Propagating Native Plants: Antelope Horns Milkweed

Photo courtesy of LevyRat from Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of LevyRat from Wikipedia

Antelope Horns Milkweed

The name comes from the seed pods. This is a small indigenous milkweed that in theory grows in the Blackland Prairie here in Central Texas. Though I’ve looked, I haven’t actually seen it in the wild so I was thrilled to receive some pass-along seeds. The donor was generous. If any local gardener wants a few please let me know. I am happy to share the love. Let’s feed those butterflies!

Fresh or dried seed: Either. Fall planting is usually recommended but people have had success with spring sowing too. Here in Austin there is usually a sweet spot in October where for one magical week we get continuous gentle rainfall combined with mild temperatures. Blink though and you’ll miss it.

Special Treatment: These milkweeds develop a delicate tap root that can be easily damaged so direct sowing is probably best. If you do start the seeds in pots be sure to transplant as soon as the first true leaves appear. When you put them outside they can be buried to the point just below the cotyledons. The stem beneath will become part of the root. As is usually the case with wild plants I have heard mixed reports on how long they need to be stratified. One source said 2-3 weeks; another insisted on a 12 week period. The Xerces Society recommends not going beyond 9 weeks because the chance of rot increases past that point. So, basically your guess is as good as anyone’s! If you have a steady hand, you can nick the seed coat with a blade or rough it up with some sandpaper. Removing the entire seed coat can result in 100% rate of germination. Slugs and snails may be a problem while the plants are still small.

Planting depth: 1/4 inch

Preferred temperature for germination: Around 65 – 70 °F. One source said 80°F. Most sources seem to agree that the plant wants a blast of warm weather to wake up.

Days to germination: Reports are mixed. Some say the seed will germinate almost immediately after stratification but one source said germination can occur anywhere from 1-3 months. I just love how mysterious native plants are.

Vegetative propagation 10 cm basal cuttings in late spring when they are actively growing.


25 thoughts on “Propagating Native Plants: Antelope Horns Milkweed

  1. I’ve also had good success with these seeds. I think you are right about the taproot…seems best to plant them directly outdoors where you want them. I’ve already found a couple of caterpillars on my adult plants.


  2. It is important to plant native plants for pollinators. I doubt it would thrive here in the southeast, but it is a very cool plant! (btw I wanted to click back to your blog but your gravitar doesn’t have a link.)


    1. Cool. Feed the butterflies! I cannot claim credit for that particular photo; it is from Wikipedia’s creative commons.


  3. That’s a really attractive looking plant. The odd seed pods, with their shape and color, would make a nice addition to any garden for that reason alone. I wish I had more patience with seeds that take a long time to germinate! The Texas Butterfly Ranch website has the Xerces stratification recipe on their site. I bookmarked it a while ago to possibly try out one day!


  4. That’s so cool about the seed pod name. I see these milkweeds at Oak Point Nature Preserve in Plano. The leaf shapes are interesting, but didn’t really look like antelope horns to me.


    1. At least you considered the leaves! I was looking at the flowers and thinking … antelope horns, eh? Nope, not seeing it. hahaha


  5. I think these are the most amazing looking plants. I wanted them for their looks before learning of their butterfly connection and over the years I’ve tried transplanting and germinating from seed with no lasting results. I think I decided my microclimate wasn’t conducive (cough-cough gardener error).

    I’ve seen them growing in ditches alongside the road and in untended fields both about 30 miles north and south of Austin but never close to town. It would be stellar to have sturdy stands growing in our area again. Best of luck and hoping the seeds all find a good spot!

    And seriously…14! That is amazing.


    1. Well, the soil is different on your side so it might just be a bad fit. I know! 14! That must be why they fly north for the summer.


  6. Beautiful plants. I haven’t had much luck either growing or acquiring native milkweed. I have one sad little example, just surviving summer, and I don’t even know which native it is. On the other hand, the tropical is doing just fine and in fact, I scattered some seed last fall, ground them into the soil without a care with the full belief that they wouldn’t germinate and I have about 8 seedlings in that spot. Waiting for the wet though, before transplantation.


    1. The more I learn about the tropical the more it looks like a good choice for our area. Please let me know if you’d like to try again. I could send them though USPS.


  7. Yes, I’d love seeds! We moved last year and are changing the yard to bird & butterfly gardens. Antelope horns would do well on the sunny, dry side of the house. My email is kathleen.scott.tx AT

    Thanks for your comment on Hill Country Mysteries. I love that native-plant gardeners appreciate all kinds of life.


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