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Consider planting Nevada native milkweeds in your garden

Posted 1/11/2016

Anne Marie Lardeau with Milkweed seed packets and instructions.

Anne Marie Lardeau with Milkweed seed packets and instructions.

Milkweed attracts the Monarch butterfly

Over the past two years, Master Gardener Anne Marie Lardeau, has been harvesting the Rush Milkweed, Asclepias subulata, seeds from the Demonstration and Test Gardens at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. The plants are native to Nevada in Clark and Lincoln counties. The milkweeds seed collection and distribution encourages the Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs.

The plants are almost impossible to find in local nurseries, but milkweeds can easily grow from seed and are now available from Cooperative Extension as part of a Native Milkweed Seed Project. Seed packets are available at the Master Gardener Help Desk weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Study participants will receive a seed packet containing twenty seeds along with planting instructions. Participants will receive periodic surveys to track seed germination, plant survival and visits by monarch butterflies.There is a limit of one seed packet per address.

Asclepias subulata seeds do not require stratification to germinate,” explained Lardeau. An internet search will give you diverse information and advice on this subject.

Cooperative Extension has obtained good results by soaking the seeds for 2 to 3 days in a plastic baggie at a room temperature of 75° to 82°F. A small white root becomes visible in most seeds at this point. Two seeds can then be planted in a moist 5” deep peat pellet and barely covered with soil.

Lardeau suggests keeping the pellets moist and in a warm environment with bright light and a plastic cover. Most seeds germinated between 3 and 15 days. The roots reached 5” in two weeks and 8” in six weeks. Due to the short germination period, it is suggested to start the seeds no sooner than late January or February.

“Once they have three sets of leaves, plant them in your garden,” she added. Water deeply every few days to encourage root growth.

When you see skinny adult leaves, increase the time between watering as needed. Once established, it is drought resistant and can be used as an upright sculptural accent in a xeriscape design. It blooms from spring through fall and does not go dormant. The leaves are very small and thin. They appear after a rain and drop in response to drought. Photosynthesis is done by the green rush-like stems. Keep the best plant of each pellet by cutting off the other. Adult leaves and side shoots appear after three months.

“Rush Milkweeds provide food for many pollinators,” said Lardeau, “including the Monarch butterfly and its caterpillars.” The caterpillars eat the stems, the flowers and the seed pods. Monarchs lay their eggs on Milkweeds because their caterpillars only eat Milkweeds.

No Milkweeds-no Monarch butterflies!

For more information, email or call the Master Gardener Help Desk at 702-257-5555.

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