Easy Milkweed Seed Collection

October is here, and milkweed seedpods are maturing. Time to collect seed!

Milkweed is vital to our environment. It’s the host plant for Monarch caterpillars and a nectar source for numerous different insects. (I also caught the resident groundhog eating seedlings, but I certainly don’t grow it for him!)

To collect the seed, I like to catch them just as the pods split open. Cleaning the seed is much easier while the seeds are in a nice bundle. Once they fluff up to fly away, it’s a bit more work. Here’s the method I prefer. (Oh, sorry you are looking sideways. I thought my phone was recording horizontally!):

Pull the bundle from the pod, hold it firmly by the fluff, and rake the seeds off with your other hand. Easy!

If you don’t get to the seedpods before the fluff puffs up, you can put several whole, opened pods into a paper bag, including the pod “husk,” which helps with this process. Shake the bag vigorously, and hopefully the seed will separate from the fluff. If it does, you’ll hear it rattle a bit at the bottom of the bag, and you can carefully pour it out. If it doesn’t work, you can add a few pennies and shake again. This usually works for me.

If the seed is still clinging to the fluff and you don’t want to hand separate it, consider storing the seed as-is in a cool, dry location. After the last frost, clear some soil and press the seed/fluff into the soil to fall sow. You can sprinkle some soil on top to help hold the seed against the soil through winter. You are mimicking nature when you choose this method. If you get a small clump of seedlings in the spring, you can then separate and transplant them where you’d like.

If you know of a foolproof method for cleaning milkweed seed, please share! As VCE Master Gardener Volunteers, we clean hundreds of pods for our seed exchange and to grow for our plant sale each year, and we are always looking for ways to decrease our labor.


*** This site is comprised solely of the opinions of its author, Stacey Morgan Smith. She works to promote gardening and tourism in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, from Roanoke to the Potomac River.***

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