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Gardening tips on how to save milkweed seeds

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: September, 2014, Page 143
Milkweeds attract milkweed bugs to the pods where they feast on the plants’ seeds.


Q - How do I save milkweed seeds from my butterfly garden?

A - Milkweeds produce distinctive silky seedpods that add seasonal interest to the landscape. They also attract monarch butterflies that lay eggs on milkweeds as the preferred food plant for their hatching caterpillars, comments Gail Morris, coordinator of the Southwest Monarch Study and volunteer conservation specialist with Monarch Watch (, a group dedicated to the study and preservation of these butterflies.

Most milkweeds produce seeds in the late spring and a smaller crop in fall. Seeds are easy to harvest, and most milkweeds germinate from seeds within a few weeks. When seedpods open, red-and-black milkweed bugs arrive to feast on the seeds, so time your collecting to when the pods are barely open. To save seeds, squeeze pods gently. A slit will open and seeds can be harvested into a paper bag and separated from the silks. Label seed packets with date and location of where seeds are harvested. If you save more than you can propagate, donate excess to Monarch Watch’s Bring Back the Monarch Campaign. For more information, contact Morris at
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