Milkweed from dormant roots

ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

So, I was hoping to get some insight here on growing milkweed from dormant roots. I have read"it can be done" but not a lot of instruction on how to do it.


I have A. incarnata (swamp milkweed) and A. speciosa (showy milkweed) growing here around the property. The soil has thawed out nicely and while I was out cutting some willow and cottonwood whips today (I will root and plant those around the property) I figured I'd dig up a couple milkweed to see if I could get them to grow in more "favorable" locations (I.E. where they wont be overcrowded and out-competed by cattails and pasture grass). I know that you can purchase swamp milkweed as a dormant bare-root plant but I don't know about showy milkweed. It is rhizomatous, but it also gets a hefty taproot.


Anyhow, here's the one I dug (I actually only dug up two clumps of swamp milkweed, they just came apart into more, smaller chunks).


A. incarnata:

A. speciosa:


I just found some stray plastic pots in the shed, barn, basement and plunked them into some potting mix and watered them. Is there anything special I should do? Or just wait and hope for the best?

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

As a rule some milkweeds are rumoured to transplant poorly, due to their taproot.

I would say the swamp milkweed will do ok, but I suspect the speciosa will not.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Yeah, I am not confident with the speciosa, either. I only dug two clumps of each since this is an experiment, maybe we will be surprised?!

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Well let us know. I did find that seedling milkweeds transplant readily when very young (like no more than one set of true leaves). Course that means it's easier to handle the tiny taproot, maybe that's why.

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dandy_line (Z3b N Cent Mn)

In a previous property I owned, the swamp milkweed was difficult to keep in check due to rampant seeding. The ground was on the dampish side which it much prefers. I had to deadhead them in order to keep them contained. They were easy to germinate with only 30 days cold in a baggy in the fridge. Or just scattering the seeds in fall near damp soil could be all that's needed.

But then, this is in Mn, not Co so your conditions may be too different for success.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Not very many things compete will with cattails. The swamp milkweed isn’t uncommon around our ponds but it definitely has a difficult time keeping up against the blitzkrieg of cattails so I’d like to give the ones I’ve got a fighting chance haha.

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docmom_gw(5)

I have found A. incarnate to be quite forgiving and accepting of a wide range of growing conditions. I have even grown it in very sandy soil, though in partial shade. So, I would encourage you to find a spot for it away from the cattails. I am confident it will do well. I have also transplanted incarnata with excellent results.


Martha

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Thanks Martha! So far nothing *looks* like it is happening aside from grass seedlings that have appeared. I’m hoping that they are pushing out roots but time will tell!

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Duffy Meadows

Please keep us updated!! I attended a native plant conference where they suggested harrowing through a Common milkweed patch because the roots would be broken and scattered and that would produce a flush of new plants.

So I went through a patch of common milkweed in our prairie and cut up a bunch of roots into 2 inch pieces and buried them in a new spot. 2 years later... still nothing.

Maybe I did something wrong but I tilled my garden bed this spring and there was a comfrey plant in the bed. It was all shredded and destroyed. Now my garden is teaming with full size and fully flowering comfrey just 1 month later. Ugh. I would love to figure out a better root transplant method for my milkweeds. Seeds have been hit or miss for us.

Here is an up close photo of some of our common milkweed (zone 4a central MN) https://www.instagram.com/p/Bz3I8RonudW/?igshid=1dmjls50i5mip

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Well Duffy, I’ll get you photos tomorrow when it’s daylight, but every single one of those bare root plants put up new growth.

The swamp milkweed did the best. It has a fiberous root system so disturbance does little to set it back. It will be flowering in a few weeks. The showy is a bit on the small side, but all I need is for the crown and root system to survive, I dont need it to get big and beautiful this year.

What time of year did you run the harrow over the common milkweed? I would only attempt that on very early spring well before any new growth has appeared. Harrowing can also be tricky since a lot of the root system will be brought closer to the surface where it’s more susceptible to freezing/thawing and extremes of temperatures and drought. I wonder if a light disking might be better since it may drive more the root down, or at least bury it better, than a harrow.

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