Collecting Milkweed Seeds 101
Fall is a great time to collect your Milkweed seeds and there are many things you can do with your harvested seeds. You can save them for next year, give them to friends and family, share with your community or donate them to your favorite Monarch conservation organization!
If you missed out on collecting them in the Fall, you might just get lucky and find some seeds still hanging on in the Spring! This is great because they have already gone through nature's cold stratification period, also known as winter.
Where should I collect? You can collect Milkweed pods from your own garden, on private lands (with permission), public right-of-ways and road sides.
What if I'm not sure how if it's a Milkweed plant? All milkweed species develop a seed pod and they look very similar. Refer to the Milkweed Identification blog if you're not sure how to identify Milkweed.
How much should I collect? The rule of thumb for harvesting wild plants is to leave at least 2/3rds of the plant to ensure that the wild population will continue to thrive.
Step 1: Collecting the Milkweed Pods
Timing is key when collecting milkweed seeds. Here are a couple of tricks to ensure that your seeds are mature and viable.
If the pod is brown and has already popped open releasing their silky fluff, also called coma, you know that they are ready and you can harvest them and remove the fluff later.
However, if you want to avoid the fluff and be able to take the seeds off neatly and easily, here is a little trick.
I look for green seed pods and the first thing I do is squeeze the seed pod. If I hear a gentle pop and see that the pod has split at the suture, then I look inside. If the seeds are a nice toffee brown then I know they are mature and I can collect the pod. However, If the seeds are white or tan, I don’t collect them and let them continue to mature on the plant.
Milkweed seeds can mold easily so I like to use a breathable paper bag or cardboard box when I'm out collecting.
Step 2- Removing the Seeds from the Husk
This is a fun and relaxing activity. I’ve already collected my light green seed pods that have row after row of beautiful tightly packed seeds. I let them sit for about 2 weeks so they are dry and easy to remove. I squeeze the pod until it pops open at the suture and grab the narrow end of the pod. Then, I gently pull until the seed follicle comes out of the pod. I then rake my finger nail along the seed follicle, going WITH the grain of the seeds. They should pop right out!
To see a video of this process click here.
Step 3- Drying
After you remove the seeds, you’ll want to let them dry out for 3 days to a week. I like to let them dry on cardboard in a well-ventilated area. A porch, mudroom, barn, or shed works well for this. If you are harvesting in the Spring, you can most likely skip this part unless it is after a rain.
Step 4- Storage
Once they have dried out, I store them in small manilla envelopes and date them. I do not store them in plastic bags because this will often cause them to mold since it is not a breathable material.
Step 5: Cold Stratification
After you have dried your seeds, you can place them in a cold, dry place for the winter so they can go through a cold stratification period. This will increase their germination rates. Another option is to sow them in the ground in the late fall so they naturally go through a stratification period.
You Can Donate Your Seeds To Save Our Monarchs Foundation
If YOU have seeds to donate from your own plantings, you can:
1) Donate it to Save our Monarchs via postal mail
Save Our Monarchs Foundation
P.O. Box #390135
Minneapolis, MN 55439
2) Save them for the following year and plant in the spring after a period of cold stratification.
3) Sow them in the ground in the fall or winter and they will sprout in the spring!
4) Distribute to friends and family!
9/19/2018 08:03:46 pm
I have a patch of milkweed in my yard. I've had it 4 years. The bees love it and I get tiger swallowtails, but no monarchs. Seeds are ready to harvest this week.
9/19/2018 08:11:34 pm
Do the seeds have to go through a chilling period (to simulate winter) to germinate in spring?
9/20/2018 07:57:26 am
A period of cold stratification will increase their germination rate. Most seed companies recommend a 30-60 day cold stratification period. I posted a blog on cold stratifying seeds here https://www.saveourmonarchs.org/som-blog/its-time-to-start-cold-stratifying-your-milkweed-seeds
8/24/2019 09:17:14 am
I have nurtured several monarchs this summer. I currently have 13 chrysalis awaiting birth. I’m just hoping it’s still warm enough.
9/20/2018 12:13:41 pm
Cant we jjus sow them where we want them to grow and let nature do what nature has done for millennia?
9/23/2018 11:40:26 am
Yes, you can plant them in the fall and let nature do its thing!
