We all know the importance of pruning shrubs and trees. This process not only enhances the appearance of these plants but also fixes damaged areas and keeps them from growing out of control. While it has been said that improper pruning practices result in weakened or damaged plants, this is not the case with the ever-popular butterfly bush.
Pruning butterfly bushes is easy. These shrubs are extremely hardy and adaptable. Unlike most pruning guidelines, there is no surefire technique on how to prune a butterfly bush. However, as with most shrubs and trees, it is always a good idea to remove any broken, dead, or diseased limbs by cutting them at the point of origin.
Most people prefer to cut back the entire shrub to within a foot or two (31-61 cm.) from the ground, which actually allows it to become more manageable. Without pruning, the butterfly bush may become a bit unruly.
As with knowing how to prune a butterfly bush, when to prune a butterfly bush is another aspect of pruning for which there are no absolutes. In fact, butterfly bush pruning can take place just about any time of the year. However, certain pruning techniques will help promote more vigorous growth and healthier blooms. Generally, most butterfly bush pruning should take place during the winter months, in warmer climates, while the plant is dormant. However, the butterfly bush can also be pruned in the spring with no ill effects. Just make sure you wait until the threat of frost has passed.
Keep in mind that butterfly bush pruning may require an additional layer of mulch around the bush for insulation, especially in colder climates. In warmer areas, this is not necessary, other than for aesthetic purposes, as the butterfly bush usually remains green.
Those choosing to prune during the spring, or even summer, need not worry too much, as these shrubs can handle stress well and will come back stronger than ever. In fact, butterfly bushes grow quickly and respond well to pruning. New growth and blooms should reappear within weeks of pruning butterfly bushes.
If you want to keep the butterfly bush looking its best, including newly transplanted bushes, a simple trimming may be just what the doctor ordered. When trimming a butterfly bush, try cutting back the lateral branches to help train the shrub to grow into a desired shape or keep it within a specific area. This will also help with filling in unsightly areas of the butterfly bush.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to pruning butterfly bushes. Typically, cutting back the entire plant is the most popular method for those seeking to learn how to prune a butterfly bush. However, trimming a butterfly bush whenever you want is another option. These amazing beauties will respond well regardless of how or when you decide to prune.
Buddleia is a shrub that exhibits beautiful bunches of flowers that butterflies delight in.
Name – Buddleja davidii
Family – Scrophulariaceae
Type – shrub
Height – 6 ½ to 16 feet (2 to 5 meters)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary
Foliage – Deciduous
Flowering – July to October
Planting, care and pruning are steps that will enhance blooming.
The butterfly bush is a large, arching and upright shrub that blooms profusely from midsummer through autumn. The butterfly bush produces fragrant, showy flowers that can be blue, red, pink, yellow or white, depending on the shrub variety. These lovely flower clusters attract butterflies more so than the flowers of most other landscape plants. Butterfly bushes are low-maintenance and most grow well in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 11, tolerating winter temperatures down to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water your butterfly bush deeply once each week during the spring and summer whenever rainfall is less than 1 inch. Soak the soil down to and around the butterfly bush’s root zone.
Spread a 1-inch layer of organic compost on the ground around your butterfly bush once each year in spring. Spread on top a 2- to 4-inch layer of bark mulch to help control weeds and preserve soil moisture.
Cut back the entire butterfly bush to about 4 feet tall each year in late fall. Prune back all old growth nearly to ground level once each year in early spring, before any new growth emerges. Trim to shape the butterfly bush in early June if desired and cut away any branches that died during the winter.
Deadhead the butterfly bush’s flowers to remove the spent blooms throughout its blooming season. Deadhead the faded blooms from the bush once every week or two weeks to keep it blooming instead of producing seeds.
Choose a planting site for your butterfly bush that’s in full sunlight and has moist but well-draining soil. Plant the butterfly bushes in spring or fall, spacing the bushes at least 5 feet apart.
When you’re pruning the butterfly bush, always keep in mind that it blooms on new wood. Avoid removing new, healthy growth from the butterfly bush, because you’ll also end up removing that year’s flowers.
Before you set out to prune your butterfly bushes, take time to put on safety gear, including goggles and gloves. The leaves can cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals, so put on long sleeves and pants. Sterilize your cutting tools by dipping the blades in rubbing alcohol or Lysol and then allow them to air dry. You can use a rag dipped in the sterilizing solution to wipe the cutting tools between cuts.
Wait until spring when you can tell which of the arching canes, or branches, were damaged by winter weather. Cut back the dead and damaged branches to the ground. Prune back the undamaged branches to within 12 inches of the soil. The butterfly bush will grow back vigorously and produce flowers from summer through frost.
To keep the flowers coming until winter arrives, deadhead regularly. Cut the flower stalk just below the blossoms to encourage new flower production. In the older cultivars that have fertile seeds, this also prevents the spread of unwanted "volunteers" in nearby gardens and meadows.
This butterfly bush has been trimmed to under 12 inches.
This is that same butterfly bush. We trimmed to under 12 inches.
Top view of a heavily pruned butterfly bush.