

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