7/29/2021 05:17:58 am
I’ve planted milkweed seeds over a 3 year period. I tried to place them to make the shape of a heart. After 2 winters in southern New England (it wasn’t cold enough until this Past winter 2020-2021) and they ALL came up at once!! You can plant them in the spring summer but the best time to plant seeds is in the fall, in a well draining but moist soil so it doesn’t get rotten by wet winter weather but, they have fared quite nicely even in a wet spring.
10/2/2021 02:25:19 pm
but did they make a heart????
9/20/2018 12:30:36 pm
I have had milkweed bugs that have sucked the juices from many pods...are those seeds dead? I check a few times a day & kill as many of the bugs as i can. Next year im going to cover some of the pods, with tulle to be safe.
9/25/2018 07:42:54 am
no reason to kill milkweed bugs. ever.
10/7/2018 09:34:25 am
Milkweed bugs have short life cycles and they don't harm Monarchs but they can be a nuisance. They are native insects and have also evolved with the milkweed plant. Therefore, there is no reason to disrupt their native habitat.
9/10/2019 12:21:53 am
The Milkweed Bugs, are they bright red/orange and black? They hang on my seed pods~ I understand there is no danger with them.
8/15/2021 07:49:45 am
No reason to kill the milkweed bugs; they’re harmless and part of the native milkweed cycle. They even resemble monarchs in color!
9/20/2021 10:30:14 am
It’s my first serious year attracting monarchs but if you cover the plant with tulle how are the butterflies going to do their thing?
9/21/2021 03:44:14 pm
You just cover the pods AFTER the flowers fall off. At that stage the butterflies have already gotten all they can. They can still lay eggs and the caterpillars can eat the leaves.
9/20/2018 02:12:27 pm
I only sell wild-grown seed collected on my own land. To avoid the blown away seed problem with milkweed, I find seed pods while they're quite green and place drawstring bags over them. Problems solved! When the seed pods are ready, I simply cut them off the stem (i.e., leaving the pods in the bags) and hang the bags up by their drawstrings to air-dry. There are probably any number places to buy sturdy little bags -- or, you could make them ,-- but I purchase them from a dollar store, where they are 8 for $1, or 12 1/2 cents apiece. They're reusable from year to year. I usually find these bags as "favors bags" in the baby shower section. (Why babies would need favors, I have no idea. . .)
9/20/2018 02:37:37 pm
Excellent idea! Thank you!
7/13/2019 06:03:35 pm
Thank you for the tip! I've had bugs come and destroy the pods and ripe seeds for the last 3 years!
8/23/2019 03:48:47 pm
I use sections of lady’s stockings. I also use a twist tie to hold the on the stem. This allows the pod to breathe and keeps the MW bugs off. I just give them a gentle squeeze to determine when they’ve split.
8/28/2019 02:05:24 pm
How can I buy seeds from you?
8/28/2019 04:52:37 pm
You can buy seeds from us at:
Elizabeth A Baer
9/19/2019 05:33:52 pm
geez I am glad I read this! I was trying to imagine myself sewing little bags to put over the pods after the frustration this am of discovering 5 pods open after 2 days away
8/14/2020 05:45:55 pm
I have tulle bags. Amazon has them
6/9/2021 09:41:47 am
Had to laff out
9/21/2018 07:32:35 am
Milkweed on my property.
8/28/2019 02:06:54 pm
where are you?
11/10/2022 10:31:15 pm
I am inquiring what state are you in, Oregon here. Thanks
9/23/2018 03:31:46 am
Is it ok to transport the seedpoda to other states from MN? ...specifically FL?
10/7/2018 09:40:23 am
It depends on the species of the milkweed plant that you would like to transport. There are over 70 different species of milkweed. Here is a map so that you can see what types of milkweed are appropriate to each region. You will want to choose one that will grow in MN and also FL without transporting an invasive such as Tropical Milkweed.
9/24/2018 05:35:59 pm
I collected a ton but put them in the freezer will this be ok? When is best time to plant them? We plan to start them in smaller containers and protect them with netting until they are second year plants.
9/26/2018 09:47:59 am
I have heard that you can plant the whole pod in the fall. do you know if this would work?
