Tips for Planting and Caring for Milkweed
Gardening in Arizona can be difficult due to our extreme temperatures and low rainfall. However, milkweed is still able to thrive in urban settings if given the proper conditions
Newer milkweed plants or seedlings will need to be watered more than matured milkweed plants. Following your temperatures in AZ is a great way to determine how much to water your milkweed. If temperatures in your area are very hot, then your milkweed will need more water than the milkweed that is located in the cooler climates of AZ. As temperatures in your area start to cool down you can start watering less.
Moisture Loving Milkweed: Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) grow best with abundant moisture. Mulch could also be utilized to increase water retention
Most milkweeds grow well in full sun but can tolerate a little shade. In the lower elevations of AZ during the summer months, your milkweed could benefit from some shade.
Milkweed grows well with little to no fertilizer. During the growing season it can be beneficial to fertilize your milkweed with a fertilizer that contains phosphorus.
After your milkweed flowers, you will often see that a seed pod is produced. Make sure to leave the seed pod on the milkweed for a few weeks so that it can mature. Once the seed pod is mature, it will open revealing hundreds of brown seeds each connected to a white hair like structure so that it can blow in the wind. Once you see these white tufts of hair, the seed pod is ready to be picked from the milkweed. If you want to make sure that you do not loose any seeds, there is a way to check the individual seed pod to see if it ready. After the seed pod has started to brown and while it is still connected to the milkweed, gently pry open the center of the seed pod to just barely reveal the cluster of seeds. If the seeds are starting to brown you can snip off the seed pod.
Dead or Dormant?
Milkweeds are perennial plants that normally go dormant over the winter and re-sprout the next spring. If the climate is not favorable (ex: drought) or the milkweed was planted at the wrong time, the plant may go into a growing season dormancy.
What's more important is that your milkweed's roots are healthy! A dead top does not necessarily mean a dead plant. If your milkweed's above ground growth appears to be dead, stop or dramatically reduce the amount of water it receives. Then wait to see if it re-sprouts before you begin to water again. Leave the roots in place and undisturbed.