February 24, 2009

Butterfly weed (or the things we do for love)

I wouldn't say that I didn't like to garden until recent years, it's just that the thought never occurred to me. However, in 2002 we were blessed with our first house and a lot of yard space to fill in. We fought to have a lush lawn but the weeds were stronger than the grass seed and our poor soil. However, with some soil amendments and a few raised beds, a pair of gardeners were born. My husband has a farm background, patience and a green thumb so he has done well. I possess none of the above and yet have managed to help a few plants begin their new life. In general I stick with plants I like that I have had success growing. Occasionally I will try something new. However, if I haven't done well with growing something, I'm not eager to try it again. The exception will occur this year. My husband enjoys butterflies and would like to have butterfly weed growing. Our previous two attempts have failed. However, I am trying to put together a butterfly garden for him so we will see if the third time is a charm. As we are getting more plants that butterflies are attracted to, I'm beginning to enjoy watching them too. Stop by our garden this summer and see how the butterfly weed is growing. Perhaps you will find us in our lawn chairs by the wild blue lupine hoping to spot a Karner blue butterfly!

11 comments:

Connie said...

This plant needs stratification, in order to germinate. The horticultural definition of stratification is this...(from Wikipedia) "stratification is the process of pre-treating seeds to simulate natural conditions that a seed must endure before germination. Many seed species have what is called an embryonic dormancy and generally speaking will not sprout until this dormancy is broken."

So, in order to get the seed to sprout it should be planted outdoors in the fall, to go through the cold and freeze cycles of winter, OR...winter sow it. Plant in a vented recycled container (I use a plastic milk jugs or Costco plastic salad green container) which acts as a mini green house, and leave it outdoors. It will experience the cycles of nature and germinate at the proper time. If you plant your seed soon and set it outside, it should do fine! One of my very first posts was on winter-sowing.

www.wintersown.org

Chris said...

Both times I was able to get the plant started with cold stratification and it survived throughout the summer. However, it didn't return the next year. I know that they are one of the later plants to return in the spring but they never made it. I didn't try it last year and was just going to skip growing it but decided to give it one last try.

Tatyana said...

Chris, I noticed that you grow horseradish in your garden. I am curious if you have any problems with it spreading wildly?

Chris said...

Tatyana- I haven't had any problems with the horseradish yet. However, I'm growing it in an area that I wouldn't mind if it grew wildly. It is in its third year so maybe it will take over more in the future.

Connie said...

Wow, sorry for going off on a tangent there...I just assumed you were having trouble GERMINATING it. My bad! (as my son would say) :-)
What type of soil do you have...Clay or sandy? I have heard that Butterfly weed prefers to be on the dry side. High Country Gardens sells one adapted to clay soils.

http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/23201/

Connie said...

P.S. I loved your sub-title for this post. :-)

Chris said...

Hi Connie- Sorry, I didn't explain it well! Our soil is very sandy and dry.

Normally I would just give it up since I don't care too much one way or the other about butterfly weed. However, as I mentioned before it's a case of "the things we do for love". I am now determined to make this work!

Dan said...

Very good information on stratification. I am going to try butterfly weed for the first myself this spring. My favorite butterfly magnet so far has been the butterfly bush (buddleia). Very easy to maintain and attracts a wide variety of butterflies. I am also going to focus more on providing a food source for caterpillars as well (mallow, hollyhock, dill, peas). For more ideas and tips on creating a butterfly garden plan, feel free to checkout my website. Thanks for sharing!
Dan Thomas http://butterflygardenplan.com

RainGardener said...

Hi Chris, I had never heard of Butterfly Weed so I had to rush off and look it up. We do have Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia) that I enjoy. And only last year I read about butterfly puddling which I would like to try sometime in the future.
Sounds like you are doing pretty well in your new gardening experience. So keep up the good work and enjoy.

donna said...

I'm also a northern WI gardener and a big fan of the butterfly weed. You can sometimes see them growing along the roadside around here. I bought mine as an established plant and it's true that they're late to appear in the spring....accidently dug up part of mine because I thought it hadn't survived the winter.

Chris said...

Donna- we frequently see butterfly weed on the roadsides too. That is part of what is making me determined to grow it. Whenever we drive past any, my husband always comments that he wishes we had some growing.

Thanks for visiting!