2/9/2019 09:55:28 am
I purchased 3 different milkweed variety seeds to start up here in the North Eastern region. All were stratified for 4 + weeks in the refrigerator and I'm trying different germination methods. What I've noticed so far is that the Common Milkweed do OK, the Butterfly Weed has a very low germination rate where as the Swamp Milkweed germinated fast but the seeds also mold just as fast. The other previous 2 types don't mold, only the Swamp seeds. Do you have any tips to stop the seeds from molding as they germinate? Thank you for any tips you can pass along :)
2/10/2019 11:23:50 am
2/11/2019 03:31:31 am
Thank you for getting back to me Rebecca. I will try the stratifying in a sterile seed starting mix. I have tried the baggy method from this site. Even added the H2O2. The Swamp M. again germinated fast but rotted at the same time. It may be the quality of the seeds I purchased too, so I'll try buying more from another source and give your suggestion a go. :)
8/14/2019 06:11:37 pm
I’m new to the whole milkweed idea. I can plant the whole pod now? If so, how deep do I bury them? Same does for seed. The seed I’m guess just sprinkle a be done???? Do I have to worry about squirrels and deer eating the pod or seeds?
8/21/2019 05:28:03 pm
I wouldn't plant the whole pod, they would sprout together and croud each other out. It would be more work to thin them out. I'm in CO and just sprinkle a good amount where I want them and replace the mulch or add a layer of leaves. This has worked well for me. They get planted just before our first frost so no need to treat them. For public places and such just leave the fluff and throw them to the wind, or like you said just toss them without the fluff.
8/21/2019 11:55:35 am
I planted milkweed in my landscaping years ago, along with butterfly weed and other places.
9/18/2019 05:29:29 am
I have had good success germinating my seeds by placing them in a small plastic container with a few rough rocks, and shaking them, to scratch the tough outer coating. Then I soak them overnight in a weak chamomile tea, the tannins in the tea help the seed to sprout, and helps prevent mold. Then plant them.
9/18/2019 02:01:32 pm
I have a sack of Swamp MW seeds that I have stored in my freezer. Do you accept seeds that are over 1 year old?
10/9/2019 12:23:24 pm
9/25/2019 08:52:03 am
We used to have thousands of milkweeds everywhere. Now they are almost all gone. I found a small stand, and harvested a few pods, and am sharing them with a few eager friends and family members. I'm excited to try to renew what used to be a wildflower/wildlife haven! I'm curious if the salt that is used on roads in winter could be part of what's killing the plants (milkweed, tiger lilies, elderberries, etc...)?
10/9/2019 12:33:37 pm
10/8/2019 02:58:22 pm
Do I need to do the cold treatment for 60 days and then send them in. Or just let you know it has not been done?
10/9/2019 12:36:29 pm
10/9/2019 12:38:14 pm
Pardon me, *low* moisture content.
10/13/2019 06:59:30 pm
I finally found milkweed to harvest, I used to have a lot out where I live on the Oregon Idaho border area but I think my ditch company is spraying it. I separated the seed from pods, some seed is a little damp as it was not fully open pods. Should I dry it fully for a week or two and then scatter around my property and let nature do the rest? We have had 20 degree temps for a few days or is it too cold now ?
6/13/2020 01:30:54 pm
I have about 30 plants (Butterfly Weed) that I grew from seeds (purchased in a packet from Home Depot). Last year I had a few seed pods and a couple of Monarchs and even 2 Cats. This year I have about 50 pods so far (It's June 13 today) and NO Monarchs or Cats. I have actually seen only about a dozen Butterflies of any kind so far this season. Four years ago when I started the Butterfly planting. I planted a Butterfly bush. I had 100's of Butterflies and about 15-20 varieties. Last year I added a Butterfly garden and it dropped tremendously. I am wondering if it has anything to do with the fact that they have developed a huge meadow nearby, along with a smaller one 1/4 mile away, and strip cleared acres of forest nearby!
6/13/2020 01:46:18 pm
We do not have hardly any here in Northern MN. My friend thinks the storm patterns have thrown them off course and our spring
9/30/2020 02:24:59 pm
You must buy milkweed locally, or make sure it’s native milkweed. I do not trust Home Depot as they import much of what they sell.
8/5/2020 09:00:09 pm
I see the address to mail seeds/pods. Hiw do I package them to mail? Any preparations? I am new to this, thank you!!
8/10/2020 04:28:57 pm
Do they need full sun or can I olant in part shade?
9/9/2021 09:16:12 am
how deep in soil do I plant milkweed seeds and do they need full sun or part shade? Thank you
9/8/2020 09:29:27 am
I have some Green Pod that fell off and they're not ready. How can I make sure that they don't mold and they ripen? Do they ripen once they're off the plant?
9/26/2020 12:15:39 pm
9/16/2020 12:17:52 pm
My milkweed plants do not produce pods. Why is that?
