About Purple Milkweed: Purple milkweed can be found in woodland areas and prairies, or near streams or marshy areas. 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.
Purple Milkweed Germination: In late fall, direct sow just below the surface in full sun or partial shade and rich, moist soil. This plant also tolerates well drained or rocky soil. Plant three seeds together every 15-18 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 Purple Milkweed Seeds: Young plants should be watered until they become established; when grown from seed, plants may take up to three years to produce flowers. Mature plants can tolerate some drought but grow best with regular watering, especially if grown in full sun. Though not invasive, this plant will eventually spread by rhizomes and forms colonies in the wild. The flowers attract many bees and butterflies, including swallowtails, red admirals, an hairstreaks. Deer avoid this plant.
Harvesting Purple 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 Purple 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 Purple Milkweed Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Summer Height: 24-36 inches Spacing: 15-18 inches Light: Full Sun to Part Shade Soil Moisture: Medium USDA Zone: 3-9b Seeds Per Oz: 4,800 Produces a plant with narrow 4-6” pointed leaves and deep, rosy pink flower clusters.