New World Little Gardens

swan plant pattern2
swan plant

Swan plant

Asclepias fruticosus

Swan plants are perfect hosts for Monarch Butterflies and will attract these beautiful pollinators to your Little Garden. Take care around swan plants as the milky white sap can be dangerous if it gets into the eye, so wear gloves when cutting back this plant and always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Always supervise little ones around this plant.

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Getting started

  • Put the soil tablet on a saucer and pour 50ml of water over it.
  • Put on gloves and mix the water into the soil with your hands to make a wet mixture. Watch the soil expand.
  • Use most of your soil to fill up the pot to around 2cm below the top.
  • Now place your seed mat on top of the soil (take care not to press down too hard).
  • Now use the rest of your soil mixture to cover the seed mat.
  • Remember to wash your hands when you’re done!

How to keep your Little Garden healthy

  • Place the pot on a clean saucer in a place with enough light, but not directly in the sun.
  • Check the soil in the morning, and before bed. If the soil feels dry and crumbly, pour a small amount of clean water over the surface.
  • Within 3 weeks you should see a little plant appear from the soil. That means the seeds have germinated and will be ready soon to move into a bigger pot or garden.
  • If more than one little plant grows, you can thin your swan plant seedling by choosing the strongest-looking one and removing the others.

When your seedling is ready to go in the garden

  • When your swan plant is about as tall as your hand (in approx. 1 month), it’s ready to shift into the garden.
  • Get your swan plant used to life outside: you can harden off your swan plant seedling by putting it in a warm and sheltered spot for 1-2 hours a day and return inside for the night. Do this for 4-5 days, leaving it outside for a little longer each day before you shift it out into the garden forever.

Planting best practice

  • Swan plant does best in a sheltered spot with full sun and good drainage.
  • It can grow up to 2m, so position it somewhere where it won’t shade or crowd out your other crops.

Look after your plant while it’s growing

  • If conditions are very dry, water your seedlings while they get established.
  • In general, swan plants thrive on neglect, so don't be too fussy about it.

Pro tip: Butterflies will lay eggs on any swan plants they find, and the caterpillars are hungry eaters that will quickly strip even big plants down to a bare stalk, so:

  • While the plants are establishing, restrict butterfly access by covering the plants with insect mesh (or an old net curtain). 
  • If you have more than one swan plant, uncover them one at a time to provide butterfly access and fresh food to the developing caterpillars.

Watch out

  • Slugs and snails love to nibble on swan plant seedlings, so lay out bait or pick off these slimy pests.
  • The plants are prone to infestations of orange aphids, which will suck the sap, weaken and possibly even kill your plants. Check for these pests frequently and squash them or blast them off with the hose as soon as you see them. You don’t want these guys getting established on your plant.
  • You can also plant a Little Garden Purple Tansy nearby to bring in hoverflies, whose larvae eat aphids.
  • Contact with swan plants, especially the sap, can cause a skin irritation in some people, so wash your hands after touching the plant and handle carefully so you don’t break any branches. Wear gloves if you’re cutting the plant.

Swan plant in your gardens