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How to Save Seeds From Milkweed Pods

Wondering how to save seeds from milkweed pods? This tutorial provides an overview of the process using a common milkweed seed pod (Asclepias syriaca) as an example.

Wondering how to save seeds from milkweed pods?

Hey all! It’s seed-saving time of year, so I have another seed-saving post for you. Today I’m talking about how to save seeds from milkweed pods. Specifically “common milkweed” pods, or Asclepias syriaca.

This is the plant that a lot of people think of when they think of milkweed, though there are many different types of milkweed. It will grow to be several feet tall, producing weed-looking green leaves and delicate large clusters of pink flowers in the summer. The flowers smell lovely and remind me a lot of hoya flowers, actually.

flowering common milkweed
milkweed plant in a field
common milkweed seeds on a paper towel

Why plant common milkweed?

Well, it’s native where I live in Maryland. So it has been on my list to get in the garden at the new house for a while. But it also attracts butterflies and, most importantly, monarch butterflies. In fact, its leaves contain glycosides and are the only food for monarch butterfly larvae!

Yes, the only food. So that makes planting milkweed super important. And when the monarch larvae ingest the glycosides, it makes them poisonous to birds and other predators. So help some monarchs out and throw some common milkweed seeds in your garden.

The flowers also attract adult butterflies and other pollinators like bees. They feed on the nectar. So the flowers look great, smell nice, and serve a purpose.

collage of butterflies and caterpillars on milkweed plants
milkweed flower

For more gardening, see my posts on How to Harvest Zinnia Seeds, Moonflower Vine Care & Growth Tips, and How to Grow Aster Flowers.

So here’s how to save seeds from milkweed pods!

Step 1: Remove ripened pods from the milkweed plant

In the fall, your common milkweed plant will have produced a bunch of seed pods. The seed pods are soft and green or yellow. They look kind of like pointy pickles to me.

You should remove them just as they are starting to split on their own. If you wait too long, the pods will split on the plant and release the seeds. The milkweed floss (the silky white stuff attached to each seed) will carry the seeds far and wide to ensure the plant’s continued survival and spread.

So if you want your milkweed to just spread on its own, leave the pods on! But if you want to share them with others or control the spread of the milkweed in a smaller yard, it’s best to remove the pods.

common milkweed seed pods
common milkweed seed pods
common milkweed seed pods
opening a common milkweed seed pod

Step 2: Open the pod and remove the cluster of seeds

Because the seed pod should already be splitting, you can easily open it and remove the seeds. They will be clustered together and attached to one another. I think it makes them look like a little pinecone.

But the attachment isn’t super strong. So be careful when removing the seeds; do so gently or they will fall apart (which is fine, but they get unruly fast!). I recommend pulling the bottom out first, and then holding the top (white fuzzy part) tight to keep them together as you pull it from the husk.

opening a common milkweed seed pod
opening a common milkweed seed pod
opening a common milkweed seed pod
woman holding common milkweed seed pods

Step 3: Remove the seeds

After you’ve removed all of the seeds, you can remove them from the silky floss. There are a million different ways to do this. My friend recommended burning the floss, which apparently will just leave the seeds. I haven’t tried that. Instead, I found it quite therapeatuic to just remove them in bunches.

I hold the very top part tight where the floss meets the seeds and run my other hand down the seeds, pulling them off. They come off sooo easily. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I also have a YouTube video that shows the process.

As you peel them off, you can just put them on a paper towel. You can toss the silk outside and just let it fly away. My cats enjoyed watching this process from the window.

I let my seeds sit for another 24 hours or so on the paper towel to make sure they were totally dry. Then I popped them in a plastic baggie and started trying to pawn them off on friends and family 🙂

seeds from a milkweed seed pod
seeds from a milkweed seed pod
milkweed floss from a seed pod
milkweed floss from a seed pod
common milkweed seeds on a paper towel
common milkweed seeds on a paper towel

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collage that says saving common milkweed seeds with pictures of the process

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