Look for milkweed seed pods that have turned brown and appear dry. If the pods aren’t fully formed or are green, they aren’t ready to be harvested yet. Keep checking your milkweed plants until the pods appear ready.
Gently hold the seed pod with one hand and cut the stem just below the pod with the other. Place the harvested pods in a paper bag as you continue to gather pods. Once you’ve gathered enough seed pods, transfer them to a well-ventilated area or a dry room. Spread the pods out on a clean surface, like a table or sheet.
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Use your fingers or a small tool to open the pods. Gently separate the seeds from the fluff (comas) by tapping the pods over a container or piece of paper. Remove any remaining fluff from the seeds. This may be the most tedious part of the process. Store the seeds in a labeled, airtight container in a cool, dry place. Make sure the container is secure to prevent moisture or pests from reaching the seeds.
In many regions, especially those with cold winters, fall is the ideal time to plant milkweed seeds directly in the ground. This allows the seeds to experience natural cold stratification over the winter, which can help improve germination rates. Late fall, after the first frost but before the ground freezes, is a good time for fall planting.
If you missed the fall planting window or live in a region with milder winters, you can plant milkweed seeds in the early spring once the ground thaws and temperatures start to rise.
If you’re planting in the fall, the cold winter temperatures can naturally stratify the seeds. For spring planting, consider cold stratifying the seeds by placing them in a plastic bag with moist soil or a damp paper towel and refrigerating them for several weeks. You will also need to manually stratify the seeds if you are planning to start them inside over the winter.