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Transplanting Milkweed Seedlings, Starts, & Reseeded Volunteers

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Some gardeners say growing milkweed from seed can be a tricky process. Sometimes it’s much quicker and easier when acquiring butterfly weed starter plants and then transplanting milkweed in the garden. This is the route I decided to take with butterfly weed and swamp milkweed, although I will try from seed another time.

I lucked into a plant swap with a local gardening mom and she gave me quite a few milkweed volunteers! I also bought a few plants at a great garden center.

Orange Milkweed Plant in Bloom
Orange Milkweed Plant in Bloom in our 2022 garden

The young milkweed starter plants reseeded in the garden and the gardener graciously shared some with us. I told her how the girls already love seeing the black swallowtail butterflies in our garden, so milkweed is a natural next step!

Can you transplant milkweed?

Yes, you can transplant milkweed. Transplanting milkweed seedlings, nursery plants, or shared milkweed from a friend can help you to cultivate your own butterfly garden.

Starter plant pack of milkweed volunteers on a bed of river stones
Starter plant pack of milkweed volunteers on a bed of river stones

Can you dig up milkweed and replant?

Yes, it is possible to dig up milkweed and replant it elsewhere. If a milkweed reseeds itself, you can plant the babies elsewhere in the garden or share them with friends. You can even sell milkweed volunteers once they get large enough to successfully transplant.

Replant milkweed seedlings to help butterflies
Replant milkweed seedlings to help butterflies

When is the best time for transplanting milkweed?

Knowing when to transplant milkweed depends on your climate and the maturity of the plants. The best time to transplant milkweed is generally during the cooler weather of springtime. However, you can also transplant milkweed seedlings in summer or fall.

Keep the heat and sun strength in mind. Make sure milkweed is hardened off and try to avoid moving plants that are flowering or going to seed.

Transplanting milkweed volunteer seedlings from another garden, garden glove hand holding seedlings in cell pack
Transplanting milkweed volunteer seedlings from another garden

How to Transplant Milkweed

Butterfly weed is pretty resilient when transplanted. First, choose a variety of milkweed that is suitable for your zone.

Replanting butterfly weed before it blooms
Replanting butterfly weed before it blooms with buds almost ready to open

Discover how to replant milkweed to help the monarch butterfly population.

  1. Plant from seed or acquire milkweed seedlings or reseeded volunteers.
  2. Choose a planting site in your yard or garden.
  3. Dig a hole that is at least as wide and deep as the container holding the milkweed.
  4. Squeeze the bottom of the container to release the root ball and gently lift the plant out of the pot.

    Root ball of butterfly weed transplant
  5. Transplant milkweed seedlings or starter plants into the planting hole, first making sure the soil surface and base of the plant are level. Backfill the hole if needed.
  6. Refill the soil around the milkweed plant and pat it down.

    Pat down the soil around milkweed transplants
  7. Water the transplanted milkweed to help it acclimate to the new location.

Be sure to check butterfly weed daily for watering needs and signs of stress. Your milkweed transplants should grow tall and healthy in short time.

Replanted butterfly weed in the garden
Replanted butterfly weed in the garden

Replanting Swamp Milkweed

Transplanting swamp milkweed goes the same way as replanting butterfly weed starters or seedlings.

Simply follow the steps above to bring beautiful butterflies and native plants into your yard.

Transplanting Swamp Milkweed, Plant Tag and Plant
Transplanting Swamp Milkweed in 2022

I’m so excited to see the showy pink blooms!

For now, we’ve got healthy starter plants in the ground.

Swamp Milkweed ready to transplant
Swamp Milkweed ready to transplant

Transplanting Common Milkweed Tips

Now that you know how to transplant milkweed, you can try a few tips to ensure the best chances of success.

In most cases, any kind of milkweed transplant goes smoothly and plants thrive as perennials for many years to come.

Young milkweed reseeded volunteer plant
Young milkweed reseeded volunteer plant

Keep these tips in mind for the most successful chances of an expanded milkweed patch.

  • Acclimate – Harden off milkweed seedlings before transplanting outside. If you grow from seed, this step is very important.
  • Ease in – When possible, choose a cool or cloudy day to transplant milkweed plants.
  • Watering – Water transplants immediately after planting to help limit stress.
  • Timing – Avoid transplanting milkweed when flowering or producing seed pods, if possible.
Transplanting milkweed from pots, gardener hand holding milkweed plant tag
Transplanting Milkweed from pots is pretty straight-forward. Native plants are amazing!

I am excited to be making a conscious effort to grow native plants in my garden. This is the start of something big!

Do you have your own milkweed patch or butterfly garden in your yard? Have you tried transplanting milkweed from the nursery, from seedlings, or from your own garden?

Feel free to chat with us in the comments below about all things milkweed – we love hearing from you!

Happy Gardening!

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