En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Optimum pruning time for butterfly garden

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

Growing butterfly weed as a girl scout project
July 30, 2012 - We have a group of girl scouts who want to sell 'crafts' at a farmers market. I am wanting to steer the moms and girls in a different direction. I was wondering if you think that butterfly weed woul...
view the full question and answer

Shrubby options for a bird lover in New Jersey
September 07, 2011 - Could you please recommend a native shrub to NJ that grows to about 3-4 feet, is very low maintenance, does well in afternoon sun and is also something the birds will like? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

How to grow milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) for monarch butterflies
March 31, 2010 - I tried and tried and tried to grow Asclepias viridis, A. asperula and even A. oenotheroides from seeds and even tubers for fourteen years! Do you have advice for growing these and other milkweed plan...
view the full question and answer

Want to Amend Soil Without Harming Earthworms in Dallas Area
March 16, 2011 - I have a totally odd question. I live in the Dallas area in the blackland soil. I am removing sod from part of my back yard and will replant with nectar and host plants for butterflies. The soil is...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for a school butterfly garden
February 11, 2008 - My son's school is having a beautification work day and one of the projects is a butterfly garden. Parents are being asked to donate plants, and we would like to suggest appropriate plants for this ...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center