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Butterfly Bush

March 10, 2018


I have a question about the Butterfly bush I planted last year. It was a young small bush and grew fast and produced lots of blooms. It is starting to show some leaves now. I haven’t trimmed anything yet. Should I go ahead and cut it close to the ground or let grow? 


Now is a great time to prune your butterfly bush. I would cut it back at least by half, and if you want it to be even lower, you can prune it more.  We have had a late spring and plants are just getting started growing, so you have time to prune the summer bloomers without delaying new blooms. They do bloom on the new growth. If you don’t prune, they tend to get fairly gangly and don’t bloom as well.  


February 17, 2018


I have had my butterfly bush for going on 4 years. The second year, two blooms appeared.  It hasn't bloomed since. What can I do to get the butterfly bush to bloom? We trim it every year the end of February.



Buddleia or butterfly bush blooms on the new growth.  Pruning it hard in late February is the correct practice.  The only reason I would think you would have no blooms is if it doesn't get enough sun. They need at least 6-8 hours per day to bloom well.  If it is in too much shade, you can move it now to a sunnier location.


October 7, 2017


I would appreciate suggestions about encouraging Butterfly Plant and Milkweed to thrive next spring.  I have enjoyed another summer fostering Monarch Butterfly larvae and seeing them through to emergence from chrysalis.  My milkweed is essentially leafless now, having fed three hatches of larvae. Aphids were not too severe this summer. The butterfly plant is still blooming, but clearly near the end.  Do I cut back the canes on the milkweed? The same for the butterfly bush? Should I dig them up, or mulch in place?  Do they need to be fed?



Milkweed or Asclepias, will die back to the ground completely with a killing frost. I have cut back several of mine since they too were leafless, or had finished setting seeds.  For your butterfly bush (Buddleia) wait until late February to give it a haircut. It can have spotty blooms through early winter.  Prune it hard in late February, since it blooms best on young wood.


June 1, 2017

QuestionMy butterfly bush is already over six feet tall this season.  I had no idea they would grow so large, and this is only the second season I have grown it.  Can I move it now to a spot where it would have more room to grow, or is this the wrong time of the year?  If I can’t move it, can I at least prune it back some?  I was told I needed to prune it before it began growing but it never really stopped this year and it was fully leafed out in February when I thought I was supposed to prune, so I did nothing. Now it is a monster.  Help!



This is definitely not the best time to be transplanting existing shrubs.  The transplant season is best when the plants are dormant – November through February.  If at all possible, wait until fall to move the plant to a new location.  Buddleias should be pruned hard every year before new growth begins–usually in late February. Even when we have a mild winter or early spring like we did this year and the plants are fully leafed out, they still need to be pruned hard in late February.  I prune mine back to within a few inches of the ground each season because I want them no larger than three to four feet tall. These plants bloom on the new growth, so pruning them now won’t hurt the plant, but you will lose some flowers.  It should recover and bloom again later this season, since it does bloom on the current season growth but next year prune in late February after the bulk of winter weather is over.


June 1, 2016

QuestionI am enjoying the butterfly bushes that I planted last year and the butterflies are also. Tell me please, what I do with the pods after the blooms are gone, do I cut them off or leave them on the bush?  They seem to be full of seeds.  However, I tried earlier in the spring to plant some that I have harvested last fall, and it did not work.

AnswerButterfly bushes, or buddleia, do germinate from seed, but I would recommend dead-heading the spent blooms to increase the number of new flowers set.  If you want to propagate this bush, an easy method is via layering one of the lower limbs, or it also roots readily from cuttings.  Many of the newer varieties are seedless, so you don’t have to deadhead to keep them flowering. 


(August 2012)

QuestionI have had a Black Knight Buddleia for a little over a year. It has become "leggy" - leaves dropping - and fewer blooms. It gets sufficient water. I know it blooms on new growth, but how much of the shrub should be pruned?

AnswerBuddleia or butterfly bush does bloom on the new growth, and should be pruned annually in late February, before new growth kicks in. This year, we had such an early spring and non-existent winter, that many of the butterfly bushes never went dormant, and never stopped blooming. Many people thought they missed their pruning opportunity and either didn’t prune, or didn’t prune enough. That has resulted in leggy plants and fewer blooms. The same thing has happened on some roses as well. For now, deadhead and lightly prune, give it a light application of fertilizer and it can continue to flower through late fall. Even if we don’t have a winter, prune it back by at least half if not more, next February. The plant should then fill out and give you greater flowering.

(Nov. 2008)

QuestionWe have beautiful "Wine and Roses" weigela shrubs, about 3 yrs. old, and their showy blossoms were absolutely gorgeous this spring. My husband did a little conservative trimming, and they bloomed again a little bit in late summer. They are getting tall, and I think I want to keep them at a manageable height. When is the best time to prune back the branches and how should we do it? Is it too late now? I have the same issue with several butterfly bushes. Is it too late to prune back now, and how is the best way to trim/prune?

AnswerFor pruning questions, keep in mind what season the plants bloom--or at least supposed to bloom. We often get errant flowers on a few spring blooming plants in the fall, but their main flush of flowers is in the spring. Spring blooming plants set flower buds in the late summer to fall period. Pruning should be done as soon after flowering in the spring as possible. This allows them ample time to recover and set plenty of flowers for the next year. For the weigela, it is a cane producing plant that makes a living fountain in the landscape. To keep it free flowing, prune immediately after bloom in the spring by removing up to one third of the older canes at the base. Pruning it now would remove next spring’s blooms. On the butterfly bush, it blooms on the new season growth during the growing season. It should be pruned hard before new growth begins in late February to early March. Depending on what size plant you want, you can take it back by one half or almost to the ground each season.

(March 2005)

QuestionCan I cut back the forsythia after it blooms? And isn't it time to cut back the Rose of Sharon bushes, crepe myrtles and butterfly bushes?

AnswerForsythia should be pruned after bloom. Remove one third of the old canes down at the soil line to encourage new growth. There is still time to prune Rose-of-Sharon, crape myrtle and butterfly bush, as all of these plants bloom on the current season growth. Try to do it soon since new growth is beginning.

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