9/26/2020 12:18:03 pm
9/26/2020 12:19:03 pm
9/26/2020 08:47:56 am
I am ready to start a butterfly / pollinator garden in my back yard. This week i went to the city's garden and collected seeds from 9 different plants. I have no idea what they are. The leaves are mostly gone by now but i have photographs of the seed pods and seeds. Can anyone help me identify them before i start my planting so i know what to put where ands what to concentrate on? Plus any hints or suggestions would be most appreciated.
9/26/2020 12:20:00 pm
11/14/2020 11:30:31 am
Thank you for this helpful website! I followed a fury of floating milkweed seeds to their source and am also hoping you can help me to identify their specific type. As Michael said above, the plants have nearly died off for the season, but I managed to collect a few pods. May I send you my pod photos as well?
6/18/2021 04:21:50 am
very interesting, good job and thanks for sharing such a good information
7/23/2021 08:40:49 am
I was wanting to mail some seeds to a friend but it is super hot. Will they be damaged in the mail from the heat? Should I wait until the fall to mail? Thank you in advance!
8/26/2021 06:22:47 pm
I have about 15 milkweed growing around my home as landscaping. We grow herbs and tomatoes in the same landscaping beds. The milkweed plants were given to us at a farm show. The milkweed is two years old and growing like crazy. It is bery beautiful. Then to my horror as I was reading about how to care for the plants in the fall I saw many articles that it is a very dangerous neurotoxic plant. It is growing right by my house and its seeds blow directly onto my food. Should I be concerned? I was and am very upset to find all the articles about how dangerous this plant can be and then to know that I eat food grown next to it.
8/26/2021 06:27:24 pm
Wtf articles are you reading?
8/27/2021 04:14:53 am
National Poison Control for one of many. I love the plant. I just want to know if sap and seeds etc will make me sick because they are getting on my food plants.
8/27/2021 02:45:03 pm
I collected seeds blowing off a large milkweed in a native plant display at a local garden center. I planted these a few weeks later in a pot outdoors. Many of them germinated, even without cold stratification. Now I need to figure-out how to thin/transplant all the young plants.
9/8/2021 06:23:22 am
Two years ago I discovered a lone milkweed plant amongst my flowers. I left it be, and later noticed monarch cats on it. I have a relative who raises monarchs, so with her guidance, I raised and released 12 monarch butterflies. One had wrinkled wings and was not able to fly. I kept him (2 black dots on his wings) alive for days with oranges. However when he drank some cola, he died. The next year I was pumped to have more beautiful chrysalises (LOVE the little jewels around the edge, which no one seems to know what they are.) But the plant now seems to produce small leaves, on top of the big leaves, and No monarchs seem to lay eggs (although they fly around it). My app, to identify plants, says it is a milkweed. And now some thing stripped every leaf. Has anyone else had this happen? I am going to plant more milkweed, because it was so neat to have them change to butterflies, sit on my hands till their wings dried, and then fly away!
9/22/2021 12:31:37 pm
Some of the seeds in my pods have started to sprout even before the pod pops open. They are too tiny to plant. Any ideas?
9/25/2021 02:18:10 pm
If I am going to dry some seeds (we have quite q bit of milkweed plant growing on our property) and I wanted to make the dried seeds available for others to plant, by what date would I need to do this? How many seeds should put in an envelope? Where would be the best place to tell people that I would send them seeds if they would like?
9/30/2021 02:03:11 pm
In NW WI, we have found Poke Milkweed to be superior for first-appearing Monarchs. I found 9 large larvae just on one stem. I had to move 1/2 because they were totally denuding the stem. Larvae first appeared in the flower head. We have lots of "common" plants, but I think we had larvae about 10-1 on Poke milkweed. It comes up sooner and flowers sooner. Maybe that is why it is preferred here.
8/15/2022 12:15:11 pm
Most of the common milkweed pods around my area - and there are many - are being affected by something that, I believe, is eating the seeds while still in the pod. Brown pods are full of what looks like nothing but frass. Pods that aren't mature are often half rotted inside. I've observed small white "maggots" inside these pods. I can't find anything online about them.
9/22/2022 08:44:55 pm
Deborah, I have the same prob here in northern VA. Not sure what it could be but breaks my heart to find dead pod with no seeds. Lemme know what you find.
8/21/2022 07:07:17 am
I have seeds that have been in my freezer for three years because I forgot about them. Are they still good?
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