En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - April 18, 2005

From: McAllen, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Optimum pruning time for butterfly garden
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I am planting a butterfly garden that I would like to be pretty as well as beneficial for butterflies. If I am going to have both host plants and nectar plants in the garden and the butterflies will be using the plants for their entire life cycle, when is a good time to prune the garden?

ANSWER:

There are several factors that enter in here; for instance, whether your plants are herbaceous or woody, annuals or perennials, spring bloomers or summer bloomers. If your plants are annuals, you probably want them to set and drop seed to produce new plants for the next season. In that case, you don't want to prune anything until at least 1/2 the seeds have set and dispersed. Some annuals respond favorably (some don't) to pinching off the tops to encourage them to branch and bush out. If your plants are perennials and the butterlies are using them for both nectar and caterpillar hosts, you don't want to remove any blooms or potential blooms and you don't want to remove too much foliage while the caterpillars are still feeding. Maintaining adequate foliage for larval food is the most important aspect. For perennials that die back in the winter, you can remove dead foliage, but check to see that you are not removing any attached overwintering cucoons or pupal cases. Your safest time for pruning summer-flowering bushes or trees is in the winter--late November through early February--when few butterflies are active. However, if you have spring-flowering bushes or trees, it is best to prune after they have flowered in the spring since the flower buds are setting in the fall and winter pruning will remove them. If your plants have gotten too bushy or rangy, you could probably do some judicious pruning almost anytime, being careful not to remove flower buds or too much of the plant at one time. The bottom line is that your pruning strategy pretty much depends on the plant.
 

More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Butterfly Plants for Chicago
September 13, 2014 - I live near Chicago, IL and am interested in planting a butterfly garden. Not sure when to start, but I want all native plants that would attract butterflies. Can you please let me know which plants ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for butterfly garden in Waco, TX
February 03, 2008 - Few weeks ago I sent you a letter but never got an answer back. I would like to have your suggestions of native plants for a butterfly garden (30'x 30') here in Waco. The plants must be (1)drought ...
view the full question and answer

Milkweed species for Central Texas
February 11, 2015 - What milkweed should I plant in the flood plain behind my house on Brushy Creek.
view the full question and answer

Will Butterfly Plant Survive in Mansfield, Texas
January 06, 2012 - I have a butterfly plant that was very successful (about 4 feet tall) right up until the cold snap three weeks ago. I've read they have a tap root, so I'm hoping it will come back next spring. Mea...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly egg kit from Spring Hill FL
October 27, 2011 - Could you please tell me all native plant(s) I can buy for my Sons Painted Lady Butterfly kit (eggs are going to hatch soon)and I don't know what to buy for the baby caterpillars to eat. I contacted ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center