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Activities Botany Butterfly Farming Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Growing Butterflyweed From Seeds (KIDS ONLY)

Step-by-Step Instructions for kids under 12, with adult supervision.


Welcome, young Butterfly Farmers! Today, we’ll learn how to grow beautiful Asclepias Tuberosa, commonly known as Butterfly Weed. These vibrant flowers attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators to your farm, garden, yard, or class. Best of all, Asclepias Tuberosa are “native” across most of North America.

Pronounce Asclepias Tuberosa: “ah-SKLEP-ee-us too-ber-OH-sah”

Orange Butterflyweed in its native habitat of sunny grasslands and prairies.

NOTE: Milkweed is the ONLY kind of plant Monarch Butterflies can eat as baby caterpillars!

Monarch Butterfly caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) can only eat Milkweed plants, like this pink Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). “Cats” will also eat the Milkweed flowers!

Remember, all Milkweed species make toxic, milky latex that ultimately protects Monarch Butterfly caterpillars, but could irritate your eyes or skin. So be sure to have an adult supervise you throughout this exciting process.

Johnny Butterflyseed

Let’s get started!

Materials Needed

  1. Asclepias Tuberosa seeds
  2. Small pots or seed trays
  3. Potting soil or seed-starting mix
  4. Watering can or spray bottle
  5. Clear plastic wrap (optional)
  6. Popsicle sticks or labels
  7. Marker or pen
Any kit meant for “starting seeds” should work for Milkweed.

Step 1 – Preparing the Pots

1. Fill the pots or seed trays with potting soil or seed-starting mix. Leave about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space at the top.

Milkweed is not fussy about dirt, as long as it’s not too wet.

Step 2 – Planting the Seeds

1. Moisten the soil in each pot or seed tray by lightly spraying it with water.

2. Take a pinch of Asclepias Tuberosa seeds and sprinkle them evenly over the soil surface.

3. Gently press the seeds into the soil using your finger or the back of a spoon. Don’t bury them too deep—just lightly cover them with a thin layer of soil; no more than 1/4 inch or 6mm.

Shallow seed trays make more seedlings and use less dirt, but should be filled to the top.

Step 3 – Labeling

1. Take a popsicle stick or label and write “Asclepias Tuberosa” and today’s date on it.

Save Your Sticks! So many great projects start with popsicle sticks.

2. Place the stick or label in the pot or seed tray so that you remember what you’ve planted.

Other flowering plants, like jalapeño, make nectar to feed bees and butterflies. Popsicle sticks make great labels to help us remember who is who.

Step 4 – Providing Moisture

1. Using a watering can or spray bottle, water the pots gently, ensuring that the soil is moist but not soggy.

2. You can cover the pots with clear plastic wrap to create a mini greenhouse effect. This helps retain moisture. If you choose to use plastic wrap, make sure to poke a few small holes in it for air circulation.

Best is to keep the soil perfectly moist; this is the hard part.

Step 5 – Finding a Location

1. Find a warm, sunny spot for your pots. Asclepias Tuberosa loves sunlight!

2. Keep the pots indoors near a sunny window or outdoors in a protected area.

Milkweed seedlings love an early start indoors so they are already BIG for spring!

Step 6 – Caring for the Seeds

1. Check the pots regularly to make sure the soil remains moist. If it feels dry, gently water it using a watering can or spray bottle.

2. Remove the plastic wrap once the seeds start to sprout. This usually takes 7-14 days.

Step 7 – Transplanting Seedlings

1. Once your seedlings have grown a few inches tall and have several sets of leaves, they are ready to be transplanted.

These Monarch Butterfly caterpillars can’t wait! This is why Johnny says, “Plant More Milkweed!”

2. Choose a sunny spot in your garden or a larger pot to transplant the seedlings. Make sure there is enough space between each plant.

3. Dig a small hole in the soil and carefully transfer the seedling from the pot, keeping the root system intact.

4. Gently cover the roots with soil and water the newly transplanted seedlings.

Step 8 – Watching Them Grow

1. Keep an eye on your Asclepias Tuberosa plants as they grow. Water them regularly and watch how they develop.

2. Soon, you’ll notice beautiful flowers attracting butterflies and other pollinators to your garden.

Female Monarch Butterflies, like this one, will reward you for growing Asclepias Tuberosa by laying eggs!

Congratulations, young Butterfly Farmers! You’ve successfully learned how to grow Asclepias Tuberosa from seeds. Take good care of your plants, and enjoy the wonders of nature unfolding before your eyes… one day at a time!

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