Phenotypic plasticity can be a passive response to fluctuating environmental conditions or an active and presumably adaptive (evolved) response selected for in different environments. Here we ask if the larval decision to enter diapause when reared on a host plant associated with a colder habitat is an active or a passive response to host plant quality or suitability. We compare plasticity in larval propensity to enter diapause of the habitat generalist butterfly Leptidea sinapis and the meadow specialist Leptidea reali in a range of temperatures and long daylength on a forest plant, Lathyrus linifolius, and a meadow-associated plant, Lathyrus pratensis. The warmer meadow habitat promotes direct development whereas the colder forest habitat is conducive to diapause. Larvae of L. sinapis had a higher propensity to enter diapause when reared on the forest plant L. linifolius across all temperatures. Conversely, the propensity of L. reali to enter diapause was consistently lower and did not differ between host plants. Larval growth rates were similar between and within butterfly species and between host plants. Hence, we conclude that larval pathway decision-making in L. sinapis is an active response mediated by information from their host plants.