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

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Friday - July 29, 2005

From: Santa FE, NM
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Deadheading or trimming back of Asclepias spp
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have some butterfly weeds (flowers) and I have heard conflicting stories as to how to cut them back. Should they be deadheaded to elongate bloom time or does that prevent any seeds from replanting? Should they only be cut back in the fall every other year? 1/3 of the way back?? Thanks!

ANSWER:

You may deadhead your butterfly weeds (Asclepias spp.) if you wish your plants to produce more flowers.

Butterfly weeds make nice cut flowers. Sear the cut end of the flower stem with a flame or dip in hot water to stop the milky sap from running. Let the second or third flush of flowers produce seed pods if you would like them to.

You should cut your butterfly weeds back by 1/3 to 1/2 in early spring before new growth begins if desired to tidy up the plant and encourage new growth. Alternatively, you may wish to wait until after the spring Monarch butterfly migration has passed and prune then.
 

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