How to Grow a Milkweed Plant

Updated March 23, 2017

No butterfly garden is complete without a milkweed plant. Because the monarch butterfly depends on this plant to nurture its offspring, planting it almost guarantees a steady stream of butterflies into the garden. Milkweed is a perennial plant that flowers from May to August and can grow from 1 to 3 feet in height. The seed requires a chilling period, so planting it in the fall allows it to go through the chill of winter and emerge in the spring when the weather warms. Once established, the milkweed plant requires very little care.

Dig up the soil in the planting area to a depth of 6 inches, using a small hand cultivator. Smooth the soil until it is level. Pack it down by hand until it is firm.

Moisten the end of a toothpick and touch it to the milkweed seed. Place the seed onto the prepared planting area and cover it with 1/8 inch sand.

Water the seed gently, until the top 1-inch of soil is moist. Water every day for the first 10 days the seed is in the ground. Do not let the seed dry out.

Irrigate the seedling to keep the soil just barely moist until it has its fourth set of leaves. After that, water only if the weather is hot or windy, or during prolonged periods of drought.


Milkweed does not require fertiliser and, in fact, synthetic fertilisers may harm the Monarch butterfly, which lays its eggs on milkweed.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand cultivator
  • Toothpick
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About the Author

Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at,,, RE/,,, and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.