About Red Milkweed: Red milkweed can be found in bogs or marshy areas, or in moist woodland soil. 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.
Red Milkweed Germination: In late fall, direct sow just below the surface in full sun or partial shade and rich, wet soil. 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 Red Milkweed Seeds: Since this plant prefers wet soil, regular watering may be necessary; red milkweed will not tolerate drought. When grown from seed, plants may take several years to produce flowers; this variety in particular can be slow to develop. The flowers attract many bees and butterflies, as well as hummingbirds. Deer avoid this plant. This variety makes a good choice for wetland gardens or continually wet soil.
Harvesting Red 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 Red 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 Red Milkweed Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Tall Pink Bog Milkweed, Red Silkweed Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Summer Height: 24-48 inches Spacing: 18-24 inches Light: Full Sun to Woodland Soil Moisture: Wet USDA Zone: 6a-9 Seeds Per Oz: 5,000 Produces stalks with pointed, 6-8” oval green leaves and round clusters of pinkish lavender flowers.