Pollinator Magnet: How to Care for and Prune Butterfly Bush

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Learn when butterfly bushes bloom and how to take care of your plant, plus why some varieties are not appropriate for every garden.

Eastern tiger swallowtail on butterfly bushCourtesy Janine Burke
Eastern tiger swallowtail on butterfly bush

“I have difficulty overwintering butterfly bush (Buddleia) and end up replanting most of them each year,” says Deanna Frautschi of Bloomington, Illinois. “Any tips for better success?”

Patience is the key. Allow your plants to stand over winter to increase their winter hardiness (you’ll enjoy the winter interest, too). If you choose to add some winter mulch, wait until the soil freezes before covering the base of the plant with evergreen boughs or straw. Consider enclosing the mulched plant with a cylinder of hardware cloth to keep the rabbits and voles out. In late winter or early spring, cut the plants back to 4 to 6 inches above the ground. Then wait.

When Do Butterfly Bushes Bloom?

After a harsh winter or cool spring, you may not see signs of interest until June or even early July. But if the roots survived, they will quickly generate new growth and blooms for the butterflies to enjoy from August until frost. Check out the top flowering shrubs that birds and butterflies love.

Tip: Butterfly bush is invasive in some areas, such as the Pacific Northwest. Avoid growing it, or try planting seedless varieties like Lo and Behold Lilac Chip. Find more alternatives to invasive shrubs.

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Melinda Myers
Melinda Myers is a nature and gardening writer whose specialty is attracting wildlife, especially birds, to the garden. She contributes regularly to the magazine Birds & Blooms, and lectures widely on creating gardens that please both human and avian visitors.