Due to illegal logging, herbicides, and climate change, the monarch butterfly population continues to decline at a rapid pace. The milkweed is the only host plant to the caterpillar, and without it, the species can't survive. Planting milkweed in your garden is a great way to help, but did you know you could also plant it indoors? It is another way to help this beautiful creature survive.
One reason for planting milkweed indoors is timing. By growing them inside, you will have larger plants for the beginning of the growing season. Also, for the most part, you will have more control over how many plants you produce. It might sound crazy, but by growing milkweed indoors, you're actually tricking the seeds into thinking they've gone through the cold, wet, winter.
When you're ready to begin, put the seeds inside a moist paper towel and then into a plastic bag. Put them in the refrigerator for three to six weeks, checking on them occasionally. This is also called cold stratification. If you notice they are germinating sooner, you will want to plant them at that time.
Cold-stratified seeds tend to come up much sooner than seeds that are simply planted or soaked. If you are thinking about planting your seeds in late March and you want to start growing them under fluorescent lights indoors, it is a good idea to get the seeds in the refrigerator as early as mid-February. Since the seeds need light to germinate, only cover them with a 1/4 inch of soil or less. Milkweeds grow pretty quickly and can be transferred outside when the weather warms up.
It's pretty easy to help the monarch find milkweed plants. Learn about the different plants that are native to your area and trying planting indoors this time. Every plant helps!