How to Grow a Swan Plant

The swan plant is a form of milkweed, which is the plant on which monarch butterflies feed, live and reproduce. If you want to attract butterflies to your garden – both monarchs and other species – the swan plant is a great choice. The swan plant is easy to start in your garden and is most often started from seeds, though it can be started from cuttings as well. The swan plant, scientifically called Asclepias fruticosa, grows to three to six feet in height. It will bloom in late to mid-summer, with white flower clusters.

Things You'll Need

  • Swan plant seeds
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic planting flats
  • Seed-starting soil
  • Squirt bottle
  • Plastic bag
  • Garden spade
  • Mulch
  • Liquid fertilizer

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Start swan plant seeds indoors one to two months before the last frost date in your area.

Wrap the swan plant seeds in moist paper towels 24 hours before sowing.

Fill plastic planting flats with a seed-starting soil.

Soak the soil and allow excess water to drain.

Sow swan plant seeds on top of the soil, a quarter-inch to a half-inch from each other.

Cover the seeds with a quarter-inch of the seed-starting soil.

Mist the soil surface.

Cover the flats with a plastic bag.

Place the flats in a sunny window.

Remove the plastic bag when the seeds start to germinate. This should occur within a week to 10 days.

Keep the soil moist for the seedlings. Swan plant seedlings should be watered from the bottom of the tray. Fill the sink with a couple of inches of water and place the tray in the sink. Allow the tray to remain there until the soil surface becomes moist.

Place the seedlings outside--in a sheltered location--when they are three to six inches tall. Do this for three days in a row, but bring them inside at night.

Plant the seedlings 24 inches apart in an area of your garden where they will receive full sun.

Water frequently -- when the soil becomes dry -- and add mulch.

Fertilize the swan plant three times during the season, using a liquid fertilizer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most gardeners cultivate swan plants to attract butterflies and to feed their caterpillars. If you are growing a swan plant, you should place it in an area of your garden where you won't mind that the foliage may get holes and becomes a bit unattractive during the time that it is feeding the caterpillars.


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