About Swamp Milkweed: As the name indicates, this milkweed thrives in swamps and low meadows or along streams. The bright pink flowers attract swarms of bees and butterflies, and have a sweet scent described as similar to vanilla or cinnamon. At one time, the silk from this plant’s seed pods was spun for fabric or used for stuffing pillows; in World War II, school children gathered the silk to provide a cheap filling for soldiers’ life jackets. Commercial attempts to make use of this abundant plant included the manufacture of paper, fabric, lubricant, fuel, and rubber; eventually these became impractical and were abandoned. Though this plant is toxic to most animals, butterflies are immune to the plant’s poison and actually become rather poisonous themselves as protection from predators.
Swamp Milkweed Germination: In late fall, direct sow just below the surface in full sun and rich, moist soil. This plant also tolerates clay or mucky soil, but not shade. Plant three seeds together every 18-24 inches. Germination will take place in the spring, after the last frost. When the seedlings appear, thin to the strongest plant; seedlings usually do not survive transplanting, since they resent any disturbance of their roots. For spring planting, mix the seeds with moist sand and refrigerate for 30 days before direct sowing.
Growing Swamp Milkweed Seeds: Since this plant does not tolerate drought, watering may be necessary to keep the soil moist. The flowers attract bees and many butterflies, while repelling deer. Because competing weeds will damage the growth of this plant, keep them down to a minimum.
Harvesting Swamp Milkweed: This makes a striking cut flower. Cut the stems long, choosing flowers that have just opened. Keep in mind that the milky sap is mildly toxic and can irritate the skin.
Saving Swamp Milkweed Seeds: After the plant finishes flowering, 3-4” narrow pods will form. Be sure to harvest the pods before they split and the silky fluff carries the seeds away on the wind. As soon as the seeds inside the pod ripen to their mature brown color, remove the pods and spread them out to dry. Split open the pods and take out the silky seed material. Remove the fluff from the seeds. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place.
Detailed Swamp Milkweed Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Rose Milkweed, Red Milkweed, Swamp Silkweed, White Indian Hemp Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Summer Height: 36-60 inches Spacing: 18-24 inches Light: Full Sun Soil Moisture: Moist to Wet USDA Zone: 3a-9 Seeds Per Oz: 4,700 Produces a plant with narrow 4-6” leaves and aromatic bright pink and white flower clusters.